Iowa Senator Tom Harkin is joining with Iowa’s five congressman in calling for federal officials to free up the disaster relief money that’s already been approved. The five congressmen sent a letter to president Bush Wednesday calling for release of the funds, and Harkin, a Democrat, did the same in his weekly conference call with reporters.
"This makes me very angry…congress passed this $2.65 billion in June," Harkin says. Harkin says the president visited Iowa June 19th and they committed $300-million for community development block grants, but H.U.D. still hasn’t gotten that money out.
Harkin says he joined fellow Senator Chuck Grassley last week to urge H.U.D. to "get off the dime" and get the money out to Iowa. Harkin says,"This is just inexcusable foot dragging and red tape bureaucracy by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It’s just unacceptable when so many people are hurting, and businesses are struggling to put people back to work."
Harkin says he’s also upset with changes in the Small Business Administrations disaster loan program. Harkin says after Hurricane Katrina three years ago, 98% of the individuals and businesses that qualified for loans, got a low interest loan. He says this year after changes by the Office of Management and Budget, only 70% of Iowans who are qualifying are getting low interest loans. Harkin says there shouldn’t be a change in lending standards now.
"That’s unfair, and it’s hurting our recovery," Harkin says. Harkin has formally requested that S.B.A. return to the lending standards that were in place prior to the flooding in Iowa, and says if that doesn’t happen, he will take action legislatively. Harkin says he is confident congress will quickly pass a second round of disaster funding, but says action has to take place for the funding that’s already been approved.