The Free Press, Mankato, MN


July 6, 2014

Don't promise help unless it's real

Why it matters: Much publicity occurs about help being on the way, but flood victims need honest answers.

First the rain came, then the flooding, then the touring politicians.

Now residents and local government officials throughout much of the state, including here in south-central Minnesota, are waiting to see what kind of assistance will float this way.

With the realization that assessing all of the flood damage will take some time and that there will be a lot of areas in line wanting help, a word of caution to state and federal government officials and leaders.

Don’t overstate what can be done. In other words, don’t make promises you can’t keep and don’t say everything will be taken care of when it won’t.

Places such as Moose Lake in northern Minnesota can attest to how lightning-fast promises and government leaders’ sympathy don’t always mean relief is around the corner. The school was under water after a 10-inch rainfall caused flooding in 2012 and legislative proposals to get money to help build a new school repeatedly failed. Mold in the building made portions of the school unusable. Finally, this year the district received some equalization aid, so 60 percent of the cost could be paid by the state to build a new school if the district can pass a referendum to pay for 40 percent.

Residents in Rushford were unhappy with aid efforts after 2007 flooding and let then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty know it. The hometown paper labeled Rushford as Pawlenty’s Katrina.

Some northern Minnesota residents affected by that 2012 flooding could apply for low-interest loans through the Small Business Administration, but senior citizens with a will or a life estate didn’t qualify for the loans. As Pat Oman of the Barnum City Council said in the Moose Lake Star Gazette: “Those loans only helped a small percentage of the people. They could only get a maximum of $40,000, and a lot of them had $100,000 in damage. A lot of lessons were learned.”

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