Natural disaster recovery bills signed

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Rick Snyder today signed a pair of bills that allows the state to more effectively assist communities struggling to rebound in the wake of natural disasters.

House Bill 4670, sponsored by state Rep. Michael McCready, requires the state to maintain Michigan’s Disaster Contingency Fund at a minimum level of $1 million and a maximum of $4.5 million, rather than the current minimum of $30,000 and maximum of $750,000.

Senate Bill 330, sponsored by state Sen. Tom Casperson, increases the amount of assistance grants from the current $30,000 to $100,000, or 10 percent of a local unit’s operating budget, whichever is less. The bill also renames the fund as the Disaster and Emergency Contingency Fund.

“This is about taking care of Michigan families and communities in times of need,” Snyder said. “The state wants to be a good partner. These bills help ensure that the state can provide critical support as quickly and effectively as possible.”

Previously, when a disaster struck, the Legislature had to vote for supplemental appropriations from the General Fund to support an affected community rather than maintaining a sufficient balance in the Disaster Contingency Fund. The current fund balance only stands at $508,550.

In addition to being able to use these funds during an emergency, the Michigan State Police and Department of Natural Resources have the authority to expend up to $800,000 as situations arise.

According to state police data, from January 1977 through July 2012, there have been 21 presidential declarations and 63 gubernatorial declarations of emergency or disaster in Michigan. The State Budget Office notes that since 2005, the state has expended more than $12 million in responding to tornadoes, wind storms and floods, as well as more extensive disasters like the Duck Lake fire in 2012 and the Sleeper Lake fire in 2007.

“In large emergency incidents, such as we’ve seen in Luce County with the Sleeper Lake and Duck Lake fires, local finances and resources are quickly depleted,” said Terry Stark, emergency management director for Luce County.

“This much-needed legislation will greatly assist local units of government during times of disaster, making it easier for the folks on the ground or in the air to focus on saving lives, property and natural resources.”

HB 4670 and SB 330 are now Public Acts 109 and 110 of 2013.

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