Governor signs bills to extend flood assistance
By JILL SCHRAMM
BISMARCK Minot-area flood survivors may be eligible for additional loan assistance through two legislative bills signed into law by Gov. Jack Dalrymple.
Dalrymple signed Senate Bill 2132 Thursday in a Capitol ceremony attended by Minot legislators and other state officials. He signed the related House Bill 1185 last week. The bills extend the Rebuilders Loan Program and provide about $13.5 million in additional assistance to residents affected by 2011 flooding.
“They were good bills. They were well received in both the Senate and the House,” said Rep. Scott Louser, R-Minot, who sponsored HB 1185.
Louser said legislators supported the bills once they understood that the need for the program still exists.
“They really needed to be sold on the idea that the recovery isn’t over,” he said.
Sen. Karen Krebsbach, R-Minot, sponsor of SB 2132, credited support from the Bank of North Dakota with helping to pass the bills. The City of Minot reports about 300 homes outside of the buyout zone remain in need of repair, and the Rebuilders Loan Program can help, she said.
“This is just another tool in the tool kit that can perhaps give some assistance,” she said. “It’s a very reasonable, good program for those that really need some help.”
A key change in SB 2132 is that residents living in Federal Emergency Management Agency temporary housing now can obtain low-interest Rebuilders loans of up to $30,000 to buy their units, she said. Legislation signed by Dalrymple expands the loan program’s eligibility to include residents who are living in temporary housing units in community-approved group housing sites.
The legislation also expands the loan program’s eligibility to include owners of rental property damaged by flooding.
Application for either of the two new loan opportunities must be made by Sept. 30 through a local lender.
Legislators created the Rebuilders Loan Program at Dalrymple’s request during a November 2011 special session. The Legislature appropriated $50 million through the Bank of North Dakota to provide low-interest, 20-year loans of up to $30,000 to residents of flood-impacted counties, including Ward, McHenry and Renville. No repayment is required for the first two years.
The Bank of North Dakota has administered nearly $41 million in loans, most of which has gone to Ward County residents. SB 2132 extends spending authority on about $8.5 million in unspent funds and includes an additional $5 million for expansion of the program.
The House amended the Senate bill to enable homeowners who received an initial $30,000 loan to borrow up to another $20,000 at 1 percent interest. The Bank of North Dakota will accept these supplemental loan applications between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31.
Another positive change is that borrowers who sell their home but make no money on the sale will not be required to pay back the loan in one immediate lump sum, Louser said. The Bank of North Dakota was contacted by a borrower in that situation but lacked authority to offer a repayment schedule. The legislation enables the bank to arrange repayment by home sellers who can document their circumstances, he said.
The governor’s office reports that the state has appropriated about $140 million to help Minot and Ward County recover from the 2011 flood and to develop flood protection measures. The funding includes $50 million for home buyouts; $21 million in state flood impact grants; $55 million for the Rebuilders Loan Program; $9 million for residential rehabilitation and retention and $4.5 million for Mouse River flood studies. The state also provided Burleigh County $1.45 million in flood impact grants.
Additionally, the State Water Commission is requesting that the Legislature provide another $61 million for flood recovery and retention during the 2013-2015 biennium. The Legislature is considering providing $2.75 million to help cover flood repair costs at the State Fairgrounds in Minot. The state also expects to pay a share of public assistance and hazard mitigation grants.
The Legislature rejected a bill that would have provided forgiveness of a third of Rebuilders loans for borrowers who were current on repayments after five years. Legislators also rejected a proposal for income-tax credits for flood victims.
The 2011 Souris River flood damaged or destroyed more than 4,000 homes, businesses and other structures in Minot and Ward County. That same year, major flooding along the Missouri River damaged or destroyed about 1,000 homes in Burleigh and Morton counties.