GRINNELL — On the eve of Vice President Mike Pence touring western Iowa — where homes, businesses and farmlands have been ravaged by floodwaters — Gov. Kim Reynolds said both state and federal aid will be needed to help the water-soaked communities recover.
Iowa lawmakers have been looking to Reynolds to take the lead in whether to craft legislation for flood relief. On Thursday, speaking to a reporter after making remarks at the 2019 Iowa Rural Development Summit in Grinnell, Reynolds said there’s “various buckets” where the federal government could help, such as the Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Small Business Administration, Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“But even when we are working with those entities, there’s always a state match or cost share so sometimes it’s 75-25, sometimes it’s 90-10,” Reynolds said. “And so what we can do as a state to help move the recovery process forward is we can help some of these communities with some of that money up front that would be within the parameters.”
A “coordinated effort” of state, local and federal authorities, as well as regional coordination with Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri, is needed, she said.
She expects to announce financial details, at least for Iowa, during a news conference Monday, she said, noting a congressional appropriation also will be needed.
She said she hopes during the visit Friday to Pacific Junction, and possibly other communities, Pence “can see the damage and the status of it and the economic impact that this is going to have an Iowa.”
This will be the second time that Pence has come to western Iowa and met with Iowa and Nebraska officials to see the damage. He last surveyed the damage and talked with people who had been flooded out on March 19.
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The state initially estimated damage from the floods are nearly $1.6 billion, although Reynolds has said it’s likely more.
“These are communities that they’re fearful if we don’t do this in a coordinated and timely manner, that how are we going to assure the companies there that we’re going to put a system in place where they can rebuild and have some confidence that they’re not going to experience this again in two or three years?” she said. “This is so much worse than 2011 and is a completely different flood event.”
There still are four main levee breeches, along with a number of smaller ones. Those main ones are the priority before standing water can even be addressed, she said. Some western communities have been flooded for weeks.
The rural summit in many ways amplified core objectives of the governor’s Empower Rural Iowa initiative, which she signed as an executive order in July 2018 to set goals for connecting rural communities with broadband, investing in them and growing them.
Reynolds helped during the third annual event to award 29 “Catalyst Funding” grants of $100,000 each to help rejuvenate downtowns.
The awards had 40 percent of the $2.9 million earmarked for communities of fewer than 1,500 people. Hills, Cascade, Shellsburg, Williamsburg and Oxford Junction were among the communities in Eastern Iowa to receive grants to help restore neglected commercial properties.
“The synergy that’s happening between the Rural Development Council, the Empower Iowa initiative, and then the Small Business Development Centers,” Reynolds said. “It’s incredible, and it’s one of the reasons I think why Iowa is experiencing a tipping point in rural development. You know, together we’re building on the character of our rural communities and turning our small towns into magnets for retail, commerce, housing and tourism. And, I can’t say enough about the local leaders who aren’t afraid to dream big, work hard, and really find ways to tap into the full potential of their communities.”
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