Disaster Relief Legislation Update

Monday, March 29, 2010 - Key Legislation to Assist in Rebuilding Efforts

House File 64 - Disaster Recovery.  This original bill provides $56 million in funding, from the economic emergency fund, for additional disaster relief.  The Jumpstart Housing Program received $24 million, the Unmet Needs Disaster Grant Program received $7.85 million, and a Community Disaster Grant program received $22 million.  SF 478 reduced the funding for the Unmet Needs program to $7.85 million (and the total funding to $53.85 million) and instead directed $1 million to the long-term recovery committees, and $1.15 million to help tornado-affected communities.  HF 64 also officially established the Rebuild Iowa Office.  It was signed into law by the Governor on February 2.  It became effective immediately.


House File 414 – Jumpstart – authorized the use of $40 million in funds scooped in September 2008 to begin the Jumpstart Program.  ($5 million in initial CDBG Funds from a prior year was taken out for other business-related disaster recovery needs and could not be used for this program as was initially planned, reducing the funding to $35 million.)


House File 705 – Safe Rooms.  The State Building Code Commissioner is required to review and assess best practices in the design, construction, and maintenance of buildings, safe rooms, and storm shelters to reduce the risk of personal injury from tornadoes and other severe weather.  A report is due to the Governor and General Assembly by December 15, 2009.  The building commissioner is to use nationally recognized standards.  There is no requirement that anyone build safe rooms or storm shelters when erecting new buildings.  However, if a community does decide to include a safe room or storm shelter in a new building after January 1, 2011, they must use these standards.


House File 756 – Watershed Management.  Required the Water Resources Coordinating Council to submit policy and funding recommendations for watershed management to reduce impact of flooding.  (This group did come up with recommendations for this year, but the bill died in the funnel.)


House File 759 – Flood Insurance.  Cities with flood maps must meet the requirements of the federal flood insurance program by June 2011.  If the community does not have a map, they must meet the requirements within two years from the time they get a map.  This will allow homeowners to purchase, if they choose, the less expensive federal flood insurance rather than purchasing the pricier private insurance. 


House File 820 – Federal Funds.  Outlined the use of $125.3 million in CDBG funds for disaster relief, long-term recovery, and restoration of infrastructure.


House File 822 – Flood Prevention.  This bill provides $2 million for a new floodplain management program through DNR that focuses on improving floodplain mapping using LiDAR, assisting local entities with permits and planning, increasing the number of inspections for safety and structural integrity of dams and levees, developing a statewide flood control plan, and assisting emergency management teams with flood events. 


House File 822 – Iowa Flood Center.  Provides $1.3 million for an Iowa Flood Center at the University of Iowa to develop hydrologic models and improve flood monitoring and predictions, share resources and expertise, and develop a workforce knowledgeable in regarding flood research, prediction, and mitigation strategies.


House File 822- 211 Centers.  $250,000 to Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division for a grant to the statewide 211 nonprofit call centers to enhance its human resources information to Iowans.  This money is to support the statewide improvement of the free and confidential 211 hotline available 24/7 that provides information or refers callers to appropriate private or government entities that provide assistance relating to families, housing, food, health, legal advice, child and senior services, or volunteer opportunities. 


House File 822 and Senate File 268 – Watershed Improvements.  The watershed improvement grant program will now provide grants for five years rather than three years to give communities more time to plan and finish their projects.  $5 million is included in the RIIF bill for the grants. 


Senate File 44 – Local Option Sales and Service Tax Election.  It allows a city or unincorporated area located in a county, which was declared a disaster by the president of the United States in 2008, to impose a local option sales tax using an expedited method.  These changes allowed for a special election on March 3, 2009, or May 5, 2009.  If the measure passes in March, LOST will go into effect on April 1.  If the LOST passes in May, it will go into effect on July 1.  Cedar Rapids has already used this law to approve a one-cent local option tax to help rebuild that city.


Senate File 81 – Disaster Recovery for Schools.  The Department of Education is authorized to waive certain statutory requirements if a school district cannot reasonably comply with the requirements due to a natural disaster.  School districts are allowed to go to the School Budget Review Committee for additional taxing authority for rebuilding and repairing, and use of the Physical Plant & Equipment Levy to cover disaster-related recovery costs. 


Senate File 280 – Good Samaritans.  During the flooding, some companies were afraid to provide equipment for flood relief for fear of liability.  This bill adds to the current Good Samaritan law by clarifying that an emergency includes a gubernatorially declared disaster.  Current law bestows immunity on a Good Samaritan who helps in an emergency. 


Senate File 289 – Jumpstart Housing Changes.  Jumpstart is the $44 million state program to help homeowners with repairs to their disaster-affected property.  The program was originally a 10-year loan forgiveness program.  This legislation reduces the period to 5 years for this disaster related housing program.  Because of this change, the Jumpstart program funded with federal dollars has also been changed to a 5-year loan forgiveness program. 


Senate File 336 – CAT/RECAT.  Cities and counties that apply for Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) Grants and for River Enhancement CAT Grants can ask for a waiver on the local match if the city or county was part of a 2008 disaster area.  This waiver is allowed for the 2010 fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2009.


Senate File 344 – Grow Iowa Values Fund.  A business can qualify for assistance under the disaster recovery component of this program if the business is in a federally declared disaster area, has closed due to the disaster, has a plan for reopening with a significant number of the former employees, and will pay those employees the same wages.


Senate File 376 – Disaster Rebuilding and Prevention.  This legislation provides $190 million in revenue bonds to pay for:

·         Local Infrastructure Competitive Grant Program - $118.5 million to rebuild public buildings, flood control, and flood prevention

·         Targeted Disaster Rebuilding - $46.5 for grants to Linn County, Cedar Rapids and for fire stations in Palo, Elkader and Charles City

·         Watershed and Water Quality Grants - $25 million for projects including flood rebuilding and prevention projects and soil conservation practices to DNR and IDALS  

·         $5 million for Disaster Damaged Housing Assistance Grants  


Senate File 377 – Prescription Drugs Depository.  The current prescription drug depository program provides free drugs to low-income Iowans.  The drugs come from hospitals and health care facilities and must be in unopened “bubble” packets.  They are sent from the depository to pharmacies to distribute.  This legislation will expand this program to cover victims of natural or health disasters. 


Senate File 415 – Abandoned Property.  This legislation creates an expedited process that cities can use to acquire abandoned property in disaster areas.  Attempts must be made to locate the owner and the decision to declare the property abandoned will be decided by the district court.  A property owner can have the process stopped at any time. 


Senate File 441 – Statewide Mutual Aid Compact.  Local emergency management committees will now participate in the statewide mutual aid compact.  Local governments are all in the compact unless they opt out.


Senate File 457 – Disaster Recovery/Property Tax Relief.  This bill provides further relief to property owners and communities.  Allows cities and counties to create Disaster Revitalization Areas and grant up to a 100%, 5- year tax exemption for the increased assessed value of property that has been revitalized.  Legalizes action taken by cities and counties to meet emergency needs last summer. 


Senate File 457 - Disaster Recovery Housing Project Tax Credit.  In order to encourage the development of low and moderate income, multifamily housing in disaster affected areas, this bill creates a tax credit on individual, corporate and franchise taxes for qualified disaster recovery housing projects.  The credits are good for five years, beginning in calendar year 2011.  The maximum amount of credits issued cannot exceed $3 million in each of the five tax years, or $15 million total from 2011 through 2017.


Senate File 474 – University of Iowa Bonding.  This will allow the Board of Regents to authorize $100 million in academic revenue bonds to rebuild and replace damaged buildings on the University of Iowa campus.


Senate File 478 – Disaster Assistance and Credit Guarantee Program.  The department of economic development, working with financial institutions, will provide loan and credit guarantees to qualifying businesses, which cannot exceed 10% of the loan amount or $25,000, whichever is less. 


Senate File 478 – Tornado Damaged Communities and Long-Term Recovery Committees.  Appropriated $1 million to the committees and $1.15 million to the tornado-damaged communities.  Cuts funding in HF 64 for unmet needs to $7.85 million. 


Senate File 478 – State Match for FEMA Funds.  Provides $25.6 million to cover the 10% state-mach required for FEMA funds.


Senate File 481 - Historic Tax Credits.  The Historic Tax Credit program was expanded from $20 million to $50 million, and $10 million is set aside for Historic Tax Credits to be used in disaster-affected areas.  This will provide an income tax credit of 25% of qualified rehabilitation costs of historic buildings.