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Fixing derecho-damaged homes? PATCH program aid still available to Linn County residents
Program still has about $800,000 to award mostly to mobile home residents
CEDAR RAPIDS — In the months after the derecho’s 140 mph wind gusts battered Linn County, Renee Moody, of Cedar Rapids, said she struggled to find a contractor available to help fix her roof.
Eventually, rain trickled in. By the late fall and into early winter 2020, snow sprinkled in, too. The precipitation caused water and mold damage upstairs in her three-bedroom house, so she started to live mostly on the first level, venturing upstairs to use the restroom.
Moody said her insurance company gave her $14,000 in December 2020, but that sum was enough to only cover the roof.
As she looked for assistance to cover the new damages stemming from the storm, her applications for individual assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a Small Business Administration loan weren’t accepted. If repairs weren’t made soon, she considered moving in with her adult children nearby and giving her home back to the bank.
Waypoint Services responded to her last-ditch effort to get help and connected her with the PATCH Program, an effort of the East Central Iowa Council of Governments, United Way of East Central Iowa, Matthew 25 and others to help Linn County residents struggling to afford repairs in the wake of the derecho.
Moody said she received a $35,000 five-year forgivable loan this spring to get her home back in shape, and is pleased with the work contractors and Matthew 25 did throughout the process.
“I thank God because I had just retired,” Moody said. “I was on a fixed income. I feel very fortunate because if I wouldn’t have been accepted into that program, I probably wouldn’t have been able to stay in my home very much longer. Two years still is a long time to go through a lot of damage to your house and stay in it.”
Moody is among the 182 households PATCH has assisted to date. So far, the entities involved have obligated $2.5 million in funding. The city of Cedar Rapids and Linn County each awarded $1 million to the program and private donors have contributed $1.3 million.
About $800,000 in aid remains for qualifying residents of single-family homes and mobile homes that sustained damage in the 2020 derecho. Most of the assistance that remains will support mobile home residents. As funds dwindle likely by the end of the year, officials urged anyone who may need aid to apply quickly.
“I think a lot of the success of PATCH has been having just a nimble, compassionate group of partners,” said Brenner Myers, Matthew 25’s construction director.
How to apply for aid
Call Waypoint at 319-366-7999. Income guidelines will determine who is eligible to receive support from the construction program.
Before the PATCH program was underway, Matthew 25 assisted about 130 households with generators, tarps and minor repairs.
Myers said most people have settled by now with their insurance companies or know they won’t make get any further with that process, sending them searching for other means of assistance.
Matthew 25 taps into a consistent pool of contractors for labor, Myers said. Because the contractors know they’ll get paid, they’re incentivized to do the job well and maintain a relationship with the nonprofit to keep getting business, making the system more reliable for those who receive aid, said Clint Twedt-Ball, Matthew 25’s executive director.
“A lot of contractors honestly want to go work on homes where they know they're going to get paid,” Twedt-Ball said. “ … In some ways, low-income homeowners have a harder time just finding contractors.”
The approximately $46 million in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds funneled to Linn County through the Iowa Economic Development Authority from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will help meet additional need where PATCH can’t fill remaining gaps, Twedt-Ball said.
For the homes PATCH has helped repair, Twedt-Ball said the program has preserved affordable housing units that likely couldn’t be replaced for less than $100,000. That’s especially true of mobile homes, which he said aren’t included in most grant programs.
“It’s been a cost-effective way to spend dollars, especially during a time of crisis, to have affordable housing,” Twedt-Ball said.
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