- Associated Press - Thursday, June 26, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - President Barack Obama pledged the federal government’s help Thursday in recovery after massive flooding hit many parts of Minnesota this month, telling a town hall audience near the roaring Minnehaha Falls that they’ll have a strong partner when they know how severe the damage is.

Obama said he was briefed by Gov. Mark Dayton on high waters that have swamped farm fields, washed out roads and flooded towns and homes in the past week.

“I told the governor that we will be there as we get some clarity about the damage and what needs to be done,” Obama said.

The Dayton administration is currently preparing a federal disaster request that could eventually free up federal aid.

Some Minnesota communities still face flooding threats. The Mississippi River was due to crest several feet above flood stage later Thursday and more rains were in the forecast. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who was on Air Force One with Obama after spending time this week in Washington, said his city expects to spend about $1.7 million in emergency preparedness and response.

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Obama’s “day in the life” venture into Minnesota exposed him to a local staple: a Jucy Lucy burger.

Before the town hall event, Obama stopped for the cheese-stuffed burger at Matt’s Bar with a woman from the Minneapolis area who wrote him a letter about struggling to make ends meet after paying the mortgage, student loans and day care bills.

The White House billed it as the first in a series of one-on-one meetings between Obama and an American who normally wouldn’t have access to a president.

Rebekah Erler, 36, told reporters that she “got a chance to start a conversation” about problems families encounter daily.

“I just felt like it I had an incredible opportunity to share what’s important to me and my friends and my family and what we go through every day,” she said.

Obama’s efforts to raise the federal minimum wage and reshape student loan programs have stalled in Congress, and he is aiming to refocus public attention on those issues.

Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short countered that the president’s policies would “make it even harder to create jobs.”

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With the president in Minnesota to tout an increasing state minimum wage, some restaurant owners expressed concern that the coming bump will end up costing the dining public.

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