DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday it will take several weeks, now that floodwaters are receding, to compile damage reports in flood-affected Iowa counties, but he said he is “pretty confident” Iowa will qualify for federal disaster aid based on firsthand tours he made last week.
“I believe we will far exceed the threshold to get a federal presidential disaster declaration,” Branstad told reporters at his weekly news conference. Previously, state officials said it would take a minimum of $4.3 million in damage to trigger a presidential disaster request, and Branstad expects Iowa will top that threshold.
Already, 23 counties are covered by the governor’s state disaster declarations and he expects the hardest-hit areas, like Linn and Butler counties, will get a federal designation as well to quality for aid in rebuilding infrastructure and help for flood-affected individuals and businesses.
“I think we’re going to get a presidential designation for this storm and for some of the hardest hit, but I’m not going to say it’s going to be all 23 counties. We’ll have to see,” he said. “I’ve seen enough damage to feel pretty confident we will get a presidential designation that hopefully will help those that are the hardest hit.
Branstad noted that last week, President Obama issued a federal disaster declaration, requested by Branstad, for eight Iowa counties impacted by storms in August, adding the damage caused by that weather event was not nearly as significant as heavy September rains that pushed the Cedar River out of its banks in Eastern Iowa.
County officials currently are working with the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to compile damage estimates — a process he expected would take several weeks to complete now that floodwaters are receding and assessments are being conducted, Branstad said. Once that process is complete, he will make the request for federal assistance.
“We’ll try to do that as quickly as we can because we know people are relying on this,” the governor said.
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The presidential declaration last week for Allamakee, Chickasaw, Clayton, Fayette, Floyd, Howard, Mitchell, and Winneshiek counties for damage caused by severe storms and flooding from Aug. 23-27 provides federal funding for public assistance and long-term federal recovery programs, some of which are matched by state programs.
Last week’s presidential disaster declaration includes funding to conduct hazard mitigation activities for the entire state. With this funding, Iowa will be able to minimize the impact of future disasters by taking steps now to strengthen existing infrastructure.
The state proclamation of disaster emergency Branstad issued in response to recent flooding that began Sept. 21 covers Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Butler, Cedar, Cerro Gordo, Chickasaw, Delaware, Fayette, Floyd, Franklin, Hancock, Howard, Jones, Linn, Louisa, Mitchell, Muscatine, Story, Worth and Wright counties.
The governor’s proclamation allows state resources to be utilized to respond to and recover from the effects of these storms and activates the Iowa Individual Assistance Program, which provides grants of up to $5,000 for households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level or a maximum annual income of $40,180, for a family of three.
Grants are available for home or car repairs, replacement of clothing or food, and for the expense of temporary housing. Original receipts are required for those seeking reimbursement for actual expenses related to storm recovery. The grant application and instructions are available on the Iowa Department of Human Services website. Potential applicants have 45 days from the date of the proclamation to submit a claim.