Gov. Culver signs $56 million flood relief bill - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Gov. Culver signs $56 million flood relief bill

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DES MOINES (KWWL) -- Iowa Gov. Chet Culver is sending help to people still trying to recover from last year's recoprd flooding.

Monday morning Culver signed House File 64 into law, a $56 million package designed to help the state recover from the destruction.

The emergency disaster relief bill includes $22 million for housing assistance, $10 million for individual disaster grants and $22 million for community disaster grants.

In addition to the $24 million for housing, the law expands the eligibility criteria so more Iowans can receive down payment assistance, housing repair or rehabilitation and interim mortgage assistance.

The $10 million for individual grants can be used for personal needs or mental health and also includes more Iowans.

The $22 million in community disaster grants will go directly to communities impacted by disasters based on their share of statewide damage estimates.

Speaking during a packed ceremony Monday in the Statehouse Rotunda, Culver warned that the recovery process would "take years, not months."

The recovery package had passed the Legislature unanimously. The money will come from the state's economic emergency fund, which tides the state through recessions and natural disasters.

House File 64 allocates $56 million from the state's reserve accounts.  The funds will be used for the following:

 • $24 million to expand the Jumpstart Housing Assistance Program to eligible Iowans with a family income equal to or less than 150% of area median income, which will allow more Iowans access to the program.

 • $22 million for grants to cities and counties based on their storm damage costs. The funds will be available to cities and counties for uses such as nonprofit organization assistance, public purchase of land and accompanying structures, repair, replacement or upgrade of public infrastructure damaged by disaster, increased costs associated with revaluing property due to natural disaster, small business assistance and assistance for replacing or rehabilitating housing.

 • $10 million to provide individual disaster grants for unmet needs.  The funds will be allocated through the Department of Human Services, and will provide up to $2,500 for unreimbursed expenses limited to personal property, home repair, food assistance, mental health assistance, child care, and temporary housing that were incurred as a result of the disasters of 2008.  The case management program established by the Rebuild Iowa Office will assist long-term disaster committees in determining eligibility and certification of unmet needs, and help to ensure that the grants are non-duplicative. A system will be authorized to ensure sufficient data collection to discourage and prevent fraud.

In addition, the bill formally establishes in Iowa Code the Rebuild Iowa Office.  The office was established by Governor Culver through an Executive Order immediately following the flooding of 2008 to help address the massive work of rebuilding.  This bill makes the office an official agency of state government through June 30, 2011.

During the ceremony today, the Governor was joined by Lt. Governor Patty Judge, as well as lawmakers from both parties, local officials from disaster affected communities, and Iowans impacted by the floods and storms.

Lt. Governor Judge praised the bi-partisan efforts of both legislative chambers in passing this legislation.

"While it is easy for issues to become caught up in partisanship, House File 64 demonstrates that flood recovery breaks through party lines," said the Lt. Governor.  "This bill passed the legislature and was sent to the Governor's desk without a single dissenting vote.  This is just one more sign that 8 months after the disasters, Iowans are as committed as ever to rebuilding this state stronger and better than before."

Also today, Governor Culver signed Senate File 44.  This legislation allows counties that were declared presidential disaster areas the ability to move up special election dates to seek a one-cent increase in the local option sales tax.

Residents could vote as soon as March, with collection of the revenue beginning as soon as April 1; the current law would have begun revenue collection on January 1. In addition, if the local option fails in a community where it is approved county-wide, the community will not receive the additional sales tax revenue.

The legislation is designed to provide communities impacted by last summer's storms the opportunity to decide locally whether to use the option of additional sales tax revenue to assist with disaster recovery.  This law only applies to communities that do not already have a 7% sales tax.

For more information about the state's recovery and rebuilding efforts, please visit the Rebuild Iowa Web site at www.rio.iowa.gov.  Iowans can learn more about the Jumpstart Iowa Housing program and how to apply for financial assistance by visiting the Jumpstart Iowa Web site at www.jumpstart.iowa.gov or by calling the toll-free number 1-866-849-0323.

Waterloo Mayor Tim Hurley was among those at the ceremony. He says the measure signed Monday offers a sense of hope and stability.

Online Producer:  JJ Murray

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