On Monday morning, President Donald Trump told reporters he had approved the request for a major disaster declaration submitted at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday by Gov. Kim Reynolds.
“I’ve just approved an emergency declaration for Iowa who had an incredible windstorm,” he said, just before leaving the White House on a campaign trip to Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Early Monday afternoon, Trump tweeted, “Just approved (and fast) the FULL Emergency Declaration for the Great State of Iowa.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2020
During her 4 p.m. news conference in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Gov. Kim Reynolds said she “had the opportunity to speak with President Trump this morning. He has approved, as you know, the presidential declaration and he will be coming to Iowa to see the storm’s impact and the recovery work underway firsthand.”
The president only partially approved Reynolds’ request. The request for federal aid to individuals and businesses in 27 counties is “Under Review,” according to FEMA. Trump did approve public assistance — funds to repair public infrastructure and debris removal — for 16 counties.
The assistance approved by Trump on Monday amounts to $45 million — or approximately 1.1 percent — of the $3.98 billion Reynolds requested.
Neither Reynolds nor FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor, who also spoke at the Cedar Rapids news conference, mentioned federal aid to individuals and businesses had not been approved.
Reynolds did defend her decision not to immediately request federal aid using a provision in federal law that allows states to receive aid before completing a full application if there has been a major natural disaster. It’s something governors do routinely.
In 2008, Gov. Chet Culver requested federal assistance the day after a powerful tornado struck Black Hawk and Butler counties, destroying nearly 200 homes and causing several million dollars’ worth of damage.
President George W. Bush approved Culver’s request in less than 24 hours.
According to Reynolds, waiting until a complete application to be submitted — even if it took almost an entire week to do it — was better than applying for immediate aid because there would have to be a series of subsequent applications for further aid.
At the press conference on Monday, Reynolds said “having a thorough request really does allow for quicker action, as we’ve seen today.”
It’s unclear exactly what the governor was referring to.
As the governor said on Monday, President Trump is scheduled to visit Iowa on Tuesday, but he won’t have much time to view storm damage or recovery work.
“According to the White House, Trump is scheduled to arrive at The Eastern Iowa Airport at 10:55 a.m., then participate in the briefing at 11:15 a.m.” the Gazette reported. “He plans to fly out of the area by 12:15 p.m.”