Obama denies Iowa disaster declaration

Four counties dealing most with avian flu outbreak not able to receive extra federal assistance.

The Obama Administration denied a major disaster event declaration request from Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad in response to the avian flu outbreak in Iowa. Over 33 million birds in Iowa have been affected by the deadly virus. The request was made for Buena Vista, Sioux, Webster and Wright counties.

Branstad had requested unemployment assistance, crisis counseling, disaster case management and disaster legal services for those who lost employment and income as a result of the high pathogenic avian influenza outbreak in the hardest hit counties. The disaster request also called the Federal Highway Administration to issue a tonnage waive on the state’s federal aid roadways, such as Interstates 29 and 35. This waiver would have accelerated the disposal process and reduced the likelihood of spreading HPAI while transporting poultry to disposal sites.

“Granting a disaster declaration would have made several forms of federal assistance available to these producers. Iowa has suffered great losses from this catastrophic outbreak, and I’m very disappointed that a disaster declaration wasn’t granted to help deal with the impact,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa).

Craig Fugate, administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said in a letter to Branstad that based on its review “it has been determined that the damage from this event was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state, affected local governments, voluntary agencies and the other responding federal agencies.”

The denial may be appealed within 30 days from July 7 when Fugate sent the letter.

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