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As others see it: FEMA adds to heartache

We're not sure what FEMA officials were looking at when they toured the recent flooding in northeast Minnesota.

Couldn't have been the photos and videos that chronicle the devastation and ongoing recovery.

We're not sure what they heard.

Couldn't have been testimony from the thousands of people displaced from their homes and now struggling to rebuild or questioning whether they can.

FEMA denied individual disaster aid last week to residents of six counties and the Fond du Lac band of Lake Superior Chippewa. The agency concluded the "damage to dwellings from this event was not of such severity and magnitude" to cover the cost of rebuilding private property.

"This decision is nothing short of a travesty -- a travesty for the people in our region, people in need, that were so directly affected by this disaster," Duluth mayor Don Ness said at a news conference.

Travesty is a good word.

So is heartache.

That's a word all of us in this region know well and feel now for our fellow Minnesotans up north. Our region is five years removed but recovering still from the floods that raged in Rushford and so many other area communities, that flooded Lake Goodview and caused mudslides in Houston County, that forced thousands out of their homes, business owners out of their establishments, farmers off their fields.

FEMA provided up to $28,200 to affected homeowners here, the vast majority of whom, like in northeast Minnesota, had never even realized flood insurance was available, let alone had it or could even afford it. ...

The money wasn't much.

It sure wasn't everything.

But it helped. ...

The federal government can rebuild all the roads it wants.

But if it doesn't put people back in their homes and business owners back into their communities, there won't be anybody around to use them.