The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Local Jumpstart office upbeat; new infusion of state, federal money enough to meet commitments

In City Hall, Floods on February 5, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Gov Chet Culver is in town this afternoon to open a new Rebuild Iowa Office office and, no doubt, to talk about the $56-million disaster-relief bill he signed earlier in the week.

City Manager Jim Prosser says the city expects $20 million of the amount, with $10 million going to the local Jumpstart office.

The local office is a city operation, and the city has contracted with two nonprofit agencies to run the place.

The $10 million in new state Jumpstart money coming to the local office is the amount the office reported it needed just a week ago. The state money is particularly helpful because it has fewer strings attached to it than more plentiful federal funds, called Community Development Block Grant money. In fact, some needing housing assistance here would have had to go without but for the new infusion of state Jumpstart money.

Doug Nelson, who is running the local Jumpstart office as project manager for the Affordable Housing Network Inc., was feeling pretty good Thursday about the office’s mission.

Not only is the office getting $10 million more from the state – Nelson said it’s actually $9.6 million – but the federal government also has committed to allocating $18.8 million in CDBG money, up from $13.5 million.

In total, the local office now has a total of $35 million, an amount that Nelson says will satisfy most of the office’s commitments to date.

“I feel really comfortable where we’re at from a funding perspective,” Nelson said.

Understand, the office is following a formula that only pays part of what homeowners with flood damage need to repair a house or buy another one if it is beyond reasonable repair. The office also pays mortgage assistance on damaged homes that owners aren’t yet back in.

The local office’s work has been slowed not only by a lack of funds but also by the pace at which the funds were being made available.

The slowdown was coming, in part, because of the need for the state of Iowa to check funding awards against payments made to homeowners earlier from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and private insurers.

Sufficiently slow has the checking process been that the City Council last week loaned the local Jumpstart office up to $6 million to help get checks flowing to contractors rehabilitating homes and  for downpayment assistance for owners whose flood-damaged home can’t be repaired.

Nelson said the office will begin using city money by Friday or Monday. He said the office also had a new pot of $1 million in federal cash to make payments.

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