Emergency Management Officials Explain Disaster Aid to Mo. Residents

March 20, 2007

State emergency management officials said recently that a growing number of disaster assistance programs aimed at helping individuals with storm damage has left many Iowans confused.

Ice storms followed within days by a snowstorm and blizzard downed more than 10,000 utility poles and more than 1,000 miles of power lines earlier this month.

Damage to utility companies is in the tens of millions of dollars and financial losses incurred by individuals, business owners and farmers adds even more to the tally.

Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Administrator David Miller said recovery has come quickly with a rapid warmup after the storms, and many Iowans can now apply for money to help them recover.

A state program approved by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Chet Culver on March 6 reimburses low-income residents for expenses incurred by the storms.

Applicants must meet income eligibility guidelines. Applications are available at Iowa Department of Human Services offices throughout the state. The DHS has a toll-free number to help answer questions. It is 866-434-4692. Details are also available on the Iowa Homeland Security Web site.

The application forms must have receipts attached and be returned to the person’s county emergency management coordinator.

A household is eligible to recover up to $3,319 in expenses including such things as damage to a home’s electrical hookup and lost food resulting from the power outage.

Under a separate program, federal funds were made available to government entities earlier this week when President Bush declared 46 Iowa counties federal disaster areas. Cities, counties, electric cooperatives and some nonprofit agencies that provide a public service can apply for grants to help them remove debris, take emergency protective measures and make repairs.

The application process will be through Iowa Homeland Security, which will sponsor applicant briefings to outline how to document losses and file applications, Miller said.

Earlier this week, Culver asked for a federal disaster declaration for 36 counties in western and northwestern Iowa as the result of heavy snowfall. If granted, it would provide money for public agencies to compensate for costs of snow removal.

State officials also are working on getting Small Business Administration low-interest loans for business owners who experienced economic loss due to the storms.

Miller said business owner should complete an assessment of their losses on the Small Business Administration Web site or the Iowa Homeland Security site by April 16. The information will determine whether Iowa will be eligible for low-interest loans for affected businesses.

The state also is applying to the Department of Agriculture for emergency loans for farmers with damage to property other than their homes. Farmers should report physical losses, excluding losses to their primary residence, to their local Farm Service Agency office.

Miller said powerful winter storms prompted an aggressive reaction from utility companies and the state government.

“We had to take a more aggressive posture for winter storms than we’ve probably taken in over a decade,” he said. “I think as a result, you have no real way of measuring it, but I think we saved people from harm and we probably saved a few lives.”

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