Five months after the I-35 bridge collapsed, and almost a month after the state set up an emergency fund for victims, it’s still unclear how those affected by the collapse get help, at least if an e-mail to MPR News this week is any indication.
“I was in the middle of the bridge when it collapsed,” Emily Paden of St. Paul said. “My car was the black Grand Prix that is pictured all over the news. I fractured my back in two places and was out of work for 6 weeks. I wore a brace for 8 weeks, and even though I am declared ‘healed,’ there isn’t a day that goes by where my back is not in pain.
“The government has had almost no contact with the bridge survivors unless they seek it. I am aware that there is a victims relief fund, however I have no idea how a victim is suppose to access this.”
I sent this up to Jim Schwartz at the Minnesota Department of Administration, the agency that is overseeing the emergency fund. He reports that the first step is to call the claims helpline at 612-766-3920. And his department is going to contact Ms. Paden.
But her comments are a reminder, especially to us in the media, that we should be doing more to make some of this information available.
There is also the Minnesota Helps – Bridge Disaster Fund (Apply for assistance.) Much of the fund remains untapped, according to the Associated Press. The theory is that people are still trying to figure out what their needs are, but it appears possible that many bridge victims just don’t know what they’re supposed to do to get assistance.