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Trump promises storm recovery aid

DES MOINES (AP) – Kim Reem recounted Tuesday how the unusually powerful storm that tore through Iowa last week destroyed her Cedar Rapids home and laid waste to more than 100 large trees on her property.

During a briefing at the airport in Iowa’s second-largest city, Reem, who heads a local homeless shelter, told President Donald Trump that it would cost roughly a quarter of a million dollars to clear the trees from her land because that damage wasn’t covered by insurance — leading Trump to express surprise.

Reem said the people staying at her Mission of Hope shelter are “hungry for compassion from our leaders. Just to know our leaders care.” And she said people are generally worn down by the coronavirus pandemic that left many without work. Some had just returned to their jobs only to be idled again by the Aug. 10 storm.

“We’re strong and resilient, but Mr. President, we are tired and we need your help,” she said.

Eight days after the storm, a rare derecho, raked the state with hurricane-strength winds, thousands are still picking through the pieces of broken homes and hauling fallen trees and other debris from their properties. About 40,000 customers still don’t have power, and a group of African refugees was living in tents outside of their decimated apartment building, initially refusing to leave despite the pleas of human services workers.

Cedar Rapids, which is in eastern Iowa, was hardest hit and drew the attention of Trump, who promised to approve a request for $180 million in aid for damaged homes and infrastructure in the state. He also promised additional funding for farmers who were affected by an unusually powerful storm that tore through the state last week.

On Monday, Trump signed a portion of Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ disaster relief request that covers extensive debris removal and repairs to public buildings, streets and bridges in 16 counties. That portion of the request totaled about $45 million. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, however, is still assessing the governor’s individual assistance request, which includes $100 million in damage to private utilities and $82.7 million in damage to homes, according to early state estimates. In additional, farmers sustained an estimated $2.7 billion in damage to crops, grain storage and buildings, which is part of the declaration and would likely be covered under various U.S. Department of Agriculture programs. The individual assistance request covers 27 counties.

Trump indicated Monday that he had signed the state’s disaster aid request in full, but he had not approved the individual assistance, which makes up the largest portion of the $3.99 billion aid request.

Reynolds on Monday thanked Trump for his approval but didn’t acknowledge that the bulk of the state’s request was pending. The partial funding approval was later acknowledged during Tuesday’s meeting.

The governor’s spokesman didn’t respond to a message seeking comment.