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Eastern Iowa Airport
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
11:47 A.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you very much.  And Governor Kim Reynolds has done an incredible job for calling me, and — with you and Chuck and Joni.  We have come through for you, and we will always come through for Iowa, for you.

We’re pleased to be joined by Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, who has been doing a fantastic job.  And we’re going to the border in a little while, and we’re going to see the wall — part of the wall that has been built.  We’re up to almost 300 miles.  Can you believe that?  Three hundred miles.  And it’s moving along rapidly, and we’re very proud of it.

It’s had a tremendous impact on people coming into our country illegally, especially with the pandemic.  Because Mexico has got some very big problems on the pandemic — very heavily infected.  And we’ve stopped them.  It’s the strongest we’ve been on the border in many, many years.  Probably decades.  So it’s been very good.

Thank you very much, Chad.

And FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor — Pete, thank you very much.  He’s been so busy, I don’t even talk to him anymore.  I just say, “Hi, Pete.”  I said, “Where’s next?”  But you’ve been doing, really, a fantastic job, and we appreciate it.

And Senator Chuck Grassley — a incredible man and a friend of mine and somebody that represents the state so well.  And I almost don’t have a chance when he calls.  Right, Joni?

SENATOR ERNST:  That’s right.

THE PRESIDENT:  We almost don’t have — and then, on top of it, Joni Ernst calls.  And between the two of them, Kim —

GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  We’ve got a great team.

THE PRESIDENT:  — you get what you want, right?  But we really do; we have a fantastic team.  And also, state and local officials and Iowans affected by this storm.

Last week, for those of you that don’t know what happened, a powerful hurricane-force winds pummeled Iowa, like, I guess, you haven’t really seen before.  Right?


THE PRESIDENT:  Has this ever happened — a thing like this?

GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  Not to this extent have we experienced anything even close to this.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.  The size and the power of the wind.

All Americans are united in grief and prayer for the precious life that was lost.  So how many people were lost, would you say?

GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  Right now, we’ve had three fatalities.  And when you look at the severity of the damage and how widespread it is — and especially in Linn County that you’re in right now, it’s been a blessing that we haven’t had any more loss of life than we’ve had.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that’s good.  That’s — three is too many, but that’s a lot.

GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  Three is too many.

THE PRESIDENT:  And people injured, I know.  But it’s — but they’re — they’ll be okay, right?


THE PRESIDENT:  This took a big chunk out of your entire state, Chuck.  This was a big portion.  I guess more than half of your counties were affected, and some very badly, right?

SENATOR GRASSLEY:  Yeah, about 113 million acres of crop.

THE PRESIDENT:  Amazing.  No, it’s amazing.

So my administration is already working with Iowa officials, some of whom are with us now, to provide aid and to assess the damage.

Winds from 80 to 110 miles per hour have carved a path of destruction through over half of Iowa’s really great counties, many of which I got to know over the years.  Up to 43 percent of the state’s corn and soybean crops have been damaged or totally destroyed.  Three hundred and thirty-two cell towers were damaged — think of that — impacting one million residents.  Nearly half a million of the Iowa Electric customers lost power, but I understand the power is back to about 90 percent.

GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  That’s the goal by the end of the night —


GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  — so we’re making progress and getting closer.

THE PRESIDENT:  And the power company has done a good job —


THE PRESIDENT:  — under the circumstances?

GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  We had 595,000 households without power.  Ninety-seven percent of Linn County had no power from the storm.


GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  So, unbelievable.

THE PRESIDENT:  So they really did a good job getting it back, right?


THE PRESIDENT:  So fast.  That’s fantastic.

GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  With the (inaudible) aid, but mutual aid really implementing that.  We’ve seen a lot of collaboration take place.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s fantastic.  Thank them for us.

And schools here in Cedar Rapids were hit very hard.  And many of the schools that plan to open are now going to be delayed — not for the pandemic reason, but for an unrelated reason that nobody thought would happen.

So, yesterday, I approved disaster — a disaster declaration for Iowa.  You know that.  And it was done in record time.  And we’re offering the full support of the federal government, so you’ll take care of that.


THE PRESIDENT:  And the USDA also announced assistance for impacted farmers.  Just as we delivered $117 million to the Cedar Rapids flood mitigation project in 2018 — and that was another big one.  Cedar Rapids has had a rough couple of years, when you think about it, right?  But we took good care of the flooding.  And just like we did that, we’re going to help you recover from the storm.  And we’ll get it done, and we’ll all get it done together.

Iowans have always been resilient and strong and tough and great people.  From the depths of this grave hardship, we will rebuild even stronger than before.  We’re going to be in fantastic shape in a very short period of time.  You have a outstanding group of people representing you.

And maybe if I could, Kim, you could start off and say a few words as to what’s going on and how we can further help.

GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  Yeah.  Well, first of all, I just want to extend my gratitude for the incredible turnaround time.  In less than 24 hours, you were able to approve the major disaster declaration, and that provides a lot of insurance to our communities that have been impacted by the derecho.

It’s basically a 40-mile wide tornado that went through the State of Iowa.


GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  A hundred and twelve miles an hour per — you know, wind — up to some of the highest speeds.  And as I indicated, 595,000 households without power, significant damage to our electricity and communications infrastructure.

But the capa- — the capacity of our utilities to get people back up has been great.  Appreciated Secretary — Administrator Gaynor being on the ground yesterday and seeing firsthand some of the damage.

Twenty-seven counties — we’ll be adding more.  Sixteen public assistance in the disaster declaration; twenty-seven getting individual assistance.  And that’ll have a huge impact on Iowans —

THE PRESIDENT:  Good.  Great.

GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  — and just we really appreciate that.

THE PRESIDENT:  And, Pete, you’ll do whatever you have to do?

ADMINISTRATOR GAYNOR:  Yes, sir.  We’re on the ground now.

THE PRESIDENT:  How do you compare this, in terms of damage, with what you had with the flooding a year and a half ago, two years ago?

GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  So this is just so much widespread, when you think about entire counties that have been taken out.  You heard the senator say, you know, over half of our crops have been devastated.

We are — anticipate — these early estimates — about 4 billion dollars’ worth of damage; 3.7 of that is through agriculture, between the loss of crops and structures and then —

THE PRESIDENT:  So this is even more than the floods.



GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  More widespread.  And we’ll have additional counties that will be added.  They’re working on that right now.  We’ve — the mayors will talk about some of the —


GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  — early estimates that they’re seeing.  But significant damage.

And — but we will come back stronger and better than ever, and we’re doing — we’ve got a lot of help, and we just appreciate the quick response that we’ve been able to —

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you know you have your friends from the Army Corps of Engineers.  Nobody better.  They helped you the last time.  You didn’t think you’d be back so soon, General, did you?

GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  I know.  Well, I appreciate the response with the floods.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL SEMONITE:  Well, Mr. President, we’re — of course, we work for FEMA and the Administrator.  We’re very, very proud to be out here.  We’ve been asked to do some assessments on some of the debris removal.  We think they’ve got about 1.5 million cubic yards, and the state is going to do a lot of that heavy lifting.
But whatever we can do to help, the Army Corps is all in.

THE PRESIDENT:  So, Chuck, with that voice, wouldn’t he be a great politician?  His voice is almost as tough as yours.  Not quite.

SENATOR GRASSLEY:  As long as he doesn’t run in Iowa.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s a good point.

Chuck, what would you like to say?

SENATOR GRASSLEY:  Well, first of all, I think your coming here and representing the federal government and — as President of the United States, to show your work in helping us work through this is very, very important.  So we thank you for that.

And if I were going to compare the 150 miles I traveled from Boone to Cedar Rapids — Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, last week — the damage to the crops — I’ve seen corn flat on the ground in my 50 years of farming, but I have never seen it mile after mile, and, you know, just —


SENATOR GRASSLEY:  — flat on the ground.  And very little of it recoverable, I think.  So that’s something to keep in mind.

And I think that one of the things that make you proud of Iowans, as I think you probably know — neighbor helping neighbor and things of that nature.

So we thank you for coming.  And the widespread damage that you’re going to be alerted to, and the homes lost, and the power outages, and the crop damage is all important, but you’re stepping up to help with that declaration, and we thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  And, you know, it’s difficult because you had the largest order of corn in history — did you know that? — last week from, of all groups, China.  How about that?  China.  Which — I don’t know — it makes you think a little bit, doesn’t it?  Huh?  But China made the largest order of corn, twice, over the last week.

So how does that affect an order like that, when you have such damage to the crops — to the corn crops?

SENATOR GRASSLEY:  Well, I think, last week, when the crop — when the price of grain went up quite a bit, it helps.  But then that’s going to help those people that have grain to sell.  But the farmers that have been hurt with the damaged crop —


SENATOR GRASSLEY:  — you only help —

THE PRESIDENT:  But are they able to fulfill an order like that?  Can they — will they be able to get an order that big?

SENATOR GRASSLEY:  Oh, if that’s your question —


SENATOR GRASSLEY:  — the answer is yes because we have so much carryover from the year before.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s great.  Oh —


THE PRESIDENT:  That’s very good.


THE PRESIDENT:  That’s the biggest — the two biggest orders of corn in history, we got.  That’s because they think I’m not happy, and I’m not.  I’m not.  I’m not happy at all.  Just the opposite.

Joni, please go ahead.

SENATOR ERNST:  Mr. President, thank you so much for being here.  We really appreciate your time and your assistance to the folks here in Iowa.  And the discussion that we had yesterday morning, I thank you for that.  And I can tell that you really do care about the citizens on the ground here.

One thing that would be helpful, of course — with the impact to the ag economy, the loss of so many crops — is our farmers would love to know that — with these gap-year waivers that the oil refineries are submitting to the EPA, that we just dispense of those; we not allow them to move forward.  Some of these waivers would apply to years — nine years ago, eight years ago.  Our farmers just really need some help this year, obviously, with the crop damage.  And that would be a great step forward, is working with the EPA —

THE PRESIDENT:  So, I approved the ethanol, and we did the whole thing with the 12-month, and all of the others.

Let me ask you, how is ethanol doing with the — with the markets?  It’s got to be a little bit tough, right?

SENATOR ERNST:  It is ver- — it’s very tough right now.  And through COVID, we saw a decrease in driving, and so the sales of ethanol have not been up where they should be.  And we’ve seen that all across the industry — the impact.  And now, after the crop damage, it — it just sets our farmers even further back.

THE PRESIDENT:  But they’ll be ready when the market comes back.  They’ll be ready like never before, right?

SENATOR ERNST:  Yes, they will.  And what we need — just help from the EPA to follow the intent of the law with renewable fuels standards.

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  We’ll speak to them.

SENATOR ERNST:  Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll speak to them myself.

SENATOR ERNST:  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll do it myself.

Chad, please.

ACTING SECRETARY WOLF:  Absolutely.  Well, Mr. President, let me again commend you, as the senator did, for coming here to Cedar Rapids.  I think that sends a strong signal to all Iowans — and it — and certainly, thank you for providing the — the disaster relief funds that you have done so quickly.

THE PRESIDENT:  Don’t forget: This has been a very loving area for me.  Cedar Rapids has been fantastic, and there’s a lot of — we’ve developed a lot of great relationships in Cedar Rapids, so I never had a doubt, really.

So, go ahead.

ACTING SECRETARY WOLF:  I had the opportunity, last week, again to talk with Governor Reynolds about — about the devastation.  Of course, FEMA has been here, really, since day one, and Administrator Gaynor has been here over the last 24 hours, working with the governor and all of her staff on these priorities as well.

And FEMA stood up, really, since day one, their regional coordination center here to make sure that that tie between FEMA and the state was absolutely critical and spot on. So, it’s there.

Your certainly granting that major disaster declaration is a huge step forward to providing that public — public assistance and mitigation assistance.

So, I really want to thank you for all the work that you’ve done over the past several days to make sure that we get the resources to Iowans.

THE PRESIDENT:  And we wanted to get it done fast, and we did record — record fast.

Pete, go ahead, please.


THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

ADMINISTRATOR GAYNOR:  Again, thank you for approving the dec in record time.  It really means a lot to the governor and her staff.

And we had a great tour yesterday.  We went out; we saw firsthand the devastation.  So, aside from the level of devastation —

THE PRESIDENT:  Were you surprised?

ADMINISTRATOR GAYNOR:  I — I was.  I had not seen —

THE PRESIDENT:  He’s seen it all.  This guy has seen devastation like nobody, but this is bad.

ADMINISTRATOR GAYNOR:  Yes.  Yes, sir.  And so, aside from the devastation, the thing that impressed me most was the spirit of Iowans helping Iowans out there.  So, volunteers helping —


ADMINISTRATOR GAYNOR:  — volunteers with food.  We just came from Operation BBQ that’s in the backlot of the airport, serving tens of thousands of meals.  The National Guard on the streets, clearing streets.  Electrical restoration crews as far away as Nova Scotia here to help restore power.  Really unbelievable.  We have a ways to go —


ADMINISTRATOR GAYNOR:  — but the amount that they’ve gone so far, quite impressive.  So we’ll — we’ll be here until we’re done, right beside the governor and her team.

THE PRESIDENT:  What is the timing, do you think?

ADMINISTRATOR GAYNOR:  Well, it will take some time to clear up debris.  I think debris is going to be the — some of the hardest things to do; there’s lots of it out there.  So that — that does take time, but we have a plan to do it.  And, again, we’ll be here until the job is done.

THE PRESIDENT:  Can you find usage in some of the corn?  Is it aged enough, or is it just really not going to be able to be used?

IOWA STATE SECRETARY NAIG:  Well, Mr. President, I’m Secretary of Agriculture here in Iowa.


IOWA STATE SECRETARY NAIG:  And, you know, it’ll — it’ll depend.  A lot of it, as the senator said, is — it won’t come back up.  You won’t be able to harvest it for any use.


IOWA STATE SECRETARY NAIG:  Some of it will.  But there are millions of acres of corn that just won’t, flat out, be — be able to be harvested.  So — but, to your point —

THE PRESIDENT:  And you — you’ve never seen anything like that?

IOWA STATE SECRETARY NAIG:  No, not to the widespread — you know, the governor mentioned it — I mean, we’re talking hundreds of miles by 40, 50, 60 miles wide.  It’s not that we don’t — we’re not used — it’s not that we’re not used to dealing with difficult weather in agriculture; it’s just something of this scale is really tough.

THE PRESIDENT:  What about other states, by the way?  Did it — how was it?  And they weren’t affected nearly like this, but —

IOWA STATE SECRETARY NAIG:  Well, it really — you know, it started in South Dakota.  It went to western Ohio.  But, really, if you get into western Illinois, there was some crop damage, but nothing like what you’re seeing or what you’d — you’d see from central Iowa, really, into — into eastern Iowa.


IOWA STATE SECRETARY NAIG:  It took the bullseye.

THE PRESIDENT:  Incredible.  Okay, thank you very much.  Good job.  Would anybody like to say anything?  Please, go ahead.  Please.

MAYOR HART:  I’m Brad Hart, mayor of Cedar Rapids.


MAYOR HART:  And welcome back to Cedar Rapids.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

MAYOR HART:  Thank you for your leadership, and thank you for the disaster proclamation.  That is really important for us.  And it’s starting to — not only the federal aid, but the rest of the country is starting to take note.  And so we’re getting volunteers and help from around the country, and that’s really important.

Almost every one of our almost 60,000 homes and businesses had some kind of damage.  That’s how widespread it was.  Most of the city didn’t have power for a week.  I still don’t have power at my home, and there’s about maybe another 20-, or 30-, or 40,000 people that are still waiting for power to come back up in Cedar Rapids.

THE PRESIDENT:  You expect it when?  When do you expect it everything to —

MAYOR HART:  Today.  Hopefully, today.

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, good.  All right.


THE PRESIDENT:  Well, then they’ve done a very good job.

MAYOR HART:  No, they have.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s pretty good.

MAYOR HART:  They’ve brought in thousands of line- — linemen to work on this.

One of the things that — and I have a letter that I’ll present —


MAYOR HART:  — leave with you.  But, in the disaster proclamation declaration, if we could get the — the individual assistance.  Because so many people have not only — they may have homeowners insurance, but there’s still a premium to pay.  They still had to throw out food that — that the insurance won’t cover.  And most policies for insurance do not cover removal of trees.  They take — they’ll pay to move it off your house, but not — once it’s on the ground, you have to pay for that.  And that could be tens of thousands of dollars for lots of homeowners.

And so, adding the — the individual assistance component to the disaster declaration would really help so many people get those trees out of their yard and not have such a financial burden for them.  So that would be a big help for us.

THE PRESIDENT: How have the insurance companies responded and acted, would you say?

MAYOR HART:  Personally —

THE PRESIDENT:  Have they tried to hold back?

MAYOR HART:  — from my house, they’ve been — they’ve been very attentive.


MAYOR HART:  And I know that many of the insurance companies have brought in hundreds of — of adjusters to try to process claims.  But it’s — it’s hard when we didn’t even have power and didn’t even have cell service for several days.

THE PRESIDENT:  Are you pretty well covered with insurance, though?  I mean, you have clauses.

MAYOR HART:  I hope so, but — but the trees in my yard will cost me lots of money — more than what my coverage is, and I have pretty good coverage.  But I can handle that, but there’s so many Iowans who cannot.  So that would be a great help for thousands of those.

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  Good.  We’ll take a look at that.  You know about that.


GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  And it’s actually part of the disaster declaration, and we’re actually accumulating the damage and the numbers, and we’ll be able to add that on.


GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  And we should be able to do that —

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.

GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  — in a short amount of time.

THE PRESIDENT:  We’ll see what we can do.


THE PRESIDENT:  You’ll let me know, right?


ACTING SECRETARY WOLF:  Those other assessments are coming through.


ACTING SECRETARY WOLF:  We expect them probably in the next week or so, and then we can —

GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  In the — yeah.

ACTING SECRETARY WOLF:  — turn on the individual assistance.

THE PRESIDENT:  How many people will that affect?

MAYOR HART:  Well, I think it could affect 55,000 people at least.  Because we — 55,000 buildings — homes, mainly homes — and businesses were impacted by that.

THE PRESIDENT:  Amazing.  It’s big, right?  It’s amazing.

Okay.  We’ll take care of it, Mayor.

MAYOR HART:  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.

MAYOR HART:  Thank you.  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Please, go ahead.

MAYOR ABOUASSALY:  Good morning, Mr. President.  I’m —

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

MAYOR ABOUASSALY:  I’m Nick AbouAssaly.  I’m the mayor of the City of Marion.


MAYOR ABOUASSALY:  We’re a city of 40,000 people, right next to Cedar Rapids.  And thank you so much for the declaration and the speed with which you approved that.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

MAYOR ABOUASSALY:  It — we are Iowans, we help each other, we pull together, and — but it’s — with this scale of the devastation of this disaster, we need help.  And we’re really grateful to be getting the help from the state and from — and from you.

As the — as Mayor Hart said, the devastation is — is very widespread, and that’s — that’s what’s unique about this disaster.  It’s not just one area of our — of our community; we estimate that 90 to 95 percent of buildings, homes, and businesses in our town have — have some type of damage.

And the tree removal — my understanding is that, as the mayor said, the insurance policies will pay for removing the tree off the house, but a lot of trees didn’t fall on the houses.  And so the average tree removal is — as I understand, it’s $3,500 per tree.  So I know someone who lost 39 trees — large, mature trees, some of them over 100 years old.  I know another tree farmer who lost 5,000 trees.

So if you drive around the community, there are just — the debris covers up buildings.

THE PRESIDENT:  So is that liability — when you have trees, all those trees?  You love those trees.  You’d rather keep those trees, right?

MAYOR ABOUASSALY:  Well, they provide tree cover —


MAYOR ABOUASSALY:  — and are very helpful for energy and efficiency.  Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  So that’s really a loss?

MAYOR ABOUASSALY:  Yes, absolutely.  Absolutely.

The other thing we’re worried about: individuals and businesses.  Because on top of this, the economic stress of COVID, obviously.  You know, now people have this — this type of stress with the financial burden of removing the trees and clearing the debris.

THE PRESIDENT:  How — how are you doing with the COVID?  How’s your area?  Both of you, how are you doing with COVID?

MAYOR HART:  Well, we were the second — had the — the most — the second-highest number of cases and deaths.  But we’re now running fourth or fifth, which is — you know, I don’t want to win that race, so I’m happy that we’ve moved down.

We’re working hard.  The community has stepped up, and — and masks — and businesses are requiring masks to protect their own customers and their own workers.  I think we’ll get through it.  People really understand the importance of it now, and people have adjusted their lifestyles.  But a vaccine will be wonderful.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.  Well, they’re doing great on vaccines, and they’re doing great on therapeutics.

And even places like — I was reading New Zealand is in such good shape, and then, today, they have a big outbreak.  So, you know, it’s — it’s the invisible enemy, but we’re getting through it.  And the vaccines are coming along really well — soon.  And therapeutically, really good.

MAYOR ABOUASSALY:  We are concerned, Mr. President, though, that we might lose a lot of small business because just as they’re starting to recover from COVID and open up for business again and regain their business —

THE PRESIDENT:  You get hit.

MAYOR ABOUASSALY:  — now they got hit.  And so if there’s a way to help them, maybe extend the PPP.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  Well, we’re going to look very seriously at the individual help.  Okay?


THE PRESIDENT:  Let’s do that.  Okay?  It’s a double whammy.  Let’s help.


REPRESENTATIVE HINSON:  Mr. President, I’m Ashley Hinson, State Representative.  And the district that I represent is in Marion and Cedar Rapids, so I’ve been working with these gentlemen since the disaster hit last week.

I just want to touch on — a lot has already been said here about what this state needs, and thank you for your leadership in getting that presidential disaster declaration.

I’m a mom, myself.  I have a seven- and nine-year-old, and you touched on schools and how challenging that’s going to be, going forward.  I was just talking with my Superintendent this morning.  We’ve already delayed the start of school until September 14th for Linn-Mar District because of this disaster.

So they had already made a lot of “return to learn” plans dealing with the challenges with COVID, so I think making sure that we take care of our school buildings — they suffered damage — catastrophic damage, in many cases — similar to a hurricane.  So exactly what you might see on the East Coast during a hurricane, we’ve now experienced that right here in the Heartland.

So I just want to say I appreciate your — your speed in getting that through.  Those resources will be greatly appreciated and greatly used to help our kids get back to school.

THE PRESIDENT:  When was the last time something like this happened, would you say, if ever?  I mean, like 100 years ago?

REPRESENTATIVE HINSON:  Not this dramatic and widespread.

SENATOR ERNST:  Nothing like this.

THE PRESIDENT:  Nothing like this?


REPRESENTATIVE HINSON:  I think the scale is what is the issue here.  And, you know, they’ve touched on it: Everybody had damage, which meant — normally, when we would be out jumping to another community’s aid, everybody had to deal with their own community and the challenges that they were facing.

And so, we’ve seen, still, Iowans — they finish their own yard, and they run right to their neighbor’s yard.  And that’s just what we do.  That’s what we did in my neighborhood.

We just got power last night, and you could have heard the cheers, so I think that makes a huge difference in people’s recovery.  But there are a lot of challenges ahead, and we will see those in the coming days.  But I appreciate your open line of communication and what you’re doing.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’ll take care of it.  And you’re going to have a very fast recovery, I predict.


THE PRESIDENT:  Please, go ahead.  Yeah.

MR. BLACKFORD:  Mr. President, I’m Wayne Blackford.  I’m a farmer and a cattle feeder —


MR. BLACKFORD: — north of Marion here.  And I want to thank you for coming to Cedar Rapids.

But I think the big thing — we have insurance on our buildings and our farm, and we also have crop insurance, which we want to thank you for and keeping that in place over the next several years.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.

MR. BLACKFORD:  We really need the crop insurance.  It’s going to be a big help.

But we’re fine with our buildings.  We’re well insured, but we need profitability and agriculture to keep going.  We need to be able to rebuild and rebuild right, not just cobble things together.

THE PRESIDENT:  But you feel good about it?

MR. BLACKFORD:  I feel good about it.

THE PRESIDENT:  And you have — you really have good insurance?  Most of you seem to have very good insurance.  That’s great.

MR. BLACKFORD:  Well, we’ve seen tornadoes before, and usually when we have a tornado, you know, it hits one spot.  We actually feed cattle on 11 farms.  And so, yes, we’ve had trouble before, but never on this many places at once.

THE PRESIDENT:  So, this was, in a way, less dangerous than a tornado, but much wider, right?  But the point of a tornado is truly brutal.

MR. BLACKFORD:  Well, you know, my wife and I were in the house, and we said, “This is not a tornado.”  But when the siding went off the back side, we decided to go to the basement.

THE PRESIDENT:  It might’ve been.

MR. BLACKFORD:  (Laughs.)

THE PRESIDENT:  He said, “Maybe it is a tornado.”

MR. BLACKFORD:  So, yeah.  So, it felt like a tornado.  I don’t know if — it sounded like a freight train.  But it was — it was devastating.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s incredible.

MR. BLACKFORD:  I’ve never seen stuff go by the window so fast.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good job.  Very good.


MAYOR ARMSTRONG:  Good morning, Mr. President.


MAYOR ARMSTRONG:  I’m Mayor Jeric Armstrong.  I’m a mayor in Clarence, which is about 35 miles east of here on Highway 30.  It’s a town of about 1,000 people.  A small town, like a lot of communities in Iowa.  And we just want to thank you for everything you’re doing for the State of Iowa and all of our small communities because we are going to need the help.

We — we were the hardest-hit community in Cedar County.  Numerous homes damaged, trees down, as the other mayor said.  But you stated earlier: The resilience of Iowans really came out —

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s true.

MAYOR ARMSTRONG:  — really came out last week.  And I can say that, for a fact, in my community.  The people that stepped up the plate — the farmers that brought their equipment into town and got it out from underneath of their buildings that were collapsed on top of the equipment and brought their equipment to town to help clean up the mess so we could get power restored to town, which we got back about four o’clock yesterday afternoon.  It really brings out the best in people, and Iowans are some of the best at that.

So we lost — there’s farmers — there was a farmer north of town that lost a barn that was in his family for eight generations.  So it is something like we’ve never seen before, and we just appreciate all your help.  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Great job, too.

And, Kayleigh, let me ask you: With all that is going on in the world, is the world aware of what happened in Iowa?  Because it is really something.

MS. MCENANY:  Well, they’re aware now because you came in time to come here.  So because now the media is here with you, they’re well aware of the huge suffering of Iowans and your great support.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’re going to take care of it.

Would you like to say something?

MS. REEM:  Absolutely.  Thank you for being here, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.

MS. REEM:  It means a lot to us.

I’m the executive director of Mission of Hope here in Cedar Rapids.  I’ve been there almost 40 years.


MS. REEM:  We work to help people who are homeless, (inaudible) hopeless, living in poverty.  And this week, I became one of those people.  Our family lost our house, you know, due to the damage from the storm.  And I know we’ll be able to come back.  We’ve got good insurance like everybody sitting here.  Really, really grateful for that.

Just to echo what these guys said, we have a 200 — sorry, a two-and-a-half-acre wooded lot, fully mature oak trees over 100 years old, and we lost over 100 of them.  And it’s going to be well in excess of a quarter of a million dollars just to remove trees.

THE PRESIDENT:  No kidding.  Wow.  That’s incredible.

MS. REEM:  Yeah, so —

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s incredible.  That’s a big part of it.  That’s a very big part of it.

MS. REEM:  Yeah.  It’s something that our family, you know, was not quite prepared for.  We didn’t even own a chainsaw.

So I want to shift gears for a second and talk about the people that I’m blessed and lucky to serve at Mission of Hope.  They’re hungry today.  And it’s day nine with no power in that neighborhood.

And they’re not just hungry for food.  They’re hungry for compassion from our leaders, just to know that our leaders care and are working on their behalf.  They’re isolated people, so they don’t necessarily have good access to — well, right now, without power, they don’t have Internet access.  They don’t have coverage, the local news of what’s going on and how people are trying to help them.  But they’re hungry to know that.

They’re hungry for human touch.  This COVID pandemic has isolated these people.  And I just went through our lines this week of people who were waiting for lunch, giving out hugs — even in spite of the pandemic.  Just — people are hanging on to a hug and clinging to personal words of encouragement.

Their physical needs are not being met.  They lost their food.  Many of them have lost their shelter.  They don’t know where their clothes are.  And as I mentioned, they don’t have power.

Though we do appreciate all the hardwork we can see being done in our community as of, you know, yesterday and this morning, we still do not have power.

And finally, they need help, financially.  Due to COVID and the uncertainties of all the businesses being closed, many of them were just returning to work, and now they’ve been off work again.

And so they’re definitely hurting.  We’re strong as Iowans.  You’ve heard that all around the table: We’re strong, and we’re resilient, Mr. President.  But we are tired and we need your help.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Very much.

Would anybody like to ask any questions?  The governor or senators and FEMA or Chad — any questions for them concerning this situation, which we’re going to take care of very rapidly in Iowa?  Anybody?

Okay, it’s been very well covered.

Senator, thank you very much.  Joni, thank you very much.  I appreciate it.  That’s great.  We’ll get it taken care of.  We’ll get it done very quickly.  All of you, we’ll get it done.   Ashley, we’ll get it done very quickly.  Chad, thank you.  Governor.

It’s all done.  So now we have to start working, but the papers are done.  You’re going to look into the one event —

ADMINISTRATOR GAYNOR:  Yes, sir.  Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  — quickly, and we’ll get that approved.  Okay?

Thank you very much, everybody.  Thank you very much.  Appreciate it.

END                12:18 P.M. CDT