2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Iowa lawmakers awaiting word on flood help

GOP leaders say they're ready if governor asks

Gov. Kim Reynolds surveys flood damage March 17 in the Woodbury County town of Hornick. She had toured Missouri Valley earlier that day. (Earl Horlyk, Sioux City Journal)
Gov. Kim Reynolds surveys flood damage March 17 in the Woodbury County town of Hornick. She had toured Missouri Valley earlier that day. (Earl Horlyk, Sioux City Journal)

DES MOINES — Lawmakers say they stand ready — if called upon — to craft legislation that would provide state funding to Iowans harmed by recent severe flooding, especially along the Missouri River.

But for now, lawmakers are deferring the flood relief efforts to Gov. Kim Reynolds and federal officials, legislative leaders said Monday.

“The governor has done a terrific job of being on the ground in the communities that have ben devastated by the floods. (Reynolds) has been working very close with state, local (and) federal officials to determine the need right now,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny. “At first we didn’t know if there would be any legislative action necessary and in talking to her it seems like there may be.”

The Republican governor has issued disaster declarations for more than half of Iowa’s 99 counties, making residents in those counties eligible for grants. A list of the counties and information for applying is at floods2019.iowa.gov.

The federal government is working on a disaster relief package that would send aid to multiple areas hit recently by natural disasters, including Iowa. Congressional Democrats, however, object that the package does not sufficiently assist Puerto Rico.

“One of the big concerns right now is the federal government has been very slow to get the money to the people that need it here in Iowa,” Whitver said. “So if there are ways to help speed up that process or bridge the gap to that process before that federal money comes in, those are the types of things we’re looking at.”

According to her spokesman, Reynolds has been in “constant” contact with state, local and federal officials to determine the scope of the flood damage. Once all the available state and federal resources have been leveraged, appropriate action from state lawmakers will be determined, the spokesman said.

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House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, noted when severe flooding impacted Iowans in 2008, legislators did not take action until the following year when the full scope of the flood damage was understood.

“I just don’t know what we do right now, but if they identify where we need to go, we’re game to do that,” Upmeyer said.

Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, on Monday proposed nearly $1 million in funding for a pair of flood relief programs while senators debated the state budget for agriculture, natural resources and the environment.

Senate Republicans rejected the proposal, saying legislative leaders and the governor are working together on the state response.

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