“This has been a very loving area for me,” President Donald Trump said about Cedar Rapids on Tuesday. The president stopped at the Eastern Iowa Airport for 70 minutes on Tuesday morning, while he was traveling across the country on Air Force One to hold a campaign rally in Yuma, Arizona.
During her press conference on Monday, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Trump would “be coming to Iowa to see the storm’s impact and the recovery work underway first-hand.”
Trump didn’t tour any of the damaged areas, but he did participate in a panel discussion with some state and local leaders about storm damage and recovery efforts. Other participants in the panel discussion included Gov. Kim Reynolds, Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor, Acting Secretary of the U.S Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, as well as Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart and Marion Mayor Nicolas AbouAssaly.
Rep. Abby Finkenauer, who represents Linn County and northeastern Iowa in Congress, was not invited to participate in the discussion, according to her office. Finkenauer is a Democrat. Her Republican challenger in the November election, Ashley Hinson, who represents part of Linn County in the Iowa House of Representatives, was given a seat at the panel discussion.
“So yesterday I approved disaster, a disaster declaration for Iowa. You know that?” Trump said, as he read from prepared remarks at the beginning of the 30-minute event. “And it was done in record time, and we’re offering the full support of the federal government.”
“So, you’ll take care of that,” he added, looking at FEMA Administrator Gaynor.
So far, only the Public Assistance component of the major disaster declaration requested by Reynolds has been approved. The $45 million, which will be available to repair municipal damage, is approximately 1.1 percent of $3.98 billion in federal aid Reynolds requests.
The remainder of the requested amount comes under the heading of Individual Assistance, which will provide funds to individuals and businesses affected by the derecho. According to FEMA, that part of Reynolds’ request is still “Under Review.”
When it was Mayor Hart’s chance to speak, he urged the president to approve the Individual Assistance part of disaster declaration.
“If we could get the Individual Assistance because so many people may have homeowner’s insurance, but there’s still a premium to pay,” Hart said.
The mayor pointed out that homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover things like spoiled food, and while most policies will pay to move trees that are on a house, it will not pay to have those fallen or damaged trees removed from a homeowner’s property. Tree removal could cost some property owners tens of thousands of dollars, Hart said.
In response, Trump asked Hart if insurance companies were being helpful — “Have they tried to hold back?” the president asked — and if Hart was “pretty well covered with insurance.”
The mayor assured the president insurance companies were being helpful despite the difficult circumstances. Then Hart tried to direct the president’s attention back to the importance of Individual Assistance by saying he personally had excellent insurance coverage, but it still wouldn’t pay for all recovery-related needs.
“All right, good. We’ll take care of that,” Trump said about the Individual Assistance aid. But the president didn’t seem familiar with that part of the disaster declaration request.
“You know about this?” he asked Gaynor. The FEMA Administrator said, “Yes, sir.”
“It’s actually part of the disaster declaration and we’re actually accumulating the damage and the numbers and we’ll be able to add that on,” Gov. Reynolds said to the president. “And we should be able to add that in a short amount of time.”
Acting Sec. Wolf, whose department includes FEMA, said he expected the review of Individual Assistance component of the disaster declaration to be completed “probably in the next week or so.”
Trump asked Hart how many people in Cedar Rapids would be affected by approval of the Individual Assistance. The mayor said he estimated that 55,000 people in Cedar Rapids would be helped by the assistance.
“That’s big. Huh? That’s amazing,” Trump said. “OK, we’ll take care of it, mayor.”
After the event concluded, Trump returned to Air Force One and left for Arizona. The president’s total time in Iowa was approximately an hour and 10 minutes.