Flooded Iowa County Did not Join Flood Insurance Plan

July 29, 2010

Homes and businesses affected by the Lake Delhi flood in Iowa will not be immediately eligible for federal financial assistance because Delaware County ignored repeated pleas to join the National Flood Insurance Program, a program coordinator said.

However, that could change for some residents if the county joins up and the president declares it a disaster area, said Bill Cappuccio, the state’s coordinator of the federal program.

Some aid could then become available for primary residences and businesses – but not for vacation homes, he said.

Jeff Madlom, chairman of the Delaware County Board of Supervisors, choked up Monday as he pleaded for flood victims to keep an even temper – and open mind – about why the county didn’t sign up. Board members said they thought there were too many strings attached to the program.

“There’s a lot of stress, we all know it,” Madlom said.

He broke off as his emotions welled to the surface. “I apologize, excuse me,” he said hoarsely. “We just want everybody to stay calm. There’s so much tension around here.”

Damages to secondary or vacation homes are not eligible under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster assistance program. A secondary home rented out or occupied by a family member may be eligible for aid from the Small Business Administration, Cappuccio said.

Cappuccio said county officials expressed interest in joining when he spoke to them.

“If the community joins within six months, then the limitations will be lifted and people will be eligible for a full range of assistance,” he said.

But if the county doesn’t join, even victims outside the mapped flood plain could be affected. They would not be eligible for SBA aid because the agency requires flood insurance.

The federal insurance is less expensive than hard-to-find private insurance. Counties that participate must adopt and enforce flood plain management rules to reduce future flood damage.

Supervisor Shirley Helmrichs said the federal program could have negative consequences for homeowners. For example, a house severely damaged in a fire couldn’t be reconstructed unless it was raised above the flood plain level, she said.

“It’s that noose,” Helmrichs said. “There’s strings attached that a lot of people don’t know if they haven’t read it. I’ve read it five, six times.”

Since the floods of 2008, only 18 new Iowa cities and counties have enrolled in the federal program despite sanctions passed by the Legislature to nudge more communities to join. In 2008, some Iowans were denied disaster aid because their communities had chosen not to join. As of last month, 113 cities and counties in flood-hazard areas were not participating. In 2008, the number was slightly more at 131.

Information from: The Des Moines Register

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