Q: What amendment did you get included in the federal disaster relief package?
A: Catastrophic flooding across Iowa has caused tremendous damage throughout the Missouri and Mississippi River basins impacting more than two-thirds of Iowa’s 99 counties. Breached and overtopped levees and swollen tributaries have swamped hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland, displacing families, disrupting small businesses and destroying public infrastructure.
In April, I met with area farmers in Malvern in Southwest Iowa to learn about their losses and recovery needs. Estimates show more than 800 on-farm storage bins located in eastern Nebraska and Southwest Iowa burst open, spilling upwards of 10 million bushels of grain into standing flood waters. The damaged grain losses delivered a blow to affected producers.
Unlike the livestock indemnity program, prevented planting disaster relief and farmland restoration and watershed recovery grants, the USDA did not have a disaster relief program on the books for stored grain damaged by natural disaster. That’s why I wrote an amendment to bridge the coverage gap.
It was included in the $19.1 billion federal disaster relief bill President Trump signed into law on June 6. The Grassley amendment authorizes the USDA to include on-farm stored commodities under the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program (WHIP). Many farmers were counting on their stored grain to help pay bills, make tax and loan payments or finance the 2019 planting season. Passage of the disaster relief bill will make a good down payment towards recovery and help stem a growing tide of anxiety that’s taking a toll during the years-long slump in the farm economy.
Above normal rainfall that was forecast by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration is further dampening this year’s planting season. As of the first week of June, oversaturated farm fields spanned across the grain belt, putting America’s farmers way behind schedule.
Reports showed corn planting at 67 percent, with 30 million acres of corn yet to plant. Getting flood recovery dollars in the pipeline will bring a welcome infusion of relief to rehabilitate and repair public infrastructure, roads, and bridges; help local communities recover and rebuild; top up USDA coffers for agriculture-related losses, watershed recovery and farmland rehabilitation; and invest in flood mitigation efforts.
I will continue working closely with federal agencies to make sure disaster relief programs are working as intended and keep check on damages still being assessed, including riverfronts in Davenport and Burlington in Southeast Iowa.
Q: When is the deadline for Iowans to apply for individual disaster assistance?
A: Iowans in the following nine disaster-designated counties may be eligible for federal assistance due to severe storms and flooding that occurred March 13 to May 16, 2019: Fremont, Harrison, Louisa, Mills, Monona, Pottawattamie, Scott, Shelby and Woodbury. Iowans must apply by July 1, 2019. Assistance is available through the Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) and Small Business Administration (SBA).
SBA loans are available for renters, homeowners and businesses for repairs and replacement of damaged personal property. Complete applications online at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/. Or, call the SBA disaster assistance center at (800) 659-2955. Note applications must be submitted to maintain eligibility for any additional FEMA dollars.
To register for FEMA assistance, go online to www.disasterassistance.gov or call (800) 621-3362. The FEMA phone lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Central Time), seven days a week. Federal disaster grants are not taxable income and will not affect eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare.
As of June 4, $13 million in FEMA recovery assistance has been disbursed for disaster victims in those nine counties. FEMA direct housing assistance is available to eligible Iowans in Freemont and Mills counties. My state staff is available to help Iowans identify available resources and to troubleshoot problems they may have with federal agencies. Since flooding began in mid-March, they have been working closely with local residents and agencies to coordinate relief efforts.
Gov. Kim Reynolds activated the statewide proclamation of disaster emergency. Iowans in 64 counties are eligible for state individual assistance programs for severe weather and flooding that occurred March 13 to May 16, 2019.
As of June 4, the governor also activated the state individual assistance program for 18 counties affected by flooding and tornadoes on May 17 and continuing. For more information on disaster recovery assistance, visit Iowa’s comprehensive resources site online at www.floods2019.iowa.gov, or call 211.