IOWA DERECHO 2020

Still waiting on FEMA check after derecho? New loan fund may help

Linn County organizations collaborate to help provide relief

Volunteers put plywood over shattered porch windows at a house on the southeast side of Cedar Rapids. A group of area no
Volunteers put plywood over shattered porch windows at a house on the southeast side of Cedar Rapids. A group of area nonprofits has teamed up in an effort to help prepare derecho-damaged homes for winter. The Patch Program hopes to help homeowners tackle more substantial projects in the spring. (Alison Gowans/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — With winter closing in and federal aid and insurance payments backlogged for some, community organizations have teamed up to establish a new revolving loan fund to help Linn County homeowners repair homes damaged in the Aug. 10 derecho.

The program, which allows qualifying homeowners to apply for loans of up to $15,000, is intended to help plug funding gaps that some homeowners have reported as a barrier to recovery — having to wait for insurance payments or assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to fix their homes.

Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust contributed $100,000 to establish the fund, according to a news release. The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation and United Way of East Central Iowa each contributed $50,000, totaling $200,000 available for loans.

The fund is part of the Providing Assistance to Community Homeowners program, which is a partnership of funders and nonprofit organizations that recently has started making minor home repairs with volunteer labor on homes of qualifying homeowners.

“Many of our neighbors need the dollars now to be able to get necessary home repairs started,” Kristin Roberts, the president and chief executive officer of United Way of East Central Iowa, said in a statement. “We know this revolving loan fund will allow our community members to start critical work before winter arrives in full force.”

PATCH participants may borrow from the revolving loan fund until their benefits arrive, then pay back the fund once they receive funding from FEMA or their insurance companies.

According to Sharon Karr, the FEMA Joint information Center manager, the federal agency has approved applications for 1,769 Linn County residents to receive $4.67 million in FEMA Housing Assistance program funds — comprising most of the $7.42 million the FEMA program has awarded to Iowans residing in counties eligible for assistance.

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She said that “these dollars cover repairs, replacement and rental for approved applicants. FEMA, by law, cannot duplicate payments from other sources, such as insurance companies.”

Additionally, Karr said $2.48 million in Other Needs Assistance funds have been granted to 1,149 Linn County residents to help with necessary expenses. And as of Nov. 26, she said the Small Business Administration has awarded 807 Iowans $24.9 million in loans for home repairs.

Karr said after individuals register for assistance, they may reach out to FEMA to update information such as contact phone numbers, their address, any insurance settlements or additional damage they may have found by calling 1-800-621-3362 or visiting disasterassistance.gov.

FEMA funding intends to make homes habitable, but not necessarily restore the property back to its condition before the derecho, Karr said.

The Iowa Insurance Division reported that as of Nov. 2, the most recent data available, of the more than 200,000 claims reported across Iowa from the derecho, nearly 160,000 claims amounting to more than $1.6 billion had been paid.

More than half of those claims, a total of 103,884, were from homeowners’ insurance. Companies had paid out $876.8 million to cover 81,472 claims.

Some PATCH program loans for expenses not covered by insurance or FEMA may be forgivable, provide a financial boost to qualifying homeowners affected by the derecho, according to the news release.

Qualifying homeowners can apply for up to $15,000 each from the fund, which the Housing Fund for Linn County and the Neighborhood Finance Corporation administer. The Community Foundation’s Disaster Recovery Fund contributed a grant to fund an administrator overseeing the program.

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TrueNorth associates will help PATCH participants navigate their insurance and FEMA claims, payments and questions, according to the release.

“This is a wonderful example of how collaboration is critical after a disaster,” Les Garner, president and CEO of the Community Foundation, said in a statement. “So many organizations have come together to respond, and that is what makes this a such a great community.”

To access the PATCH program and the revolving loan fund, homeowners may contact Waypoint at (319) 366-7999.

Comments: (319) 398-8494; marissa.payne@thegazette.com

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