IOWA DERECHO 2020

Storm recovery updates: Latest info on efforts in the Cedar Rapids area, Aug. 28-30

Here is the latest news on recovery efforts, cleanup and help in the Cedar Rapids area for Friday through Sunday, Aug. 28-30, in the aftermath of the Aug. 10 derecho. The Gazette staff will update this with new information as it becomes available. 

» FINANCIAL AID: How to apply for FEMA other financial aid for storm victims

» TREE DEBRIS DROP-OFF: Locations in the Cedar Rapids area 

» HOW TO HELP: Where to donate to help storm victims

» MORE RESOURCES: For residents affected by the storm, including tree removal help

» FOOD AND SHELTER: List of food distribution sites, shelter and cooling stations

Fillmore Center will provide overnight shelter with Veterans Memorial shelter closing

The American Red Cross shelter at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, 50 Second Ave. Bridge, will close at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 29. But the city of Cedar Rapids has worked with Linn County to open the Fillmore Center, 520 11th St. NW, starting Saturday to temporarily house residents through Sept. 30. The Fillmore can shelter about 60 people.

The city will seek federal reimbursement for the cost of the overflow shelter facility at the Fillmore Center, said Emily Breen, the city development services communications coordinator.

AG’s office opening mobile office in Cedar Rapids to assist with derecho-related complaints

The Iowa Attorney General’s Office will set up a temporary office in Cedar Rapids starting Aug. 31 to assist residents with consumer protection issues related to storm recovery.

Investigator Al Perales of the Consumer Protection Division will be available from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 31, and Wednesday, Sept. 2, at the U.S. Cellular Center, 370 First Ave. NE. Perales can answer consumer questions regarding price gouging, hiring contractors and avoiding scams, and can take consumer complaints. 

The AG’s office has received several complaints over price gouging and other issues as residents clean up after the storm.  Consumers are encouraged to file written complaints with the office. You can find a complaint form at IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov, or call 888-777-4590 or email consumer@ag.iowa.gov.

The office has created a checklist for consumers in hiring contractors after a disaster and advises consumers to shop around and get multiple bids if possible; get them in writing; and do your research to choose a reputable contractor. 

Linn County is now under two disaster declarations, from the derecho as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. A disaster declaration triggers the state’s price-gouging rule, which forbids excessive prices for goods or services “needed by victims of disasters.” That includes water, food, medicines, sanitation supplies, utilities, and building materials. An excessive price is one “not justified by the seller’s actual costs of acquiring, producing, selling, transporting, and delivering the actual product sold, plus a reasonable profit.” 

Neighborhood Resource Centers will be open through Sunday

The five Neighborhood Resource Centers in Cedar Rapids will operate through Sunday, Aug. 30. The centers are open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and are staffed with city employees and volunteers. The sites provide food and daily updates on services for residents. 

• Ladd Library, 3750 Williams Blvd. SW

• Northwest Recreation Center parking lot, 1340 11th St. NW

• St. Paul’s Methodist Church, 1340 Third Ave. SE

• Taylor Elementary School, 720 Seventh Ave. SW

• Metro High School, 1212 Seventh St. SE

The sites are coordinated by Linn Area Partners Active in Disaster organizations. Services will transition as additional resident needs are assessed.

Free produce boxes for derecho victims

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque & Metro Catholic Outreach in partnership with Cedar Rapids Metro Area Catholic Churches announce the upcoming distribution of 12,500 free fresh produce and frozen meat boxes to victims of the derecho. Meat boxes will only be available Saturday. This service is available to all area storm victims, regardless of income levels or residency. No paperwork is required at this drive-thru event. All faiths and backgrounds are welcome. 

The distribution of the free fresh produce and meat boxes (Saturday only) will occur at the following locations: 

Saturday, Aug. 29: St. Matthew Catholic Parish (2310 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids)

• Sunday, Aug. 30: St. Matthew Catholic Parish (2310 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids)

• Monday, Aug. 31: St. Jude Catholic Church (50 Edgewood Road NW, Cedar Rapids) 

The distribution will occur from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 pm on each day. For more information, visit catholiccharitiesdubuque.org/food or call 319-272-2080

Recreational vehicles can be used as temporary housing

The City of Cedar Rapids has expanded the in-town use of recreational vehicles (RVs) to be used as a temporary housing unit for those displaced or completing home repairs.

Recreational vehicles include travel trailers, motor homes and campers. While not designed or intended for use as a permanent dwelling, they can provide temporary living quarters as the community rebuilds. RVs will be permitted as temporary housing in all Cedar Rapids zoning districts until Nov. 15, 2020. Extensions may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Using RVs as Temporary Housing:

Applicants must have been issued a building permit to reconstruct or restore a permanent dwelling structure. A copy of the building permit must be included with the zoning clearance permit application.

 The RV can only be occupied by the property owner and immediate family or a relative assisting in the restoration or reconstruction of the primary dwelling. No contractors shall be allowed to reside in the temporary housing unit.

 RVs should not be placed on the existing slab for the primary dwelling; the city must approve the location. 

 RVs must be connected to water, electric and sewer services. 

 Self-contained, non-connected units may be used as temporary housing for up to 30 days and only under hardship conditions such as when there are no services available. 

 Only one unit recreational vehicle is permitted per lot.

 The property owner must have access to a vehicle capable of towing the recreational vehicle if necessary.

How to apply:

Applicants are required to apply for a zoning clearance permit.

Apply online: https://bit.ly/3jfPW2N. Submit completed applications by email zoning@cedar-rapids.org or drop off paper copy at the City Services Center, 500 15th Ave. SW.

City asks businesses to fill out questionnaire  

In response to the business impacts of the derecho, the City of Cedar Rapids is asking area businesses to complete a brief storm loss questionnaire. The questionnaire is designed to help city staff identify needs in the post-disaster recovery process. Business owners and managers can complete the questionnaire now or in the weeks ahead as information becomes available.

Business interruption has been widespread, with companies dealing with many different kinds of tangible impact such as structural damage, lost inventory, production shutdowns, missed income, temporary closure and payroll reductions, and more. The city’s Economic Development Division would like to hear the story about what types of storm losses and challenges had an impact on local business establishment or operation.

Businesses are asked to complete the survey at economicdevelopmentcr.com/news-list by 5 p.m. Sept. 30.

Project ReConnect helps restore power to homes with damaged electrical connections

Project ReConnect has been formed to bring electricity to Alliant Energy customers still without power because of storm-damaged equipment on their homes.

The program will help Alliant Energy customers reconnect personally owned exterior electrical systems, including the meter box, service mast and weatherhead, to restore power to their homes at no cost. Alliant Energy customers responsible for their own utilities and need financial assistance to pay for these repairs are encouraged to contact HACAP to apply. Income guidelines apply to those approved.

To receive assistance through Project ReConnect, customers can contact HACAP at 319-739-0056.

Project ReConnect has been formed in partnership with the Alliant Energy Foundation, United Way of East Central Iowa (UWECI), HACAP, and the Local Labor Management Cooperation Committee (LLMCC).

Cooling station, splash pads open for residents to stay cool

The cooling station at the U.S. Cellular Center will be open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily for the rest of the week. This location also doubles as a no-cost cellphone charging and WiFi station.

Three splash pads are open in Cedar Rapids:

• Twin Pines (3500 42nd St. NE)

• Hayes Park (1924 D St. SW)

 Hidder Park (1248 10th St. SE)

How to apply for FEMA assistance

Those who suffered losses in Linn County can begin applying for assistance by:

Calling 1-800-621-3362 or 1-800-462-7585 for TTY users. Users of 711 or Video Relay Service may call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers operate from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Iowa time seven days a week for now.

Or register online at DisasterAssistance.gov.

You’ll need this information to complete your registration:

 Social Security Number (SSN) OR the SSN of a minor child in the household who is a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien

 Annual household income

 Contact information: Phone number, mailing address, email address*, and damaged home address (*You must provide an email address if you want to review your registration status online. If you do not provide an email address, you will be required to contact FEMA for any updates to your registration.)

 Insurance Information (coverage, insurance company name, etc.)

 Bank account information (if you are eligible to receive financial assistance, the money can be deposited in your account)

» More financial help: How to apply for other financial aid for storm victims

Yard waste pickup restarts Monday

The city expects to resume collection of the green yard waste – or YARDY – carts starting the week of Aug. 31.

The city also is working to remove non-tree-related storm debris and materials damaged in the storm and plans to begin collecting these items the week of Aug. 31. Place storm debris at the curb in separate piles from tree debris. 

Recycling pickup restarted Monday, Aug. 24.

Please do NOT dispose of lithium ion batteries in your cart or in debris piles. These require special disposal at the Solid Waste Agency at 1954 County Home Road, Marion. Details: solidwasteagency.org/recycling/batteries-bulbs-sharps.

How to verify if contractors are licensed in Iowa

Any general contractor doing work locally is required to be licensed and registered through the State of Iowa. Cedar Rapids and Marion have created ways to help verify if your contractor is able to work in Iowa. Visit medcoiowa.org/disasterrecovery or call the Cedar Rapids Building Services Department at 319-286-5929, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday.

What you need to know about permits for repair, demolition work

Call before digging: The Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) reminds anyone whose restoration efforts involve digging to call 811 or visit the Iowa One Call website for information on scheduling a utility locate before beginning a project.

IN CEDAR RAPIDS:

Home Repair Permits: Permits are required for home repairs, including roof or structural repairs, or substantial interior repairs. Your contractor is responsible for obtaining the appropriate permits from our Building Services department. The City is doing everything possible to expedite these permits so residents and their contractor can begin repairs immediately.

Additional questions about permits can be directed to our Building Services Department at 286-5831.

Demolitions: For safety, proper utility disconnections must be verified prior to demolition, which is part of the permit process. For any questions related to the permit process, please contact Building Services at 319-286-5831.

IN MARION:

Emergency repair work can begin without a permit. However, building permits are required for home repairs, including roof or structural repairs, or substantial interior repairs. Contractors are responsible for obtaining the appropriate permits from the City of Marion.

Permits are not required for tree removal. A list of local and registered non-local tree removal companies is linked at cityofmarion.org/StormResponse. Be sure to check this list as you consider entering into agreements with non-local companies that you may not be familiar with.

More information about building permits is available at cityofmarion.org. Questions may be directed to the Building Services Division at 319-743-6330.

Placards: Some buildings have been placarded with yellow and red cards. A yellow placard indicates home/business owners can enter at their own risk, making it permissible to go in and collect belongings. A red placard indicates a structural or electrical issue and it is not safe to enter. Only qualified contractors are permitted to enter.

Inspections: Building inspections are being handled in order of necessity (i.e. electrical, concrete/foundation work and underground plumbing). The department expects regular inspections will resume by the end of the week.

Rental inspections will be delayed for at least six weeks. The City will be communicating with landlords to clarify the responsibilities of tenants and owners.

Iowa hotline, website available for mental health help

COVID Recovery Iowa is responding to the mental health needs of Iowans impacted by the recent storm. Help is available by contacting the Iowa Concern Hotline.

Iowans in need of assistance can contact the Iowa Concern Hotline at 800-447-1985 or go to covidrecoveryiowa.org. Program staff can also provide referrals and information about programs that will help Iowans manage stress, family financial and farm financial concerns.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.