DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) — Despite President Donald Trump saying Monday that he fully approved Iowa’s request for $3.9 billion in disaster assistance following last week’s powerful wind storm, it is unclear how much money the state will actually receive.
A Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman told the Associated Press late Monday that only the public assistance portion of the governor’s request – which totaled about $45 million for debris removal and repair to government buildings and utilities in 16 counties – has been initially approved.
Not approved so far is an individual assistance request for 27 counties that includes $82.7 million for homes destroyed or severely damaged and $3.77 billion for agriculture damage to farmland, grain bins and buildings, and $100 million for private utilities repair.
Asked by Courthouse News for clarification on Tuesday, a FEMA spokesperson said in an email that President Trump “granted a major disaster declaration for the state of Iowa triggering the release of federal funds to help communities recover from severe storms that occurred on Aug. 10,” but “the exact amount of dollars is to be determined, as we (FEMA) and the state are still working through the [public assistance] process regarding damages.”
The discrepancy between the president’s initial statement – he tweeted Monday that he “just approved (and fast) the FULL Emergency Declaration for the Great State of Iowa” – and FEMA’s subsequent clarification was blasted by Iowa Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer, a Democrat whose district includes Cedar Rapids, the hardest-hit community and the state’s second largest city.
“While I am appreciative of the president’s quick action in approving public assistance for Iowa communities to cleanup and rebuild, I’m deeply disappointed he has not granted the state of Iowa’s full request for individual assistance,” she said in a statement. “We must ensure no Iowan is left behind by this tragedy. I ask the president to rectify his omission immediately.”
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ request for nearly $4 billion federal disaster assistance for 27 of Iowa’s 99 counties would go toward public assistance, private utilities and homes with major damage, with the largest share – nearly $3.8 billion – for agriculture alone to help farmers who lost corn and soybean and grain-storage structures.
The Aug. 10 wind storm, known as a derecho, swept through central and eastern Iowa last Monday, killing at least three Iowans, leaving hundreds of thousands without power, and leveling an estimated 10 million acres of cropland.
The derecho (pronounced “deh-REY-cho”), which is described by the National Weather Service as a long-lived wind storm that can produce destructive straight-line winds similar to the strength of tornadoes, originated in South Dakota and tore across Nebraska, Iowa and other Midwestern states.
In Cedar Rapids, the scene was described by residents as resembling a “war zone,” with trees and power lines down, roofs and exteriors ripped from homes, and traffic blocked by entire trees lying across streets. At one point, more than 90% of the city’s electric customers were without power.