We are continuing to work closely with the states that were affected by the recent wave of severe storms and tornadoes in the Midwest and South. In response to those storms, the President has approved major disaster declarations in Kentucky and Indiana making federal aid available to supplement state and local recovery efforts. This federal assistance can provide funding to help eligible individuals and families recover. In Illinois, we are working closely with state officials on joint preliminary damage assessments to help determine the impacts to local governments and public infrastructure.
While federal assistance is an important step in helping people recover from events like the ones we saw recently, it is not always the best or only alternative. State and local governments have developed robust capabilities to respond to and recover from events. And we rely on the whole community’s participation, including the help of the public preparing for and insuring against the uncertainty of disaster.
The Stafford Act provides the process for a Governor to seek a disaster declaration from the President. By submitting a written request to the President through FEMA, a Governor certifies that the combined local, county and state resources are insufficient and that the situation is beyond their capability to recover.
When FEMA joins the state on joint preliminary damage assessments prior to a request - as we have recently in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia - we are looking at things like assistance that is available from other federal agencies - like the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, charitable organizations, volunteers and other private interest groups. It is also important to know that we are looking at damage that would potentially be eligible for FEMA assistance.
As I’ve said before, the level of insurance can often be a major consideration when determining whether a state should request a FEMA declaration. Ultimately FEMA cannot duplicate benefits like insurance. In fact, insurance is often the first and best way of protecting your family and property from disaster. Depending on the coverage limits, disaster survivors may be made far more whole by their insurance policy than they would from supplemental federal disaster assistance.
Based on the factors I mentioned, FEMA might review a Governor’s request for assistance and determine that the damage is not beyond the capabilities of the county, city and state to recover. If and when this happens, that’s not necessarily the end of the story, in terms of federal government assistance.
The decision means that the state can proceed to work directly with other federal agencies that can help through their own authorities. These agencies include the Small Business Administration, HUD, Department of Agriculture and others, as well as voluntary agencies.
FEMA and our federal government partners stand ready to assist communities when needed. When the whole community comes together to respond to and help recover from these events - neighbor helping neighbor – we can often meet the needs of everyone, even when FEMA financial assistance is not determined to be necessary.
Meeting the Needs of Disaster Survivors with the Help of the Whole Community
06/16/2012 - 14:46