Friday, February 06, 2009

Grassley, Harkin working on flood relief

This from a joint release ....

WASHINGTON – Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin today filed an amendment to the stimulus bill being debated in the Senate that would help Iowa provide important social services related to flood and tornado recovery.

The amendment would direct $200 million of the $400 million in Social Services Block Grant funds included in the bill before the Senate to states that experienced disasters in 2008. The amendment would also require the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a formula based on a state’s approved application for assistance, the population in the affected counties, and the duration of the disaster.

“I’m happy to have introduced this amendment on behalf of myself and Senator Harkin. It would correct an injustice done to Iowans who are still struggling to rebuild their lives, months after a terrible disaster,” Grassley said. “The formula used by health and Human Services to allocate the funds provided in the Continuing Resolution was unfair to Iowa and should be corrected because the amount of money the formula allocated to Iowa was not sufficient to address the many remaining hardships that people in Iowa continue to face on a daily basis and the services they require to meet these hardships.”

“Since the floods first hit, Senator Grassley and I have worked hand-in-hand to ensure Iowans get their fair share of help from the federal government,” said Harkin. “The formula for allocating these dollars was just plain wrong. Our amendment would address the formula problem and put more money in flood victims’ pockets. I will continue to remind my colleagues how important this is to our state.”

The amendment helps correct a flaw in a previous allocation of Social Services Block Grant funds from the Continuing Resolution passed by Congress last year. The Continuing Resolution directed $600 million in Social Services Block Grant funds for disaster relief for states, like Iowa, that had experienced natural disasters in 2008. Since the scope of the damage Iowa sustained was so extensive, it had been anticipated by the state that Iowa would receive a significant amount of funding from the $600 million in new funds. Unfortunately, Iowa’s allocation of disaster relief funds was just over $11 million, because a state’s overall population was used as the major factor in making the allocation.

Grassley and Harkin said that a state should not get funds allocated on the basis of the population for a whole state, when only a few counties may have been actually impacted by the disaster.

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