ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Inevitably, some Minnesotans affected by the August severe storms and floods will have unmet needs even after receiving help from disaster aid programs. Such residents may be able seek assistance from local Long-Term Recovery Committees that are operating or in the process of forming in affected counties. By pooling a variety of agencies and resources, the committees offer hope for continued recovery.
The committees are collaborative unions of voluntary agencies, faith- and community-based organizations, and local and state government. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) serves a supporting role in the long-term recovery process, fostering communication and resource-sharing among groups.
"FEMA provides basic tools to the committees to help them channel their efforts effectively," said Federal Coordinating Officer Carlos Mitchell.
Committees are already organized, operating and meeting regularly in Olmsted, Winona and Fillmore counties. One is forming in Houston County, and officials are examining other affected areas to determine if additional committees are needed.
The Long-Term Recovery Committees have as their mission to strengthen area-wide disaster coordination by sharing information, simplifying client access and jointly resolving cases with unmet needs. They also help affected families to develop recovery plans and receive adequate assistance for their recovery.
The committees are dynamic endeavors. Large and small agencies alike have an equal voice. FEMA's national relationships with voluntary agencies are mirrored by strong relationships on the state and local levels, so the committee model builds on existing collaborations while also forging new ones, according to disaster recovery officials.
The committees' overall intent is to maximize material, money and volunteer time that have been or will be donated ? and use those resources to expand upon federal and state assistance. The committees' current focus is identifying residents who still have unmet needs after going through the federal and state disaster assistance processes. Case managers track residents' needs and help coordinate additional assistance. In connection to this, agency representatives are meeting this week to organize regional and national assets in order to channel their efforts and resources to hardest-hit areas.
The committees will operate in affected communities for as long as they are needed, long after the federal assistance process has concluded.
"The Long-Term Recovery Committees will bolster communities' recoveries from the recent disaster," Mitchell said. "Hopefully, in the process they will strengthen agency cooperation and lay new groundwork for future disaster response and recovery. The result will be stronger, more vibrant communities that are better able to respond to future disasters."
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.