Iowa congressional leaders urge additional relief after flooding

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee expanded an aid-eligibility package for Iowans to receive disaster relief from the flooding along the Missouri River.

Sen.+Chuck+Grassley%2C+R-Iowa%2C+speaks+with+The+Daily+Iowan+in+the+Hart+Senate+Office+Building+on+Tuesday%2C+March+26%2C+2019.

Julia Shanahan

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, speaks with The Daily Iowan in the Hart Senate Office Building on Tuesday, March 26, 2019.

Julia Shanahan, Politics Reporter

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee expanded aid eligibility on Tuesday for Iowans affected by major flooding with a $13.45 billion federal-relief package moving forward in the Senate after three members of Iowa’s congressional delegation urged additional funding.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, endorsed the appropriations bill that will provide emergency funding to agriculture disasters caused by flooding in Iowa and Nebraska. Federal Emergency Management Agency programs do not cover all the damage.

Grassley said there are some U.S. Agriculture Department programs that are providing immediate assistance to farmers affected by flooding, but that those programs will not be able to completely compensate for the dramatic damage flooding caused.

“[USDA programs] might help farmers, but it’s miniscule compared to things like one farmer losing $850,000 worth of grain,” Grassley said in an interview with The Daily Iowan. “[USDA programs] wouldn’t in any way benefit him.”

He also said lawmakers were working on language in the appropriations bill that would imply the committee will follow up with the bill if the federal-aid package does not completely cover the losses in Iowa and Nebraska. He expects more flood damage to occur between Iowa and the Gulf of Mexico into the summer months, he said, and there is not a “definitive way” to measure complete funding right now.

RELATED: President Trump declares major disaster in 56 Iowa counties after flooding

According to the Office of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, $214 million worth of damage was wreaked on Iowa’s agriculture sector. The total amount of damage is estimated to be $1.6 billion, and there is an emergency declaration in 57 Iowa counties since the flooding began on March 12 along the Missouri River.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, noted on the Senate floor on March 26 that Fremont County alone has lost $7 million worth of grain. According to Iowa Soybean Association, $7.3 million worth of soybean crops were lost, and farmers expect more damage to come.

Ernst said that the devastation is incomprehensible, even compared to the flooding she saw while working for the Iowa National Guard.

“I can tell you that the flooding and destruction I witnessed last week was as bad as I’ve ever seen,” Ernst said.

 

Ernst pointed out that there are about 250 miles of Iowa levees that need to be repaired, which will cost about $525 million.

Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, urged lawmakers on March 26 to approve the additional appropriations for disaster relief. Axne’s district in southwest Iowa was one of the hardest hit by the flooding.

Axne said that the damage done to public infrastructure is vital for small communities.

“The lasting effects on the health and well-being of Iowa families is beyond calculation, and the flooding is still ongoing,” Axne said. “We haven’t seen the worst of it.”

 

Iowa’s congressional leaders also praised President Trump’s timely approval of Reynolds’ emergency-disaster declaration. Trump’s declaration made FEMA individual-assistance money available for five Iowa counties: Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Monona, and Woodbury.

The emergency declaration also allowed immediate assistance to business owners, homeowners, and public entities in those counties, according to a news release from Reynolds.

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