Grassley, Harkin, Loebsack upset with FEMA library decision - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Grassley, Harkin, Loebsack upset with FEMA library decision

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(Washington, DC-KWWL) Iowa Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley and Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-2), today expressed their disagreement with a recent FEMA decision that denies the City of Cedar Rapids' request for temporary relocation assistance for its main library.  In a letter to Nancy Ward, Acting Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the lawmakers requested due consideration to the appeal filed by the City.  FEMA recently decided that the main library was not an "essential service" and therefore did not meet the criteria necessary to receive assistance.

During the flooding that occurred this past summer, the first floor of the library, located in downtown Cedar Rapids, was submerged and over 167,000 items within the library were destroyed.  Officials estimate that it will take a minimum of 18 months to repair the facility.

"The library is the heart of the community in towns across Iowa and throughout the U.S.  They provide essential educational services, computer access and books to everyone who walks through their doors," said Harkin.  "Cedar Rapids rightly appealed this decision and I urge FEMA to act quickly in their favor."

"The Main Library, which saw unprecedented disaster during the floods of 2008, is an essential part of the Cedar Rapids community and provides needed resources to young and old alike," Grassley said. "This community has seen its share of devastation, and the library may provide the only opportunity to simply get away from their troubles and get lost in a book."

"The library deserves the same level of support and aid that it provides the community. FEMA shouldn't discount how much the library contributes to our students, teachers, and families," said Congressman Loebsack. "As we continue to rebuild after the floods, it is important to remember that putting our communities back together involves giving our students and residents back their quality of life as much as it involves repairing roads and buildings."

In the letter, Harkin, Grassley and Loebsack wrote that they believe that the library in Cedar Rapids is a critical part of local education services that serves all of Linn County and should be eligible for temporary relocation assistance.

A copy of the letter is below.

March 17, 2009

Nancy Ward, Acting Director
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C Street SW
Washington, DC 20472

Dear Ms. Ward:

The City of Cedar Rapids is appealing a decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deny the City's request for temporary relocation assistance for its Main Library.  We ask that you give this appeal all due consideration. 

The Midwest Flood is one of the largest disasters in FEMA's history and for the first time, a main library has been impacted.  Over 167,000 items within the library were destroyed when the first floor of the library was submerged by flood waters.  It is anticipated that it will take a minimum of 18 months for repairs to be completed to the facility. 

We disagree with FEMA's decision that the library is not a critical service and ask that you review all applicable regulations, in particular the April 2007 revision of the Stafford Act.  Section 403 provides for the "provision of temporary facilities for schools and other essential community services." 

We believe that the Main Library does provide essential services to the community.  In fact, the library is a critical part of local educational services, serving not only educators and students in Cedar Rapids, but throughout Linn County.  It has an extensive reference database that is relied upon by area school districts to supplement their own resources.  The Main Library has been available to students in the evenings and on weekends when access to school libraries is not available.  In addition, schools have regularly scheduled class reference orientations at the library.  Area students utilized the extensive references and educational materials to complete assignments, like annual science projects, which some area schools lack the specialized resources to support.

The Main Library is a key partner to local education, and because of its essential role in the community we believe it is eligible for temporary relocation assistance.  Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Senator Tom Harkin
Senator Chuck Grassley
Representative Dave Loebsack

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