IOWA DERECHO 2020

Linn County residents can seek federal aid for derecho recovery

Trump has yet to sign off on individual aid for 26 other counties

President Donald Trump speaks Tuesday to local leaders during a disaster recovery briefing in a hangar at The Eastern Io
President Donald Trump speaks Tuesday to local leaders during a disaster recovery briefing in a hangar at The Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Homeowners, renters and merchants in Linn County can apply now for federal disaster aid to help them recover from the Aug. 10 derecho.

On Thursday evening, President Donald Trump partially approved the state’s request for individual assistance under a Federal Emergency Management Agency program — but damage assessments in the 26 other Iowa counties under consideration are ongoing, and residents in those counties must wait for the federal aid.

“While many in the national media ignored what was happening here on the ground following the devastating derecho, President Trump and I spoke the day after the storm hit,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a statement. “During that conversation, he promised the full cooperation of the federal government during this critical time. Once again, he has come through and I am grateful for this President‘s unwavering commitment to Iowa as we continue to secure federal assistance for all affected counties.”

Reynolds said in the state’s application for a presidential declaration that Iowa suffered at least nearly $4 billion in damages from the storm. Until he signed off on the Linn County aid, Trump earlier approved about $45 million of the emergency request.

The FEMA program provides homeowners and renters impacted by the storm with resources including assistance with housing, personal property replacement, medical expenses and legal services. However, it does not duplicate what insurance covers.

FEMA also notes on its website that it does “not offer assistance for small businesses impacted by a presidentially-declared disaster” but does partner with the Small Business Administration on low-interest loans for business damages.

How to apply for 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.

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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)

Local officials pressed for approval

Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart, who pressed Trump during an event Tuesday at The Eastern Iowa Airport to approve the individual assistance, hailed the news but cautioned more is needed.

“This is terrific news,” Hart said at a city news conference as the program was nearing partial approval. “We will do everything we can to help people apply for the assistance.”

An important omission — at least for now — is that the individual assistance can’t be used to offset costs of tree debris removal, Hart said.

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“We are working hard to advocate for that,” the mayor said. “We have a lot of needs, but that’s really a critical need for everyone in Cedar Rapids.”

With some residents still without power, and others weary, Hart urged residents to keep working together.

“This is an incredibly difficult time for our community,” he said. “You can’t give up hope. We’re making real progress and we’ll continue to make real progress.”

Democratic 1st District U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, who lives in Cedar Rapids, said the partial approval was a vital first step.

“Individual federal aid is absolutely essential for thousands Iowans who had their lives upended and property destroyed by last week’s derecho, and I’m pleased to see it approved for those affected in Linn County,” Finkenauer said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Iowa’s full request, encompassing 27 counties, has not yet been approved despite prior indications, leaving far too many Iowans without access to critical assistance. ... “Today’s approval doesn’t go far enough, and we won’t stop working until FEMA gets it right.”

State aid availabl for other counties awaiting FEMA approval

While those in Linn County should apply only under the federal program, the governor’s office said, those in the other affected counties can continue applying for state aid.

Reynolds had also requested FEMA individual assistance funding for Audubon, Benton, Boone, Cass, Cedar, Clarke, Clinton, Dallas, Greene, Grundy, Guthrie, Hardin, Iowa, Jackson, Jasper, Johnson, Jones, Madison, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Story, Tama and Washington counties.

While the fate of those counties remains unsettled under the federal program, residents of them can apply for aid under the Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program. It provides grants of up to $5,000 for households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level or a maximum annual income of $43,440 for a family of three.

Grants are available for home or car repairs, replacement of clothing or food and temporary housing. The application and instructions are available at the Iowa Department of Human Services website at dhs.iowa.gov.

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