Iowans Looking to Rebuild After Derecho Have Options for Assistance
Homeowners in east-central Iowa are trying to rebuild after a derecho – a line of fast-moving windstorms – tore across the state on August 10th, downing trees, destroying crops, and leaving half a million Iowans without power. Relief efforts, both large and small, have been initiated to help residents clear debris, find temporary shelter, and access food.
After receiving Gov. Kim Reynold’s disaster declaration request, outlining about $3.9 billion of damage, Trump approved $45 million of relief. This first round of funding provided through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could be used by the state for “emergency work, such as debris removal, and repair or replacement of storm-damaged facilities for local governments and nonprofits,” according to the Des Moines Register.
Trailing behind FEMA’s statewide assistance is the second round of aide designated specifically for homeowners. On August 20th, Trump approved the federal individual assistance program for Linn County which was hit especially hard during the recent storm. Individual disaster assistance provided by FEMA is meant to fill in the cracks not covered by insurance, state programs, and nonprofits.
You can apply for individual disaster assistance through FEMA if your insurance does not cover:
- Temporary housing
- Hotel reimbursement
- Child-care expenses
- Medical and dental expenses
- Damage to household essential items
- Vehicle damage
The other 26 Iowa counties included in Gov. Reynold’s request are still undergoing disaster assessments, and whether or not those counties will qualify for individual assistance remains to be seen.
For homeowners in any of the 26 counties that have not yet qualified for FEMA’s individual disaster assistance program, there are still a variety of ways to access funds to help make critical home repairs.
Checking your homeowners’ insurance policy is a great starting point. By reviewing the specifics of your coverage, you’ll be able to identify what issues your insurer will cover and what issues will require alternate funding.
Unlike flood damage, most insurance policies do cover wind damage. However, when you start to look at problems like tree damage and loss of personal property outside of your home such as a pool or trampoline, the answers become less clear.
Aaron Pearce, board president with the Iowa Insurance Institute, said in The Gazette article many insurance-related scenarios will depend on an individual’s policy and coverage. He said, “Given the very unique nature of every person’s insurance policy and their carrier’s operations, we encourage any Iowan who believes they have a claim to contact their insurance agent, broker, or carrier so that they can start a conversation about what options may exist for them.”
The Iowa Association of REALTORS® (IAR) has partnered with the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) to provide storm relief for this most recent derecho. The $250,000 grant awarded to the IAR by the NAR will help individuals with mortgage payments and rental costs due to displacement. Each applicant may be awarded up to $1,000.
Homeowners with a mortgage who have been displaced due to storm damage or who are living in their homes without power can apply for IAR’s Derecho Relief Fund. Renters who have been displaced due to storm damage may also apply.
Iowa’s Department of Human Services is offering two disaster assistance programs to help homeowners affected by the derecho.
The Food Assistance Replacement program is designed for households who currently receive Food Assistance. These individuals can request a replacement for food lost during a storm, due to damage or as a result of a power outage, until September 17, 2020.
The Iowa Individual Disaster Assistance Grant Program (IIAGP) offers grants to families with an annual household income at 200% or less of the federal poverty level. Applicants in qualifying households are eligible to receive up to $5,000. Counties receiving funding through FEMA’s individual assistance program are not eligible for this grant.
The Linn Area Partners Active in Disaster (LAP-AID) is a coalition of over 30 organizations working together to build a “better-prepared and more resilient Linn County.”
LAP-AID is helping to coordinate donations for local not-for-profits. The Linn Emergency Management Agency is working to secure a warehouse for donation storage. A resource list for detailing ways to receive help with food, shelter, and debris collection, among other things, can be found on the LAP-AID’s storm damage information page.
Although federal relief for individual Iowan homeowners is arriving more slowly than hoped, there are a variety of options available now for homeowners affected by the August’s devastating derecho.