$395 Million Approved for Flood, Tornado Recovery in Iowa

October 20, 2008

Iowa communities are getting help recovering from a series of natural disasters this year with nearly $395 million in state and federal funding.

The money will go to at least 3,200 projects. The biggest chunk of it, about $254 million, is headed for Cedar Rapids, which was devastated by flooding in June.

That’s according to an analysis by The Gazette of Federal Emergency Management Agency and Iowa Homeland Security records current through Monday, October 13.

The largest source of aid, to be used mostly on infrastructure projects such as repairs to buildings, roads and utility systems, comes from FEMA’s public assistance program. That program is open to government agencies and select non-profit organizations recovering from tornadoes and flooding. It covers only uninsured losses.

Other sources of public money going to Iowa communities come from FEMA individual assistance, hazard mitigation or buyouts, Small Business Administration loans, congressional appropriations and the state’s Jumpstart program.

Bret Voorhees, an Iowa Homeland Security spokesman, said current estimates are that 8,000 projects costing $800 million eventually will be funded by the public assistance program, which has no cap.

“So we haven’t even reached the halfway point yet,” he said.

State and FEMA teams are expected to work with applicants over the next few months to identify more eligible projects. It could take several years before all are complete, Voorhees added.

The $394.9 million is only an initial estimate for projects that have been approved. The formula for the funding calls for the federal government to pay 90 percent of the costs and the state the other 10 percent.

Cedar Rapids City Manager Jim Prosser says $254 million authorized for that city covers about half the total damage the flood caused to public property.

“Cedar Rapids residents should be comforted in knowing that certainly everything indicates that we’re going to get the level of reimbursement which is appropriate to help us recover and rebuild city facilities,” he said.

According to The Gazette’s analysis, 23 of the 30 most expensive projects approved so far are in Cedar Rapids. The University of Iowa, at nearly $57.8 million in approved projects, is second in terms of approved projects.

Together, they account for nearly 79 percent of the approved money statewide.

Voorhees said much of the damage was in Cedar Rapids and in Iowa City near the campus.

“We are also working with smaller communities that were devastated, like the Palos, the Oakvilles,” he said. “Their total impact is, you could argue, bigger in some ways than Cedar Rapids”‘ because nearly the entire towns were destroyed.

Palo is sixth and Oakville 12th among more than 500 entities in approved project costs.

In Parkersburg, which was leveled by a tornado in May, Mayor Bob Haylock said the nearly $8.4 million in aid is more than four times the city budget.

“It’s extremely important because we just would not have been able to get all of the stuff done without it,” he said.

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