Rebuilding A Greener Iowa

Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 6:18 PM EDT
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Rebuilding A Greener Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa, October 7, 2008 (ENS) - "My family and I are not flood victims but flood victors," blogged one Cedar Rapids man. "We refuse to let this flood victimize us. As many who returned to their homes that were flooded, we found an awful mess and stench. Mixture of home furnishings, belongings, sewer backup and mud from the river water," he wrote, thanking church and community friends for their help in cleaning and salvaging, and providing hot meals during the ordeal.

More than 4,000 homes in Cedar Rapids were evacuated when the Cedar River overflowed its banks in mid-June. At least that blogger had a home to return to, but others were not so fortunate. Many had to rely on housing provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

As of October 1, all Iowans affected by this year's storms, tornadoes and floods had been placed in FEMA temporary housing, and now the focus is shifting to long-range recovery.

This week the Rebuild Iowa Advisory Commission resumed meetings to prepare for its second report to Governor Chet Culver that will outline the commission's long-term vision for rebuilding a safer, stronger and better Iowa. It will be submitted to the governor no later than November 17.

The commission's first report, issued September 2, identified the critical importance of unmet housing and business needs.

It was used to develop the two new Jumpstart Iowa housing and economic development programs providing $40 million to help address the state's immediate needs until federal funds become available.

Applications for the small business program became available September 30. The program makes $20 million in forgivable loans available to small business owners, who must reopen within 12 months from the time their Jumpstart applications are approved. Funding for homeowners is now being distributed.

Governor Culver said, "Money is going out the door as we speak, and these dollars will play a vital role in helping Iowans get back on their feet."

On Friday, the governor was in Washington, DC, meeting with Bush administration officials on the latest round of disaster aid, which was signed into law last week.

The $23 billion federal measure included $6.5 billion for Community Development Block Grants for states to recover from the natural resource disasters this year - hurricanes, floods and tornadoes.

The governor pressed for more federal funding for Iowa's unmet needs. "Because of the large number of Iowans impacted by our floods and tornadoes, government bureaucracy cannot stand in the way of needed help," said Culver. "I asked our federal leaders to be flexible and responsive in order to put the needs of people who have suffered first and foremost."

Culver welcomed the $700 billion federal economic rescue package enacted Friday. "It is important that credit continues to be available for small businesses to meet their payrolls, families to afford their homes, and students to pay for their college education," he said. "The financial package approved by Congress is about Main Street, not just Wall Street, and that will make a difference for hard-working Iowans statewide."

"I am also pleased the legislation included measures to extend the wind production tax credit, which is vital to continuing Iowa's leadership in creating new jobs and economic opportunities through wind energy production," the governor said.

On Monday, Culver announced a new Green Iowa initiative that will be carried out in cooperation with the federally funded AmeriCorps.

The mission of this new program is to assess energy saving needs in communities and provide energy saving education and service through community outreach.

"AmeriCorps members are tackling our toughest problems, strengthening our communities, and improving the civic life of our state," said the governor. "They have played an important role in helping Iowans recover from this year's natural disasters, and their work continues through this innovative, new program."

Described as a domestic Peace Corps, AmeriCorps is a federally funded program that enables Americans age 17 and over to commit time to service designed to meet community needs. In exchange for one year of service, AmeriCorps members receive a living allowance of at least $12,000 annually and an education award to help finance their college education, vocational training, or to pay back qualified student loans.

The Green Iowa Corps will be managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources through a combination of funding from AmeriCorps, the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service and the Iowa Power Fund.

The DNR is seeking lead organizations for projects in two regions hit by flooding this spring and summer. One team will be located in Linn and Johnson counties in the eastern part of the state, where flooding devastated the communities of Cedar Rapids, Palo and Iowa City.

The other team will work in Black Hawk, Bremer and Butler counties, also affected by flooding.

The 56 Green Iowa Corps positions opening up to fill the new energy unit are in addition to the current 52 DNR AmeriCorps positions in conservation education, forestry, land management, and wildlife.

Project sponsor site organization and member application information is online at: http://www.iowadnr.gov/volunteer/americorps/index.html.

{Photo: Debris on the curb in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Photo courtesy Linn County Democrats)}

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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