No FEMA individual assistance expected to hurt Marshalltown

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS - Much of the northeast Marshalltown area is still marked by twisted and broken trees, many of the neighborhoods dotted with blue tarps to keep the elements at bay. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials decided not to grant individual assistance funding to Marshalltown residents last week Ñ that decision may impact the uninsured and underinsured people hit by the tornado.

Marshalltown residents and officials got mixed news last week on Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding.

First, the government announced that the city qualified for public assistance funds to help in areas like public safety, infrastructure and other local government functions. However, it was also announced that individual assistance funds would not be granted to tornado victims.

“The individual assistance, once it’s up at the FEMA level, it can be different for every disaster,” said Marshall County Emergency Management Coordinator Kim Elder. “Our disaster was a little different because we did have so many who were uninsured and underinsured, so we thought we had a chance.”

She said the number of high-level natural disasters happening elsewhere in the country, from fires in California on the west coast to hurricane damage on in the Carolinas in the east, likely hurt Marshalltown’s chances of getting individual assistance funds.

“It is tough for someone who lost part or all of their home,” Elder said of local tornado victims.

However, she said the public assistance funding from FEMA, which was applied for separately from the individual assistance funding, will help everyone in Marshalltown.

“Public assistance is always decided first, because that gets the county or city back on its feet to do work for the people,” Elder said. “Even though it sounds like the money is going back to ‘the government,’ it is our tax dollars that go to help us.”

She said local, state and federal officials surveyed the damage in Marshalltown after the storm and continuously updated damage estimates. Once those estimates were gathered, the local government sent the information to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office and then the request for FEMA funds was then sent on to the President Donald Trump administration.

“We worked really hard, we filled in all the blanks, we went parcel to parcel,” Elder said of the data collection process in the tornado-impacted area. She said officials from the local to the national level surveyed all parcels not deemed dilapidated, abandoned before the storm or found empty.

One local agency coordinating the recovery effort for individuals is Mid-Iowa Community Action (MICA). The non-profit agency has worked on several relief efforts and helped set up the Marshalltown Tornado Long-Term Recovery Committee.

“We certainly are going to need more resources in our community,” said MICA Executive Director and long-term committee co-chair Arlene McAtee. “Now, we’re just going to be back to figuring out how we take families one-at-a-time with their individual circumstances.”

She said the lack of FEMA individual assistance funding will require local agencies and organizations to step up relief efforts.

There are some other options for those seeking financial assistance, McAtee said. Since the tornado, MICA officials have worked to help victims apply for state disaster assistance grant money, the deadline for which is Oct. 1. Another available option is to apply for a U.S. Small Business Association disaster loan online.

Clarissa Thompson of MICA said residents in the affected area are still dealing with storm damage nearly two months since the storm. While immediate issues like power outages and blocked-off streets were taken care of soon after the storm, some issues persist.

“It’s a really broad spectrum, from just a few shingles to total house demolition,” she said. Thompson said MICA, through state grant funding and donation money, has helped individuals purchase everything from groceries and repairs to car and house payments.

“We still have case management for anyone through February,” McAtee said of another service available through MICA. “There’s a lot of strong community collaboration for us to build on — I hope that we will continue to see support … as we move down the road for helping individual families.”

For more information, visit https://www.micaonline.org

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Contact Adam Sodders at

(641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com