Minneapolis Bridge Collapse Victims Cannot Get Financial Help for Expenses…

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The estimated cost of recovery from the interstate bridge collapse in Minneapolis has surpassed $400 million, but survivors can’t seem to get just a few thousand dollars to make ends meet and recover expenses.

About 30 of the more than 100 people injured in the Aug. 1 collapse meet weekly to talk about their collective troubles. This past week one man spoke of a $41,000 medical bill. Others mentioned missed paychecks as well as other unrecoverable expenses. They have sent e-mails to the U.S. Senate explaining their plight and demanding action. The silence has been deafening.

Several state lawmakers have said they’d consider putting taxpayer money in a fund for collapse victims. But the question has been complicated by the possibility that victims will sue the state, which inspected and maintained the bridge.

The state caps its liability from any one event at $1 million. 

“It would just be pitifully inadequate,” said Phil Sieff, one of a group of attorneys working for free to represent bridge collapse victims. “The nonprofits are doing what they can, but it’s not adequate. The government and the people responsible for the bridge need to step forward,” he said.

The problem is, the state is not stepping forward and Republican governor Tim Pawlenty has been silent as well. 

People have donated about $940,000 to the “Minnesota Helps – Bridge Disaster Fund.” But only $214,000 of that has been distributed to other charities who have been helping bridge collapse victims, said Chris Langer, a spokeswoman for the Minneapolis Foundation. None of the money is going directly to individual victims, “…although victims can submit the bills they accrue…”, she said.

Langer said more money will be distributed more rapidly as victims fill out applications for help. And she said none of the money will cover administrative costs.

“Our intention is to distribute over time 100 percent of the money that has been collected,” she said.

State Sen. Ron Latz is co-chairman of a legislative panel that will consider whether to raise the $1 million cap. He said he expects hearings on the issue within a month or two. Latz said he has not decided whether to push to raise the stae cap in this case, but he pointed out that most victims’ financial losses should be covered by insurance.

“It’s a terrible tragedy and it’s really unfortunate that people have financial stress in response to it. But that doesn’t mean automatically that the state has an obligation to write out a check,” he said.

You’re right Mr. Latz. The bridge collapse was a terrible tragedy. That is not the issue. The issue is, who is at fault and who must make these people whole? I’m sure that  commuter Lindsay Petterson, for instance, who was on her way home to Minneapolis from a day of working in a suburban group home when the bridge collapsed, didn’t wake up that morning and say to herself…”I think I’ll take a dip in the Mississippi River today…fully clothed…in my car.” Her car fell into the Mississippi River and filled with water immediately with the windows closed. She broke a vertebrae and the car, which she still owed $4,000 on, was a total loss. She hasn’t been back to work in the 10 weeks since the collapse and is not receiving any compensation yet. Co-workers chipped in enough vacation time to keep her paychecks going. A fundraiser by her friends and family in her hometown of Lake Lillian raised $12,000, which she has saved for when she replaces her car.

She is one of the lucky ones.

The problem here Mr Latz is that the government, headed by a Republican governor, hasn’t done much of anything to step forward, take responsibility for a faulty bridge that was in disrepair according to all data,  and take care of the victims, regardless of insurance. I know Republicans like to blame victims, but these people didn’t ask for this sort of life drama. It happened, and now lives have been turned upside down, while the state sits back and lets charitable organizations put forth the minimal  effort necessary, while victims are left to pick up the pieces on their own.

Once again, Republicans and one of our governing bodies has taken the low road by choosing to ignore the middle class and their suffering, brought on by faulty infrastructure purposefully left to rot in the name of lower taxes. Can anyone say New Orleans? Minnesota state government knew the bridge was faulty, yet they pushed it to the limit anyway. They simply did not care about the safety of their state citizens, nor have they exercised any real sympathy for the victims beyond a pat on the back, and a ‘sorry’…’tough break.’

The state of Minnesota should be sued for negligence. If callous state politicians, in particular the state’s Republican governor, refuse to own up to their mistakes, then they should be made to pay through predatory redistribution of monies to the victims in the name of fairness, via the courts.

These people who run government must be taught a lesson in real compassion…the hard way.

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Posted on October 17, 2007, in Disasters, Law, Politics, Tax Policy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Just wanted to say that I really appreciate the show of support. It’s amazing the awful things people have said about the survivors. The more people looking out for us the better! Thanks! 🙂

  2. Lindsay,

    Our pleasure. Anything we can do to help spread the word.

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