JOHNSTON — Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday he likely will seek a presidential disaster declaration for 17 counties hit by flooding, and he believes damages will top the $4.3 million figure needed to trigger federal infrastructure aid for cities and counties and assistance for affected individuals and businesses.
“I this it’s very likely” that Iowa will qualify for a presidential emergency declaration, Branstad told reporters at his weekly news conference, especially given that weather-related issues earlier this year in Iowa qualified for federal assistance and the current situation along the Cedar River is significantly worse.
“We thank the Good Lord we haven’t had more rain,” said Branstad as officials monitor the flow of the swollen Cedar River as flood waters slowly work their way southward to the Mississippi River.
On Monday, Branstad added four counties to his current state disaster emergency proclamation and announced plans to tour flood damage in Charles City and Greene later in the day. Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds said the damage they viewed during Saturday’s tour of Clarksville, Shell Rock and Cedar Rapids “was severe.”
The governor added Cerro Gordo, Hancock, Mitchell, and Worth counties to a declaration that already included Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Butler, Cedar, Chickasaw, Delaware, Floyd, Franklin, Linn and Wright counties.
The governor’s proclamation allows state resources to be utilized to respond to and recover from the effects of this severe flooding and activates the Iowa Individual Assistance Program for residents of the 17 affected counties.
Branstad also announced that at the request of Linn County officials he has extended the deadline for property tax payments by one month beyond the Sept. 30 deadline given that the flooding conditions in Cedar Rapids have affected operations at the county treasurer’s office.
Also, he announced that more than 300 members of the Iowa National Guard and 53 members of the Iowa State Patrol have begun assisting the city of Cedar Rapids for access control in evacuated areas which will allow local law enforcement officers to concentrate on other flood-related activities.
Overall, Maj. Gen. Timothy Orr, the adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard, said 412 soldiers are being mobilized to provide support to local law enforcement at 75 evacuation control points beginning today in Cedar Rapids and Palo as floodwaters along the Cedar River approach Tuesday’s projected crest, officials say. That compared to about 4,000 during the record flooding of 2008.
“I don’t think I can ever remember a year when we have not had a disaster of some kind – some small, some of significance,” said Branstad, who praised the preparation and planning that took place in advance of this month’s flooding. “I’m especially proud of the preparation that has gone on this time and, hopefully, that’s going to mitigate the extent of the damages.”
Paul Trombino, director of the state Department of Transportation, said a number of secondary and local roads are being affected by floodwaters, but Interstate 380 does not appear to have any issues and his agency is monitoring Interstate 80 in Cedar County for possible flood-related issues as the floodwaters move downstream.
Mark Schouten, director of the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said he has teams assessing damage in affected counties with expectations of requesting a presidential disaster declaration if damages to the $4.3 million federal threshold. Branstad said President Barack Obama would be welcomed to tour Iowa’s flood-damaged areas, but he’s not formally requesting a visit.
“When you have a major disaster, it’s certainly I think wise for the president to come,” the governor said. “We’d certainly welcome him if he chooses to put that on this schedule.”
The state individual assistance program currently in effect provides grants of up to $5,000 for households with incomes up to 200 percent of the current federal poverty level — or a maximum annual income of $40,320 — 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, officials said. 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.
So far, Branstad said the state has dispatched more than 180,000 sandbags (4 dump truck loads of sand), 27 water pumps and hoses, 65 pallets of flood barriers (equal to 4,320 linear feet), 50 traffic barricades, 680 flood cleanup kits, 10 dump trucks and other provisions to flood-affected areas.