The U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development will tour flood-damaged areas of Cedar Rapids today. Secretary Shaun Donovan also will announce his agency is forwarding just over half a billion dollars worth of "Community Development Block Grants" to the State of Iowa for flood recovery.
Congressman Dave Loebsack, a Democrat from Mount Vernon, says that $517 million will be distributed by the state, and much of it can be used for property buy-outs.
"Certainly having the secretary on the ground making this announcement is very important for the people of Cedar Rapids and the people of Iowa," Loebsack says.
In addition, Iowa officials will be able to apply for grants from a newly-created "Disaster Recovery Enhancement Fund" that contains over $300 million – to finance projects that could help prevent property damage in the future.
"That’s in particular going to be for places like Iowa that have done very well already as far as long-term recovery planning is concerned," Loebsack says. "That’ll be a competitive fund, but the secretary is very confident that Iowa will do very well on that."
Loebsack, along with Governor Culver and local officials will tour the Time Check neighborhood in Cedar Rapids shortly after 10 o’clock this morning. They’ll be joined by Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor who is serving as U.S. ag secretary. The group then will tour downtown Cedar Rapids which was inundated with water about a year ago.
Loebsack says it will be evident to the visitors that there are "years to go" before Cedar Rapids fully recovers from last year’s disaster.
"I think it’s really critical that the secretary of Housing and Urban Development see the damage and see the progress we’ve made, but at the same time see that we have some distance to go because we will need to be working with him and we will continue to work with him down the line to make sure we get the federal funding that we need for the State of Iowa," Loebsack says, "in this case for Cedar Rapids in particular."
This will be Secretary Donovan’s first trip to Iowa since he became the head of HUD earlier this year. An aide to the secretary says Donovan will outline the "different approach" that the Obama Administration is taking to disaster recovery.