State flood aid nearing $500 million?

As you may recall, some of last year's Iowa flood victims were upset the Iowa legislature did not meet in special session last fall to address flood relief.  A story I wrote for Radio Iowa tracks the response in the regular legislative session that just concluded this morning just before six o'clock.

Over the past few days I had been talking with legislators involved in flood-related issues and checking documents assembled by legislative staff.  Here is the list of appropriations related to flood recovery and prevention they came up with and which I share with you today:

  • $56 million for JumpStart (signed into law early in the session; adding money to the $40 million Governor Culver had shifted around last fall to start JumpStart).

  • $100 million for University of Iowa flood recovery, prevention (this was part of the 'bonding package" everyone was talking about at the statehouse this year.

  • $118.5 million in competitive grants for flood victims (part of the "bonding package")

  • $46.5 million for Linn County and Cedar Rapids (a portion of that pays for new fire stations in Palo, Elkader & Charles City, too)

  • $25 million for watershed improvements to clean up after the flood and prevent future floods (this is in the 'bonding package")

  • $1.3 million for an Iowa Flood Center at the University of iowa

  • $1 million for the railroad bridge in Waterloo that was damaged by flood waters

  • $50 million over three years in tax credits for historic, cultural properties that were damaged by the floods, tornadoes

  • $15 million over three years in tax credits to spur construction of "multi-family" (apartment) buildings in cities which were flooded.

  • $2.1 million to the Department of Natural Resources for flood plain management & mapping.

  • $25 million in assistance for home owners hit by disaster (in "bonding bill").

  • An estimated $30 million, spread through a variety of state agencies, to cover flood-related responses last summer and fall and to meet some FEMA matching requirements.

Add those together and you get about $470 million and those who were working on flood-related spending say there's money in other budget areas that could be counted as flood aid (for example, some Iowans qualified for food assistance payments and that tally is not included in the $470 million).  That is why the folks involved in putting together flood recovery, response at the statehouse suggest a final tally would be "nearly" half a billion.

There were other flood-related actions taken by legislators, including a move to require 87 cities which were flooded last year and another 37 that are in or near a flood plain to jump through all the hoops (including development of a flood prevention plan) so that residents and businesses in those towns can buy National Flood Insurance.  Another bill would let communities keep the "valuation" of home at pre-flood levels for five years if a flooded-out homeowner goes back, fixes up the house and it's value climbs above the pre-flood valuation.  The "valuation" is used to calculate property taxes, so this means it's a property tax break for some flood victims, if some city opts to go this route.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.