Culver signs aid bill in Iowa City

BY CLARK CAHILL | APRIL 22, 2009 7:26 AM

Homeowners affected by last year’s flood received a little more help Tuesday after Gov. Chet Culver signed a Jump-Start housing bill while working in the Old Capitol for the second time.

The bill eases rules for Jump-Start Iowa Housing recipients. It reduces the time — from 10 years to five years — in which residents are required to stay in their homes for their loans to be forgiven.

“The Jump-Start program has made a difference for many homeowners,” Culver said, noting 2,417 homeowners have been approved for the program. “This bill eases restrictions and makes the program more user-friendly.”

Roberta Till-Retz, a UI adjunct assistant professor in the Labor Center who received $16,000 from the Jump-Start loan, thanked the governor on Tuesday, also asking for help in the event of a future flood. She noted those in her neighborhood have been told they would be on their own.

“Fear of the next flood makes this recovery effort feel like a fantasy,” she said. “I urge the city and ask Gov. Culver not to leave us on our own but to protect everyone in the community.”

Culver said the prospect of future flooding and generating revenue for prevention and relief are a couple of his priorities, noting city sales tax and his I-JOBS bonding proposal — a $750 million proposal to create jobs and invest in infrastructure — as key sources of revenue.

“I support the concept of giving a community the opportunity to raise additional revenue to help with flood recovery,” he said. “There is a very important election coming up, and if people support it, it will help to recover faster,” the governor said, noting Iowa City’s upcoming local-option sales tax vote — expected to aid flood recovery — on May 5.

The governor said his I-JOBS bonding proposal would help those who are not eligible for Jump-Start and Federal Emergency Management Agency aid with $150 million of it designated for flood recovery. He said it would also put many people to work during a recession, calling for Iowa legislators to “step up” and get the bonding passed before they adjourn.

“We can do something most states cannot do right now — borrow money,” Culver said. “If we pay as we go, we will be waiting decades to rebuild our state.”

He also said he would like to see the Legislature address a mental-health disparity — allowing medical service for mental-health conditions that currently are not available — and a middle-class tax cut that could total more than $50 million and increase wages for trade laborers like plumbers and carpenters before they adjourn.

The governor said he looks forward to signing a $100 million recovery bill for the UI’s flood recovery effort — another sign state officials are working on the recovery effort, he said.

“Few people have been with us since day one,” UI President Sally Mason said. “[Culver] has always been one of our staunchest supporters and best friends when dealing with the flood.”

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