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Leaders Worry Flood Victims Will Leave, What Can Encourage Them to Stay?

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- When it comes to the speed of relief, some towns are still at the mercy of Mother Nature.

“Like in Pacific Junction, the water's just gone down where FEMA can start going in because it's unsafe to go in until the water's gone, so that's the first step. The second step is to figure out what they can do for housing,” said Rep. David Sieck, a Republican from Glenwood.

FEMA says 400 homes are still inaccessible. Right now, they are able to offer rental assistance for those who are displaced. Sieck says having semi-permanent housing, like the FEMA travel trailers, will help keep residents near their communities and encourage them to move back.

“The FEMA housing, as far as getting the trailers in there, they've requested those, but my thought is sometimes that takes way too long to get there, and by that time, a lot of decisions will be made that will maybe be detrimental to them coming back,” said Sieck.

FEMA says time to get the trailers in place varies from disaster to disaster. Some can take between 60 and 90 days while others can take longer. FEMA says they are still in the assessment stage.

“The state of Iowa along with FEMA is assessing the long-term housing needs in the southwest part of the state. FEMA offers aid to survivors in the form of rental assistance. When rental properties are found to be scarce in a declared county, other forms of assistance may be considered to include temporary housing like travel trailers or manufactured housing units.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds says that in the short-term, Congress needs to approve an aid package for Iowa and other states which have suffered disasters to get federal money flowing. In the meantime, she says having a mechanism like the newly formed Flood Recovery Advisory Board to communicate with Iowans will be important.

The more certainty that we can provide, and some of the short-term temporary protections that we can put in place and let them know and businesses know what the plan is going forward, I think all of that will play in their decision that they make moving forward as well,” said Reynolds.

State Senator Rob Hogg knows what those decisions can mean. During the 2008 floods, the Democratic senator from Cedar Rapids says the community was hurt by people choosing to leave.

“We still lost approximately 200 businesses and a lot of those employees and businesses left Cedar Rapids,” said Hogg.

Hogg says while Reynolds has asked the legislature for $25 million in relief funds over the next two years, he says they need more and that he has written a proposal for $50 million.

“I actually think my number is too low, but I know you can’t wait for perfection before you act because we should have acted two weeks ago to provide assistance to the farmers and businesses who have employees so those people don’t feel compelled to leave the state,” said Hogg.

All leaders agree that a concrete plan for levee repair moving forward is critical to ensure Iowans that this kind of flooding won't happen again.

So far, FEMA has approved $3.7 million for personal disaster grants. Typically, each grant is $3,000 to $5,000. If you or anyone you know needs to register for aid, you can call this number: 1-800-621-3362

You can also register at www.disasterassistance.gov

In addition, the Small Business Administration can help provide low interest government loans for business damage or home damage.

There are May 22 deadlines to register for aid.

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