Iowa governor asks President Trump for disaster declaration following floods

Iowa governor asks President Trump for disaster declaration following floods
World-Herald News Service

WASHINGTON — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has asked President Donald Trump for an expedited major disaster declaration after severe flooding.

Reynolds indicated that the state will need recovery assistance beyond the disaster declaration with a projected $1.6 billion impact to Iowa across agriculture, businesses, homes and levees.

She requested individual assistance funding for Crawford, Fremont, Harrison, Ida, Mills, Monona, Montgomery, Page, Plymouth, Pottawattamie, Shelby and Woodbury Counties. That provides homeowners and businesses assistance with housing, personal property replacement, medical expenses and legal services.

Reynolds also requested funding under the public assistance program for repair and replacement of public infrastructure in dozens of counties and requested hazard mitigation assistance for the entire state.

Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, as well as Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, have expressed support for Reynolds’ request.

So has Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, who represents southwest Iowa’s 3rd District.

“The flooding, particularly in Mills and Fremont counties, has resulted in likely hundreds of millions, or billions, of dollars in agricultural losses, destroyed homes, schools, small businesses, medical centers and caused significant damage to public infrastructure that is vital to these communities,” Axne wrote in a letter to Trump.

“Small towns such as Hamburg in Fremont County and Pacific Junction in Mills County are underwater and facing potentially irreparable damages. Communities, including health care providers, are without sanitary water. The lasting effects on the health and wellbeing of Iowa families and our rural communities is beyond calculation.”

A declaration for Iowa is likely.

Trump has already issued a disaster declaration for Nebraska as a result of the storm and subsequent flooding.

Portion of I-29 reopened

Southbound lanes Interstate 29 from Council Bluffs to the Highway 34/Glenwood exit have been reopened, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation. Northbound lanes remain closed.

The interstate remains closed in both directions from the Hwy. 34/Glenwood exit south to near Savannah, Missouri.

Steve King denigrates Hurricane Katrina victims for needing government assistance

Rep. Steve King, the Iowa Republican who has made a series of statements embracing white nationalism, on Thursday noted a contrast between the response of people in his state to spring flooding and the response of the residents of New Orleans to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Speaking at a town hall in Charter Oak, Iowa, a city that is 99.4 percent white, according to census estimates, the nine-term congressman didn’t say what attributes explained the differing reactions. King has been under fire from his party for remarks about race. New Orleans is mostly black.

“We go to a place like New Orleans, and everybody’s looking around saying, ‘Who’s going to help me? Who’s going to help me?’ ” King said, recounting what he said officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, had told him about the relief effort, in which he said he had participated.

King was also one of 11 members of Congress to oppose a bill providing federal aid to Katrina victims in 2005.

In his home state, he said, residents looked after one another without government handouts. Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has declared a disaster in more than half of Iowa’s 99 counties because of severe flooding and is seeking a federal declaration that would free up funds from Washington.

“We go to a place like Iowa, and we go see, knock on the door at, say, I make up a name, John’s place, and say, ‘John, you got water in your basement, we can write you a check, we can help you,'” King said. “And John will say, ‘Well, wait a minute, let me get my boots. It’s Joe that needs help. Let’s go down to his place and help him.'”

King, who was stripped of his committee assignments in January over comments questioning whether the term “white supremacist” was offensive, said FEMA officials are “always gratified when they come and see how Iowans take care of each other.”

Katrina was responsible for an estimated 1,833 deaths, more than half of which were suffered by African-Americans, according to data analysis by public health experts.

King then turned to discussing trade negotiations, which have major implications for his constituents. His district received more than $9 billion in federal farming subsidies between 1995 and 2017 — more than any other district in Iowa, which has received more subsidies than any other state in the nation.

Some Louisiana politicians reacted angrily to King’s remarks.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, called the comments “disgusting and disheartening.”

House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, who was born in New Orleans, responded to King in a statement Friday: “His comments about Katrina victims are absurd and offensive, and are a complete contradiction to the strength and resilience the people of New Orleans demonstrated to the entire nation in the wake of the total devastation they experienced.” Scalise’s district includes part of the city.

Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., whose district includes most of New Orleans, said the comparison was further proof that King was a “white supremacist.”

“When people show you who they are, believe them,” Richmond added.

The two men have clashed before over King’s use of New Orleans to draw unflattering comparisons. In 2017, while touting a measure that would have tracked offenses committed by immigrant children from “the most violent places in the world,” King said he was struck that the homicide rate in New Orleans was equivalent to that in certain Central American countries.

Richmond said: “It’s insensitive, and it’s nothing more than traditional white privilege of, ‘Let me criticize a minority city.’ ”

A spokesman for King, 69, didn’t return a request for comment.

King has disparaged immigrants and minorities, and he has touted ethnic nationalism. Last Saturday he shared a meme on Facebook suggesting that Republican states would win a civil war because they have “about 8 trillion bullets, while the other side doesn’t know which bathroom to use.””

Last fall the chairman of the House Republican campaign arm assailed his colleague for “white supremacy and hate,” saying the group would stay away from King’s re-election effort. King ended up narrowly beating back a challenge from a first-time Democratic candidate in his deep-red district.

In February, when he announced his intention to seek a 10th term next year, King appeared unbowed. “I have nothing to apologize for,” he said. Competition from Republican State Sen. Randy Feenstra is likely to present a more formidable challenge.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.