A $56 million package that would provide state help to springtime flood and tornado victims has cleared an initial hurdle at the statehouse. Leaders expect the bill to win approval in the full House and Senate, and land on the governor’s desk by mid-February.
The bill which cleared the House Rebuild Iowa and Disaster Recovery Committee on Wednesday afternoon would set aside $24 million for housing assistance. There’s another $10 million for individual grants to disaster victims. Finally, the bill would establish community disaster grants and would set aside $22 million dollars for those grants.
If the bill becomes law, more Iowans will qualify for down payment assistance and state grants to other housing-related expenses because income eligibility guidelines have been expanded. Representative Tyler Olson is from Cedar Rapids, a city hard hit by this spring’s flooding. "There are a lot of folks that have kind of fallen between the cracks in that their income is too high, but they still have a lot of unmet need," Olson says. "And so what we’re trying to do is reach out to those folks and help them recover as well."
The $56 million to finance the flood relief would come from the state’s economic emergency fund. Representative Tom Sands is from Columbus Junction, another town that was hit by flood waters. "I’m glad that we put most of the money into residential housing because that’s the biggest need that’s out there," Sands says. "…Looks to me like we’re getting money out there in the hands of the people to do some help and at the same time being fiscally responsible in keeping some money (in the economic emergency fund) as well."
There’s over $150 million in the state’s economic emergency fund which could be spent today and the bill calls for spending about a third of what’s available. The flood aid bill next goes before the House Appropriations Committee for review before it gets to the full, 100-member House.