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FEMA denies ice storm aid for Iowa co-ops

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa is appealing a federal decision to deny disaster aid to four rural electrical cooperatives, Gov. Terry Branstad said Tuesday.

Branstad said the appeal was filed with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It was submitted in conjunction with Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative, Lyon Rural Electric Cooperative, Osceola Electric Cooperative and Sanborn Electric and Telecommunications Utility.

The four cooperatives are located in northwest Iowa, where an April ice storm caused damage to utility lines in Dickinson, Lyon, O’Brien, Osceola and Sioux counties. A presidential disaster declaration was issued in May. But in August, FEMA denied a request for a combined $19 million in funding to the cooperatives.

Branstad said the agency should reconsider.

“This funding is important for the recovery of Iowa communities,” said Branstad in a news release. “Denying such assistance could result in a financial burden for the customers of these cooperatives.”

FEMA spokeswoman Barb Sturner said that the agency has granted a combined $2.1 million to the four cooperatives, but to issue additional money she said FEMA needs more documentation to show the condition of the systems before and after the storm.

FEMA has 90 days to respond to the appeal, though Sturner said a review could take longer if they need additional information.

Patrick Hall, of the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said the utilities are providing electrical service to customers. But he said the funding is needed to make permanent repairs.

Marion Denger, the president of the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives praised the state for making the appeal.

“Our top priority is providing our member-consumers affordable and reliable power,” she said. “In order to do that, it’s important that the federal government adhere to the well-established practices regarding disaster assistance following major storms,” she added.