After a flood, tornado, or severe storm, the Minnesota Department of Commerce is there to help Minnesota consumers. From distributing consumer-friendly insurance information door-to-door after a disaster happens, to helping Minnesotans work through their insurance claims, the Commerce Department is a helpful and trusted resource at a time when consumers need us most. Following a storm or flood, the Commerce Department provides assistance in a number of areas, including:
The Minnesota Department of Commerce has developed a one-stop shop to help Minnesota homeowners and businesses address property damage caused by storms or flooding. The department's Consumer Response Team (CRT) plays a crucial role in the aftermath of disasters. The unit coordinates with Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Red Cross and FEMA through participation in emergency planning and resource meetings. As part of these efforts, the CRT has visited directly with homeowners across the state that incurred damage as a result of a storm and/or flood and provided them with information about the consumer-assistance services available from the Department of Commerce. In 2010, CRT distributed hundreds of storm packets to tornado and flood victims.
The Minnesota Energy Assistance Program (EAP) administers funds appropriated to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The program assists consumers with home energy costs, intervention in energy crisis situations and energy-related home repair. EAP targets seniors, people with disabilities and families with children under 6 years old, and serves applicant households with incomes less than 50 percent of the State Median Income.
The state Weatherization Assistance Program, which receives its funding through the U.S. Department of Energy, uses energy conservation techniques to reduce the use of energy in low income households. Approved measures may include air-sealing, insulation, or repair/replacement of home heating or water heating equipment. To qualify for services through the Weatherization Assistance Program, households must be at 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines.
Weatherization Assistance funds are considered for homes affected by a disaster only after all private insurance, FEMA and other disaster-related resources have been utilized. In addition, qualifying households must be located in a designated disaster area and be directly affected by the disaster.
Available services for eligible households may include:
Advocacy and referral services
Individuals interested in learning more about these resources should contact their local weatherization assistance provider or energy assistance service provider, or visit www.staywarm.mn.gov, or contact the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Energy Info Center at 1-800-657-3710.
There is a limited availability of low-income Weatherization dollars available through Utility Conservation Programs in the affected areas. These dollars may be used for emergency repair and replacement of furnaces and water heaters. The department will be working with utilities in affected areas to allow flexibility in modifying existing low -income programs for low income customers who have homes damaged by flooding. The overall scope of program availability is much more limited than either the EAP or Weatherization programs. We are encouraging the utilities to coordinate their efforts with other agencies responses.
Program changes in the areas affected may include:
Waiving one-time participation rules for all flooded homes
Permitting necessary duct replacements
Removing limits on the percentage of Conservation Improvement Program Low-Income Weatherization funds that can be used for equipment replacements in the flooded area
Transferring funds to Community Action Program agencies in the affected area as necessary to meet any budget shortfall this response will create.
When a flood or other natural disaster causes a release from a petroleum storage tank that adversely impacts a building, the Petrofund can provide reimbursement to building owners of up to 50 percent of the pre-natural disaster estimated building market value, as recorded by the county assessor. If a building owner conveys the title of a contaminated property to a state or local unit of government, the building owner can receive reimbursement of up to 50 percent of the pre-natural disaster estimated total market value for up to one acre of property. This assistance is available in both cases when: (a) a natural disaster area has been declared eligible for state or federal emergency aid, (b) the applicant's building has been declared uninhabitable by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency because of damage caused by the release from a petroleum storage tank; and (c) the applicant has submitted a claim under any applicable insurance policies and has been denied benefits under those policies.