Cedar Rapids officials hope to use part of the city’s federal pandemic relief money to help property owners recover from last year’s derecho. Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart said many city residents need help repairing their homes.
“We’re working hard to figure out what the gap is for people who are uninsured or underinsured and so we can figure out ways to provide money and services for them and also small business and non-profits,” Hart said during a weekend appearance on “Iowa Press” on Iowa PBS. “We’re going to help them, too.”
Hart said half of the $28 million from the American Recovery Act could delivered this week. Cedar Rapids and Linn County officials are discussing using part of the money for a permanent homeless shelter. The mayor said the bulk of the federal money, though, may be used to make up for $15-20 million in reduced tax collections during the pandemic.
“One of the ideas you can use money for is to replenish lost revenues for cities and communities,” Hart said, “so we’re looking at those rules.”
The August 10, 2020 derecho destroyed tens of thousands of trees in Cedar Rapids and the state legislature approved $250,000 to start replanting trees in the city.
“We made an ask to help us reforest our city,” Hart said. “We estimate we lost 65% of our tree canopy in Cedar Rapids…It’s going to take a decade or more to replenish all our trees and we’ll keep asking.”
Because of the federal disaster declaration approved by President Trump, Hart said Cedar Rapids didn’t have to ask the state legislature for more assistance.
“I really don’t think that we were missing anything from the state to handle the derecho and really from the legislature we didn’t have big asks because we’re pretty resilient,” Hart said.
Last month, Senator Liz Mathis a Democrat from Hiawatha, said the legislature should have done far more to address derecho damage to trees.
“I cannot stress to you how important a tree canopy is not only to our environment but to costs in the future for some of our municipalities,” Mathis said during Senate debate. “…We’ve got to get real about damage to eastern Iowa from the derecho.”
Mathis said some private fundraising is going on to help plant new trees, but cities like Cedar Rapids and Marion face huge costs to replace trees.