(Washington, D.C.) -- Legislation aimed at getting disaster aid to Iowa flood victims more efficiently has passed the U.S. House.
On Monday, the House passed the Reforming Disaster Recovery Act of 2019 by a 290-to-118 vote. The bill -- which is co-sponsored by Iowa Third District Congresswoman Cindy Axne -- passed with 71 Republicans joining House Democrats in voting 'yes.' Axne tells KMA News the bill aims to streamline the disaster aid process, especially for victims of continued flooding along the Missouri River in southwest Iowa.
"Unfortunately, I think we can all see with the disaster that we have had in our disaster that hit so many counties -- particularly Mills, Fremont and Pottawattamie -- we have seen efforts to make sure folks get what they need," said Axne. "But, there is so much bureaucracy and red tape involved in the government process of getting the funds out to folks that we aren't getting it as quickly as possible."
Among other things, the bill would create a standardized grant application for disaster funds, put time requirements on agency response time and increase measures to eliminate fraud and abuse with disaster aid. Axne says the money to help flood victims recover has been approved, but the ability of victims to receive money has been hampered.
"I got $3 billion, plus an additional almost $1 billion in amendments, for our Midwest flooding and we're still trying to get that money out the door," said Axne. "I talked to folks yesterday who still haven't received some of the money that they need. This is just way too long. The goal is to end bureaucratic delays and impediments and to make sure there is prompt and fair distribution like we intended the funding to make sure it got out to folks in our district."
Axne points to an example with a constituent who recently told her of troubles he had in securing money from the Small Business Administration.
"First and foremost, they required him to send in original documents on paper," said Axne. "This is not something that was easy for him to do. That takes extra time within the process. Every time he's got to send something from Iowa and they have to send it via mail back to him, we've taken two-to-four weeks in there. Why are we not using electronic methods to get this done? That's just one little example of how we could expedite the process."
Prior to being elected to Congress, Axne worked in the Iowa State Government on service delivery working to streamline governmental response. She says she has carried some of the lessons learned in that role to the federal level in Washington, D.C.
"We've got to work on good policy out here, but at the same time if we don't structures and resources in place to support reaching the outcomes for the policy that we are putting in place, then really it's pointless," said Axne. "We've got to make sure that we've got that support so that departments can actually implement things well, so that people across this country -- good, hard-working taxpayers -- can get the services they need."
The bill now heads to the Senate for further consideration. Axne was a guest on KMA's "Morning Line" program Wednesday morning. You can hear the full interview below.