Wild weather this year takes a toll on Iowa disaster funds

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Ice storms, a blizzard and flooding have already made 2007 a record year for federal disaster payments in Iowa and that doesn't include the requests that are expected following last week's tornado in eastern Iowa.

Federal payments to Iowans from the ice storms and blizzards that struck Iowa in late February and early March have topped $65 million. At least another $26 million in assistance is being processed for flood victims in southwest Iowa, state officials said.

"This is a record-breaking year for us in terms of disasters," said Bret Voorhees, bureau chief of Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management. "We have never had three presidential declarations in one year, much less in the first five months heading into tornado season."

State officials continued to assess damage from Friday's tornado that damaged or destroyed more than 100 homes in Grandview, Fruitland and Muscatine, along with numerous businesses.

Gov. Chet Culver declared Louisa, Muscatine and Jackson counties as state disaster areas. A decision on whether to request a presidential declaration has not been made.

Besides the federal disaster aid, a new state emergency assistance program to help low-income Iowans affected by disasters not covered by a presidential declaration has paid more than $115,000 to more than 500 applicants who suffered losses in the late February ice storm.

The program is designed to cover losses in disasters where the threshold is not high enough to qualify for federal aid. The state put $1 million into the program, voting to make it a permanent tool in the state's emergency management efforts.

The program provides up to $3,300 to households for uninsured storm damage to a home or vehicle, for loss of food due to electrical blackout, for lodging or rental costs, among other things.

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