From Phil Kinser, CEO/general manager, Southwest Iowa Rural Electric Cooperative
At the end of this month, the Iowa Department of Homeland security will file a formal appeal with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urging them to reverse a decision they made earlier this year to deny federal disaster aid to several northwest Iowa rural electric cooperatives.
In order to maintain safe and reliable energy, the electric cooperatives responded immediately to damages from brutal winter storms by making repairs to restore electricity. Following procedures, a federal disaster declaration was made and applications for federal disaster aid to partially cover the costs of repair and restoration were submitted. Rural electric cooperatives followed the same steps they had taken for years to apply for disaster aid meant exactly for these purposes. Therefore, everyone was stunned when FEMA denied the aid request totaling nearly $20 million to repair systems in northwest Iowa.
The denial set off a string of events throughout the summer including the active involvement of Iowa’s entire congressional delegation, including Congressman Tom Latham. Electric cooperatives, Iowa’s congressional delegation, Governor Branstad and state departments have joined together to urge FEMA to reconsider their denials and follow their obligation to award federal disaster assistance grants based on the rules in place during the time of the storms.
FEMA’s arbitrary changing of the rules and “moving of the goal posts” is a betrayal of public trust. FEMA should take the opportunity provided in their appeal process to right the wrong decision made earlier this year and award federal disaster assistance to help electric cooperatives recover from storm damage and access federal funds meant precisely for that purpose.