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MN Gov Talks Back to FEMA

June 22, 2011
Map of regions of the Federal Emergency Manage...

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North Dakota’s governor is not alone in being upset with FEMA over natural disaster aid.  This press release was issued by the Minnesota governor’s office Monday this week.

Minnesota to appeal FEMA denial of Individual Assistance for Hennepin County

June 20, 2011

ST. PAUL — Governor Mark Dayton today directed Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Kris Eide to appeal the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) denial for individual assistance for Hennepin County following the May 22 deadly tornado. On June 13, FEMA denied Minnesota’s request for individual assistance to homeowners, renters and businesses affected by the tornado saying the damage from this event was not beyond the combined capabilities of the state, affected local governments and voluntary agencies.

Director Eide will be appealing FEMA’s denial and renewing his request for individual assistance for Hennepin County including: the Individuals and Households Program, Crisis Counseling, Disaster Unemployment Assistance and Small Business Disaster loans for Hennepin County.

President Obama did declare a disaster for Hennepin and Anoka Counties on June 10, approving public assistance for the two counties. That declaration includes two categories of aid:

• Public Assistance: Assistance to state and local government and certain private non-profit organizations for emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities. This applies within the counties in the disaster area.

• Hazard Mitigation Grant Program: Assistance to state and local government and certain private non-profit organizations for actions taken to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural hazards. All counties in the State of Minnesota are eligible to apply for assistance under this program.

For all their good intentions, political grandstanding doesn’t get very far with FEMA (unless it does).  The system is designed to take politics out of federal disaster aid decisions.  However, there are many qualitative variables in the process.  Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) notes:

Minneapolis is trying to get money to help 274 homes and businesses seriously damaged by the tornado, but [Congressional Research Service analyst Fran] McCarthy said the threshold for individual assistance is usually 500 homes with major damage.

But McCarthy said that threshold is certainly not set in stone, adding that FEMA can’t use an arithmetic formula to make decisions on aid. Many other factors go into the decision, such as the size of the state and the amount of state resources dedicated to cleanup, he said.

In addition, FEMA officials look at the demographics of a community. If the people living in a disaster area were already struggling economically, for example, that gets factored in, McCarthy said.

That “state resources dedicated to cleanup” is something we should not overlook.  Likely that includes many of the efforts we outline in mitigation planning, not just in response and recovery.  They say “the Good Lord helps those who help themselves.”  Apparently FEMA does too.

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From → Natural Hazards

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