State officials will appeal the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s decision to deny a request for FEMA’s individual assistance grants to Iowans in five counties along the Missouri River who’ve suffered flood damage to their homes or businesses.

John Benson, a spokesman for Iowa’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management division, says the denial wasn’t unexpected.

“In the past the criteria for getting the individual assistance programs turned on had been across the entire state 150 homes either destroyed or considered having major damage,” Benson says. “We had about 125 (homes) when we submitted the initial request. Well, in further discussions with FEMA, it looks like that criteria has also slid up a little bit either into the (range of) 200 or 250 homes.”

It’s been three weeks since state officials drew up that list of 125 homes which had been destroyed or damaged by the flooding Missouri River. Benson says over the next few weeks there’ll be a reevaluation of homes in that five-county corridor along the river and a revised individual damage estimate will be submitted to FEMA.

“As the flood waters slowly go down, we’re going to be looking at trying to find every single piece of damage that’s out there and putting that into our request of FEMA as we ask for them to turn that program on,” Benson says. 

The governor had asked FEMA officials to activate the “Federal Individual Assistance Program” for folks in Fremont, Harrison, Monona, Pottawattamie and Woodbury Counties. Benson says the long-term impacts of the flooding aren’t yet known, and that’s why state officials believe FEMA may eventually grant the request for individual assistance for residents in those counties.

“As that water comes down we’re going to find more and more damage out there,” Benton says. “The one thing we’ll probably see a lot more of as the water comes down is we’re going to start seeing basements start collapsing and that’s not going to happen until the water leaves and that’s not going to be until the middle of September, so this is different because it’s such a long flood and that’s kind of the basis of the argument we’re going to be making.”

The State of Iowa has 30 days — until September 3 — to appeal FEMA’s denial of individual assistance in the Missouri River flood zone. Benson says state officials will ask for an extension.

“If you’ve looked at the Corp of Engineers step-down rates for the river, we’re not looking at that river getting back in its banks until middle or late September and that’s well beyond the 30 days, so we’re going to have damages that would even occur beyond that 30-day time period,” Benson says. “There’s a couple of different things we’re going to be working on. First is the appeal and we’re also going to be looking at that time extension so we can account for those additional damages and still have them apply to this request.”

If the state eventually qualifies it means homeowners, renters and business owners can apply to FEMA’s “Individual Assistance Program” for grants and low interest loans to cover disaster-related expenses like repairs or even temporary housing costs that aren’t covered by insurance. FEMA has declared the state of Iowa, as well as cities and counties along the Missouri River, eligible for public assistance to cover some costs of the initial response to the flooding.