Dan Sparks: Help is available for people with storm damage

Published 9:22 am Monday, March 13, 2017

Senate Report, By Dan Sparks

Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, is the District 27 senator.

When high-speed winds and heavy rain whipped through Minnesota recently, most people were taken aback — both by the strength of the storms and the earliness of the season. The storms were so strong, both Freeborn and Sherburne counties declared a state of emergency.

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Most of the damage in Freeborn County is concentrated in and around the city of Clarks Grove — which officials closed after the storm and went door to door, making sure residents had weathered the storm. The city fire station may be a total loss, and one of the legs on the municipal water tower may be compromised. A large fertilizer cooperative was also severely damaged, as well as the local hardware store. Citizens of the community and surrounding area are worried about the long-term economic impact on the town — particularly the damage to the hardware store. I share these concerns.

Dan Sparks

Homeland Security and Emergency Management has been surveying the damage in Clarks Grove and other affected areas in Freeborn County. Right now HSEM is waiting to receive initial county damage assessments before they can determine whether the damage is eligible for a state public disaster declaration. If one is declared, money in the State Disaster Assistance Contingency Account will provide 75 percent of total eligible public infrastructure damages.

While state assistance usually only covers damage to public property, there is assistance for home and property owners. Financial assistance may be available from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Who would qualify for this assistance?

• If 25 homes and/or businesses in the same county have suffered 40 percent or more in uninsured losses, the state can request a Small Business Administration disaster declaration. Minnesota homeowners, renters and business owners in the declared county, as well as the counties surrounding it, may then be eligible for low-interest loans.

  Renters and home and business owners with uninsured damage should immediately contact their local emergency managers to report their losses.

• Freeborn County is located in Region 1. Contact the following people to report property damage:

— Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag, deputy director, at Kurt.Freitag@co.freeborn.mn.us

— Rich Hall, director, at 507-377-5221 or rich.hall@co.freeborn.mn.us

If you are a homeowner who needs to file an insurance claim, the Department of Commerce offers the following advice:

• Contact your insurance company immediately to report the loss.

• Keep your insurance policy and claim number handy. This will help the claims process go faster.

• Take notes and make a home inventory.

• Wait for the company’s adjuster to arrive. Do not call anyone to repair or replace your loss without first getting instructions from your company’s adjuster. Do not throw anything away and make only temporary repairs to prevent further damage until a claims adjuster arrives for the inspection.

I am hopeful that local communities and homeowners will get the help they need and their questions answered soon. If you are finding difficulty connecting with the help you need, please don’t hesitate to contact my office — we are happy to help you. Please call 651-296-9248 or email Sen.Dan.Sparks@senate.mn.

Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, is the District 27 senator.