More Than $1.1B in Iowa Flood Grants Unspent

Records show more than $1.1 billion of the more than $4.7 billion in flood recovery money awarded to state and local governments remains unused five years after the largest natural disaster in Iowa history.

The Des Moines Register reported the amount Saturday after analyzing more than 35,000 state and federal records.

State officials have long said that recovery from Iowa’s disastrous 2008 floods could take seven to 10 years, but some are concerned by the amount of money that’s still unspent or that has yet to be allocated to local governments as reimbursement.

Disputes between local and federal officials over how to rebuild account for some of the delay, officials said. But much of it can be attributed to projects that simply aren’t finished, and therefore have not been reimbursed.

Other projects have been completed, but the paperwork for reimbursement hasn’t been completed. Almost half of $1.28 billion awarded to mostly local governments in Iowa by the Federal Emergency Management Agency public assistance program shows up as unspent, the Register said. But FEMA generally reimburses local governments for projects after both the construction and the paperwork have been completed.

Across the state, there are roughly 2,500 incomplete or open projects, some with hefty price tags, including a $2.2 million road project in Dyersville. Iowa City, one of the most hard-hit by the 2008 floods, has about 70 open projects amounting to nearly $3.5 million, including a $1.4 million project to rebuild an animal shelter.

“Anytime you have funds that have not been expended … there’s a risk that the money won’t be spent or (federal officials) will take it back,” said Dave Roederer, director of the Iowa Department of Management. “When you’re looking at sequestration and cutting budgets, it becomes a target.”

Some state officials also note that deadlines are nearing for thousands of projects, ranging from home buyouts to construction of flood walls.