President Biden issues major disaster declaration for Iowa areas hit by April tornados

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U.S. President Joe Biden issued the declaration following an expedited request made by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds for the areas impacted by tornados that hit across the state in late April. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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By Robin Opsahl, Iowa Capital Dispatch

President Joe Biden on Tuesday issued a major disaster declaration for areas of Iowa that were hit by tornados and severe weather in late April, approving a request from Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Reynolds requested an expedited disaster declaration from Biden on May 2, after issuing a state disaster proclamation in late April for storms on April 26 and 27. The National Weather Service confirmed that 24 tornados hit Iowa over the period, with 16 tornados in central and southern Iowa and an additional eight tornados in western Iowa.

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With the request, assistance is now available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Individual Assistance Program and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Disaster Loan Program, providing assistance with costs related to damages caused by the weather. Areas that are eligible Clarke, Harrison, Mills, Polk, Pottawattamie, Ringgold, Shelby, and Union counties.

Both programs provide assistance to homeowners, renters, businesses and other organizations affected by the weather. The FEMA program provides assistance with costs and services for housing and personal property, as well as medical and legal expenses related to the disaster, while the SBA program provides low-interest loans to those with property affected by the storm. Iowans seeking assistance have until July 15 to apply through the FEMA disaster assistance website. The July 15 deadline also applies for filing SBA loans related to physical damages, while the loan deadline for economic injuries must be filed by Feb. 14, 2025.

The state disaster declaration allows affected households with incomes at or below 200% the federal poverty line to receive grants of up to $5,000 for home and car repairs as well as replacement of lost or damaged property through the Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program. Iowans in most counties have until June 13 to apply for the grant through the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management website, with residents in Pottawattamie County having a slightly earlier deadline of June 10.

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Assistance with no income restrictions is available through the state’s Disaster Case Advocacy Program and Iowa Community Action Organization for 180 days from the governor’s declaration.

Reynolds also sent a letter, cosigned by state Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack requesting federal assistance for farmers affected by the storm Tuesday. While the presidential disaster declaration will help Iowa homeowners and business owners recover from the tornado and storm damages, Naig and Reynolds wrote that the storms and tornados also caused destruction at Iowa farms and agricultural operations in the affected areas.

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The letter asks Vilsack — a former Iowa governor — to issue a secretarial designation through the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the storm-affected Iowa counties. The designation would open disaster assistance programs run through the Farm Service Agency, like the Farm Loans Program and the Emergency Assistance for Livestock Program, to affected Iowa farmers.

“Iowa farmers have been significantly impacted by these storms and require assistance to recover from these catastrophic damages and to rebuild and replace destroyed grain bins, farm equipment, and operational business losses,” Reynolds’ letter states.

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