The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency says the agency plans to grant a six-month extension of its housing mission that will enable Minot-area residents displaced by last summer's flood to continue living in temporary units.
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate told North Dakota's congressional delegation in a conference call Monday that the agency will announce the extension as soon as it develops a policy for donating or selling the housing units at the end of its mission. FEMA's housing mission is to end just before Christmas, but the extension would keep the temporary units in place until next June.
FEMA's intent after next June is to donate units to non-profit organizations or sell them to individuals so that the housing can remain permanently in the Minot area.
FEMA is working with the state to draft a policy enabling residents to buy the temporary FEMA units at reduced prices. The policy will outline the process for nonprofit entities that want to obtain units to make available to low-income residents. Fugate told the congressional delegation that he wants the policies in place before giving the housing extension so that residents will have time to plan for their long-term housing needs.
Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., issued a joint statement in response to the meeting with Fugate.
"The sooner all of this can be clarified the better," they stated. "Our goals remain the same: To ensure the city of Minot and the entire region get all the federal support available and that city and state officials have the flexibility to use federal resources to help people recover from last year's terrible flooding."
In a conference call with Fugate two weeks ago, the delegation asked that FEMA re-evaluate some public infrastructure projects in Minot that had previously been denied federal mitigation money based on the existing flood plain. The delegation also noted that home buyouts are a priority for the city, but many of the properties are outside the current 100-year river flow level. As a result, the benefit of a buyout doesn't justify the cost, as required under the Hazard Mitigation Program.
The delegation urged reconsideration based on data collected by Houston Engineering on the new 100-year river flow level. Fugate told the congressional members that he expects the 100-year flow to go up, but FEMA needs the new hydrological data.
The delegation has repeatedly pressed several federal officials including those at FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security and the White House to allow for maximum flexibility when utilizing Hazard Mitigation funds for recovery projects in Minot. To date more than $540 million in federal support from various fund sources has been secured.
A progress update between the delegation and Fugate is scheduled for after Labor Day.