July 12, 2024

Emergency management pushes for Jasper County to be on federal declaration

Addendum may be added to president’s disaster order to allow further assistance

Vehicles and a home in Lambs Grove on May 21 are almost completely submerged in floodwater. Several communities in Jasper County were affected by the floods after a full night of heavy rainfall and even more sporadic downpours the next day.

Jasper County has sustained an estimated $10 million in damages following the floods and severe storms back in May, and yet it was excluded from President Joe Biden’s disaster declaration for the state. Emergency management officials on June 21 turned to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley to push through the red tape.

Jamey Robinson, director of Jasper County Emergency Management Agency, said there are citizens still trying to recover from the damages to their homes and the loss of essential utilities, like heating and cooling systems and hot water. Others have lost everything. He still gets phone calls from citizens needing help.

“I have a gentleman still living in his home that’s cracked in half,” Robinson said. “He has nothing. Everything has been sent to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). It was my understanding it was done a week-and-a-half ago; the governor was here and John Benson of Iowa Homeland Security.”

Robinson referred to a June 12 meeting in which elected officials, city leaders and first responders met with the governor, state EMA and FEMA representatives to discuss the issues Jasper County has faced. Robinson, too, emphasized the need for Jasper County to be included in the presidential declarations.

According to the May 24 presidential disaster declaration, federal funding was made available to Adair, Montgomery, Polk and Story Counties.

“We have residents in this community that need help desperately,” Robinson said to Grassley during a town hall meeting at the courthouse. “I know it’s not the town destroyed by a tornado or the larger communities impacted, but you know we had 208 impacted from flooding. Substantial flooding. And they need help.”

Jennifer Heins, the U.S. senator’s chief of staff, confirmed Grassley’s office had been in touch with Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management and has also been waiting on a response from FEMA. She said Grassley’s office would be glad to contact FEMA directly to force a decision.

“We support it being added on, of course,” Heins said. “…We’d be glad to check in (with FEMA) again and push for a decision.”

Robinson said it is his understanding that since the president has already made a declaration for Iowa, all that would need to happen now is FEMA’s confirmation of an addendum including Jasper County to the disaster order. He thanked the senator and his staff for listening and helping his efforts.

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.