Rep. Axne Requests Additional Federal Disaster Relief Funding Following Devastating Flooding

March 26, 2019
Press Release
Axne sends letter to House and Senate Appropriators requesting a robust increase in federal disaster funding

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03) sent a letter to the leadership of the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees requesting additional disaster relief funding following the recent flooding that devastated Iowa. This increase in funding will guarantee that disaster relief programs at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Small Business Administration (SBA), and other agencies are sufficiently funded to cover widespread, catastrophic damage.

On March 22, Rep. Axne urged President Trump to support Governor Kim Reynolds’ request for a major disaster declaration. On March 23, President Trump issued a disaster declaration, ensuring the full availability of federal resources to support Iowa’s efforts to guarantee public safety and rapid recovery. Given the impact of this flooding was mainly in smaller, rural communities, Rep. Axne today requested a robust increase in federal disaster relief funding to ensure programs, which are vital to rebuilding these communities, do not lapse or expire.

“We must ensure these programs have the necessary funding to properly assist in vital recovery efforts,” Rep. Axne wrote. “Given the ongoing effects of climate change and severe weather that are affecting our communities, providing sufficient funding for disaster relief programs is of the utmost importance.”

Full text of the letter is available below:

 

March 26, 2019

 

The Honorable Nita Lowey                                                         
Chairwoman                                                                                 
Committee on Appropriations  
U.S. House of Representatives                                                     
 
The Honorable Kay Granger    
U.S. House of Representatives                                                                                                 
Ranking Member
Committee on Appropriations 
 
The Honorable Richard Shelby
Chairman        
Committee on Appropriations 
United States Senate              
 
The Honorable Patrick Leahy
Vice Chairman
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate

 

Dear Chairwoman Lowey, Chairman Shelby, Ranking Member Granger, and Vice Chairman Leahy,

I request the Appropriations Committees provide additional disaster supplemental funding following the recent flooding that devastated Iowa. This increase in funding will guarantee that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Small Business Administration (SBA), and other necessary disaster relief programs are sufficiently funded to cover widespread, catastrophic damage.

The Governor of Iowa has estimated the State will need $1.59 billion dollars of assistance from federal partners, and this is only an early estimate. The flooding, particularly in Mills and Fremont counties, has resulted in likely hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in agricultural losses, destroyed homes, schools, small businesses, medical centers and caused significant damage to public infrastructure that is vital to these communities. Small towns such as Hamburg in Fremont County and Pacific Junction in Mills County are underwater and facing potentially irreparable damage. Communities and health care providers are without sanitary water. The lasting effects on the health and well-being of Iowa families and our rural communities is beyond calculation.

Farmers are facing property losses and the flood waters will prevent them from planting in time for the 2019 season. Many farmers have lost livestock and had their grain bins destroyed. Insurance for grain storage is often not covered under federal crop insurance and in some cases a grain bin will be covered under insurance, but the stored grain is not covered. If a farmer stored with a silo that lacks sufficient private insurance, or had no insurance, they stand to lose millions of dollars.

USDA programs such as the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Risk Management Agency (RMA), and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) are vital to disaster relief in my district where the agriculture and rural community losses are significant. The USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), for example, assists in disaster relief by removing debris and animal carcasses from agricultural land. EQIP will play an important role in restoring land, but the demand for their services is significantly higher in this disaster than others. Likewise, the Emergency Conservation Program, which restores conservation structures, buildings, and fencing damaged by flooding, will be crucial for entire towns in my district. We must ensure these programs have the necessary funding to properly assist in vital recovery efforts.

The flooding, which began in mid March, is still ongoing. The President has authorized Individual Assistance for five counties, while Public Assistance is offered for 56 counties and Hazard Mitigation is being offered statewide. FEMA will need to provide housing assistance, housing repairs and replacement, and FEMA will engage in significant permanent housing construction. Given that entire towns have been flooded, FEMA may also need to provide medical and dental assistance, moving and storage assistance, along with other assistance dependent on the needs of Iowans.

FEMA will work closely with the Small Businesses Administration (SBA) to help provide loans and grants. Given the impact of this flooding was mainly in smaller, rural communities, I am seeking increased funding specifically for grants programs within the SBA. The communities impacted are devastated and it is unknown if small businesses will be able to rebuild. Business owners in these rural communities will require grants to get their businesses up and running. Supporting grants, over loans, is necessary to ensure businesses can support and rebuild our rural and small communities.

This catastrophic flooding has significantly damaged vital public infrastructure, including to federal highways. Having suffered serious damage, our highways and roads will qualify for Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Emergency Relief (ER). Numerous state highways have been closed, as well as two major interstates, I-29 and I-688, due to flooding and have remained closed due to debris and damage. A detour of 134 miles has been created to allow traffic to travel through Des Moines to get from Council Bluffs to Kansas City. Another impact has been heavy traffic is forced onto rural, two lane roads causing additional damage to our Iowa infrastructure.

Dams and levees will need significant repair and replacement. Nearly all levees failed from Council Bluffs to Missouri during the flooding. Given that we still do not know the total impact of these failures, it is apparent that raising the current levee heights is a necessary next step. Iowans have suffered from devastating floods due to levee height before and it is unacceptable that we have been unable to receive sufficient funding for the Army Corp of Engineering levee projects. Increasing funding for Army Corp of Engineering levee construction, along with requiring additional reporting and oversight requirements, is a necessary preemptive measure. 

According to the National Weather Service, Iowa experienced record snowfall with freezing temperatures, resulting in frozen snowpack that prevented the ability of the soil to absorb excess water. We then experienced record snowfall as part of a “bomb cyclone” that hit across the Midwest, rapid warming from March 12th to March 14th, and up to three inches of rain. It was this combination of events that magnified snow melt into our waterways and resulted in this devastating flooding. Given the ongoing effects of climate change and severe weather that are affecting our communities, providing sufficient funding for disaster relief programs is of the utmost importance.

As the Appropriations Committee begins deliberations of FY20 as well as a disaster supplemental for the previous year, it is clear that increased funding for these programs is necessary. With an early estimate of $1.59 billion dollars of assistance requested, I am seeking a robust increase in all federal disaster programs. We cannot allow funding to lapse, expire, or be insufficient for all those who have been impacted.

Sincerely,

 

Cindy Axne

Member of Congress