- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 5, 2014

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - Low-income homeowners in northeast Iowa may soon get some financial relief to combat an increasing number of frozen water lines.

The Black Hawk County Gaming Association recently donated $125,000 to help individuals thaw out the lines, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls reported (https://bit.ly/NwAYqs ). The response comes as the unusually cold winter has caused many water lines in the area to freeze.

The association, along with the group Operation Threshold and the city of Waterloo, announced the initiative Tuesday. It’s being called Operation Thaw.

Operation Thaw funds will go on a priority basis to people in owner-occupied homes with household income levels that are at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. The average grant will be around $500.

Local officials hope more aid will be available soon, as an application for state and disaster aid is pending. The Black Hawk County board of supervisors recently passed a resolution declaring a state of emergency.

“It had truly become an epidemic,” said Waterloo Mayor Buck Clark, who sought the donation after city officials received hundreds of reports about frozen lines. “This is a disaster. … We need help, we need money getting our city relief.”

People can get bottled water at Waterloo Fire Rescue headquarters and the Northeast Iowa Food Bank.

The Black Hawk County Gaming Association holds the Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo’s gaming license and receives 5.75 percent of the casino’s gross receipts for donations to nonprofit groups and public agencies.

Operation Threshold will accept applications for the money. People in the six-county region are eligible to apply.

The frigid weather has been affecting other parts of the state. In Marshalltown, city officials say at least two dozen residents have been without water for nearly a month.

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