Iowa Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, and U.S. Representative Rod Blum say they had a good meeting today with the director of Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, on flood mitigation funding for Cedar Rapids.
Ernst says $73 million in funding allocated for projects from 2008 flooding has been held up by the formula that weighs the cost versus the benefit.
“In the Midwest we likely won’t see this project because it is skewed more toward the east and west coast — because they have higher property values,” Enrst says, “so we discussed that issue as well as a number of other challenges.”
Senator Grassley says Mulvaney did listen. “We found a person who was very engaged with our project, he knew some about it. He listened very intently to things that we had to inject into it,” Grassley says.
Blum, who represents the First District and Cedar Rapids area, knows Mulvaney from when Mulvaney represented South Carolina. “I asked him to reconfirm that it was important to him and the administration that there was a tremendous buy-in on the part of Cedar Rapids and the state on this project. In fact, out of a 600 million-dollar project, we are only asking the federal government for 73 million dollars, the rest is coming from state and local sources. And he said ‘it’s very impressive, it does matter,” Blum says.
The three Republicans say Mulvaney didn’t give them any firm commitment and Grassley says they will have to keep working on the issue. “We quite frankly didn’t get any promises — I’m not sure that we expected any promises — but it isn’t just up to this one director, to the extent that it gets into this president’s budge, that’s a big step forward. But even if that happens, there’s still a lot of work for us and the members of Congress,” according to Grassley.
Cedar Rapids mobilized and put up temporary walls to stop another flood in 2016. Ernst says millions was spent on temporary measures, and there’s no assurances the city won’t face another flood, and that’s why completing this project is important. “The dollars need to be put into permanent flood mitigation, rather than spending the millions upon millions of dollars in the recovery effort,” Ernst says.
Blum says the most recent effort that successfully held off flooding shouldn’t impact the overall flood project.”We shouldn’t be penalized because we had thousands of volunteers sandbagging and helping out,” Blum says. “I’ve made that point, the senators have made that point in every meeting that we’ve been in.”
Senator Ernst says they are considering legislative action. “I do think it requires legislative attention. So we will be working in Congress, we already have some follow on meetings that we’re discussing with OMB to make sure that we identify what part of the code needs modification, how we can correct the different we are seeing with high property values on the coasts with what you maybe see as lower property values throughout the midwest,” Ernst says.
Senator Grassley says changing the legislation would take some work. “It’s not as easy as it used to be when we had earmarks prior to 2010,” Grassley says, “now since then earmarks have been ruled out and you have to approach these things in a very general way that just doesn’t affect Cedar Rapids, but would give some opportunity for Cedar Rapids to benefit from general legislation throughout the country that maybe now it doesn’t allow it to happen.” The earmarks allowed members of Congress to designate money for a specific project.
The three made their comments during a conference call with reporters.