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Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier (Iowa) : Speaker Pelosi promises help to Iowa storm victims

By FRED LOVE

DES MOINES - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday that the U.S. House of Representatives will take up a second disaster relief measure by next week to help Iowans recover from floods and storms that struck the state in recent months.

Pelosi, D-Calif., toured Des Moines' North High School, which took heavy flood damage in June, flanked by Gov. Chet Culver and Democratic Reps. Leonard Boswell, Dave Loebsack and Bruce Braley.

She said additional disaster recovery funding could take the form of a supplemental appropriation attached to other funding measures, but she didn't rule out a stand-alone bill.

“We're going to take any train out of town that's moving,” she said.

Congress will examine a report released last week from the Rebuild Iowa Advisory Commission as they shape the next disaster recovery measure, she said. The report assessed the scope of the damage in Iowa and made recommendations on how to proceed with the recovery.

Congress approved $2.65 billion in disaster relief in late June but went into recess in August without working on a second round of disaster relief. Congress resumed work Monday.

Culver said he received word Monday morning that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to cover 90 percent of some of the repair costs to public buildings in the state. Culver had been pushing for the 90 percent federal match since July, and FEMA's decision means the state will pay for only 10 percent of the costs instead of 25 percent.

He criticized the federal government for a sluggish response to his request for the matching funds and for not yet making available more than $80 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development that was approved by Congress in June.

“That is an example of a slow bureaucratic process that isn't helping Iowa and cities and individuals in our time of need,” Culver said.

He praised Congress for acting on the first round of disaster funding but called on the executive agencies to start channeling that money to the states that experienced the disasters.

“It's one thing for Congress to appropriate the money, it's another thing for the administration and the agencies to get it out the door,” he said.

Pelosi planned to tour storm damage in the eastern part of the state following her stop in Des Moines.