Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp and Congressman Kevin Cramer today said they worked to ensure that North Dakota communities would be eligible for disaster recovery funding under the Hurricane Sandy disaster bill to help the Minot area address unmet needs after the flood of 2011. The Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, which Congress passed last week, includes a $16 billion appropriation for the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program.
In addition to the communities affected by Hurricane Sandy, the disaster CDBG funding is available for events occurring in 2011, 2012 and 2013, making Minot and other communities that experienced flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes and wildfires eligible to apply. HUD provides these flexible grants to help cities, counties and states recover from presidentially declared disasters and, in 2011, Senator Hoeven with Senator Conrad successfully pushed for the CDBG-DR funding to be targeted specifically to the most impacted areas, enhancing the Minot area's chances of receiving assistance.
"Minot and the surrounding communities have made great strides on the road to full recovery thanks to the resilience of their residents and the efforts and cooperation of federal, state and local agencies," the delegation said. "However, unmet needs still exist and we will continue to work through HUD and other federal agencies to advance flood protection and recovery efforts in disaster affected regions of North Dakota."
Prior to the announcement, the delegation toured construction sites to evaluate progress on both the new Erik Ramstad Middle School and the repair and expansion of Longfellow Elementary School. Both projects were undertaken as part of the recovery effort following the Souris River flood of 2011. Last year, North Dakota's delegation secured $27.5 million in federal funding for Ramstad Middle School, $5.5 million for Longfellow Elementary and more than $6 million in federal funding for Lincoln Elementary.
The new Erik Ramstad Middle School will be 127,000 square feet, provide classroom space for up to 750 students, approximately 200 more students than the original building while having a smaller, more cost-effective footprint. Longfellow Elementary is being repaired after suffering extensive water damage to its structure, interior, furnishings and equipment, which involved mold, mildew and warping. Additionally, an extension of the existing Longfellow Elementary building is being constructed as a replacement for Lincoln Elementary, which was destroyed during the 2011 flood and approved for replacement by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Following the tour, the delegation held a flood recovery planning meeting at the Minot Convention and Visitors Bureau to discuss further efforts for protection and recovery. The delegation received an update on the current use of CDBG funds and also heard a presentation from engineers on flood protection progress and priorities. The delegation provided information on new funds made available by the passage of the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act.