An article in last week’s paper announced the approval of storm damage relief funds for Le Sueur County. While I am relieved that Minnesotans recovering from the devastation will receive financial assistance, I believe this is a time to reflect on how our government prepares and responds to emergencies. Individuals with disabilities and older adults are disproportionately affected by the dangers of natural disasters as they may face a multitude of unique challenges due to chronic illnesses and sensory, physical and cognitive impairments. During severe flooding, blizzards or tornadoes, they may not receive warnings in ways that are accessible to them; be able to evacuate to shelters with their adaptive, mobility, or medical equipment; or access necessary medicine and health care. You don’t have to look any further than the flooding in Jordan last year when residents, including those using wheelchairs, were displaced and temporarily housed in the CERC.
Current legislation for natural disaster relief has many gaps and we need to make sure all of our neighbors are safe during hard times. However, a bill currently in review by the House of Representatives, the Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion for Disasters Act (READDI for Disasters Act), would ensure that these individuals will have a stronger voice in improving communication, planning, rescue and housing needs - before, during and after natural disasters - at all levels of government.
Look out for your neighbors, and if you would like to support the READDI for Disasters Act I would encourage Belle Plaine residents to email or call your district representatives: Jim Hagedorn, Angie Craig, Tom Emmer, or Collin Peterson.
St. Paul, MN