Operator: Stand by. At this time all participants are in a listen-only mode until the comment portions of the call. If you would like to provide a comment at that time, please press star then one on your touchtone phone. Today’s conference is being recorded. If you have any objections, you may disconnect. Now I’d like to turn the call over to FEMA’s external affairs director, Stephanie Tennyson.
Stephanie Tennyson: Great, thank you, operator, and good afternoon and thank you to our tribal leaders, our tribal stakeholders, and others who joined us today, and welcome to the national consultation conference call. I want to personally thank you for taking the time to call in today to share your valued input on FEMA’s implementation of tribal declarations.
As of this time, we’ve conducted 25 regional tribal consultation conference calls¸ and the comments have been - many comments have been submitted via the federal register notice. The purpose of today’s call is to directly hear from tribal leaders, tribal emergency managers, disaster recovery subject matter experts, and other interested tribal members or partners, to ensure that we capture your thoughts, comments, and concerns, regarding FEMA’s implementation of tribal major disaster declarations - disaster rather, and emergency declarations.
This is just a piece of the overall consultation process that we have continued over the past month and a half, which will end with the open comment period that completes on April 22nd. Comments you provide today will be the foundation for the development of the pilot guidance which will be used to create the final regulations for this very important program. We look forward to hearing your comments, and again thank you for joining us today. With that, I will turn it over to our conference call facilitator, Jessica Stewart.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you, Stephanie. Just a few housekeeping notes, for those that are on the phone. We will not be taking a roll call today as the operator has captured a list of the participants on today’s call. As the operator mentioned, this call will be recorded, and the audio file and transcript will be posted on www.fema.gov/tribal-consultation. All comments received will be sent and accepted to the federal register. Also, FEMA is not soliciting or accepting consensus advice or recommendations on federal laws, regulations, or policies during this meeting.
Rather, the purpose of this meeting is to gather individual input from a diverse group of partners. Today you will hear from subject matter experts on the Stafford Act change, declaration request requirements, the criteria FEMA uses to evaluate requests from states for individual assistance, public assistance, and cost share adjustments, and how FEMA designates areas eligible for assistance. .
After a brief description of each agenda topic, the operator will open the line for you to provide your comments. The operator will then close the line and we’ll move onto the next topic. First we’ll hear opening remarks from Beth Zimmerman, Deputy Associate Administrator of FEMA’s Office of Response and recovery. She brings decades of state level emergency management experience to her position at FEMA, including serving as the assistant director of recovery for the state of Arizona, and with the Utah division of comprehensive emergency management. Beth?
Beth Zimmerman: Thank you, Jessica. Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the call. I’m thankful for as many people that are on today. As most of you are probably aware, but on Tuesday, January 29th of this year, President Obama signed the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013. This act included a provision which amended the Stafford Act to provide federally recognized tribal governments the option to choose whether to make a request directly to the President for a federal emergency or major disaster declaration, or to seek assistance as they can previously, or can currently under the declaration by the state, governor of the state.
The enactment of this provision is a clear demonstration of the importance that tribal leadership and their governments are to our nation. It also follows on the President’s commitment to Indian country to strengthen the government to government relationship between FEMA and the federally recognized tribal governments, and it will enhance the way that FEMA is able to support tribal communities before, during, and after disasters. We commend the efforts of the tribal leadership, the representatives, and the organizations who have worked so hard to help make this change a reality.
The Stafford Act now clearly reflects federally recognized tribal governments’ status as sovereign nations, giving them the same status as states when requesting federal disaster assistance. FEMA has a government to government relationship with federally recognized tribal governments now. Tribal governments now can self-determine the best way for them to address their disaster needs.
The Stafford Act amendment now gives tribal governments, as I said, the choice to request declarations on their own, but tribal governments are not required to make the request on their own. The tribes may continue to seek assistance through a governor’s - a state - the state governor’s disaster request if they choose. The legislation does not require tribal governments to change their relationship with the states. Many tribal governments do have an excellent working relationship with the states, and also it’s to note that states cannot direct tribal governments to make a request on their own or require the tribal governments to be included in the state’s request.
It is the tribe’s determination to choose the direction they want to go. This is a substantial change to the Stafford Act, and changing the Stafford Act to recognize tribal sovereignty is just the beginning. Through this consultation process we want to hear from you, the tribal leaders, tribal emergency managers, and other disaster recovery subject matter experts, regarding the items FEMA should consider when we develop this pilot guidance to implement the tribal declarations process.
We appreciate you participating on today’s call and encourage you to ask questions, provide recommendations, to assist us in the development of the pilot guidance. Remember that you will also provide your written - you can also provide your written comments at the federal register idea scale, and there’s an email inbox that we can provide. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once again, tribal consultation, all one word, at fema.dhs.gov. So as Stephanie noted early on, these comments are good. We’re accepting comments until April 22nd, and we’ll remind you several times during this discussion. That deadline does come up on Monday, so it’s through the day on Monday, and on that note I will return it back to you, Jessica. Thank you.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you, Beth. Our speakers today will describe specific aspects of the - of disaster assistance programs as applied to states and territories. We need your input to understand how these fit tribal government needs. We will now hear a quick overview of the Stafford Act change from Catlin O’Halloran, the region 10 assistant regional counsel.
Catlin O’Halloran: Thank you, Jessica. As Miss Zimmerman had mentioned previously, the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act included a provision amending the Stafford Act to provide federally recognized tribal governments the option to choose whether to make a request directly to the US President for a federal emergency or major disaster declaration, or to seek assistance as is currently the case under a declaration request by the state.
Specifically, the amendment permits the chief executive of an affected tribal government to submit a request to the President for a declaration that a major disaster or emergency exists, consistent with the requirements listed in Stafford Act Section 401, which pertains to major disaster, and section 501 pertaining to emergencies. The amendment allows tribal governments to be eligible to receive assistance through a state declaration, so long as the tribal government does not receive a separate declaration for the same incident.
The President has the authority to waive or adjust the cost share for public assistance. The amendment specifies that references to any combination of state and local in the Stafford Act should be read to include tribal governments, and in instances of governor or state, the Act should also be read to include chief executive or tribal government as appropriate. In addition, FEMA is required to consider the unique conditions that affect the general welfare of tribal governments when implementing this new authority.
Jessica Stewart: Thanks, Catlin. Now we’ll hear a quick overview of declarations tribes and states may request and declaration request requirements from Cynthia Belton, the declarations specialist in region 4. Cynthia?
Cynthia Belton: Thank you, Jessica. I appreciate that. An overview of the declarations and disaster assistance process - the Stafford Act assistance is intended to supplement state, tribal, and local resources. The federal government will only provide supplemental disaster assistance under the Stafford Act when the state or tribe is overwhelmed and response to the event is beyond the state or tribe’s capability to respond.
Upon receiving a request for a declaration, FEMA will assess the impact of the event and will make a recommendation to the President regarding that event. The President in his discretion may determine that the situation warrants supplemental assistance under the federal Stafford Act and make the declaration.
Tribal governments can request the following types of declarations: the first is an emergency declaration. Emergency declarations are to supplement state and local efforts to save and protect lives, property, public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe, and that is cited in 42 USC 51-91. A major disaster declaration, this may provide a wider range of federal assistance programs for individuals and public infrastructure, including funds for both emergency and permanent work that would be required as a result of a natural catastrophe, or regardless of the cause, a fire, flood, or explosion, and those are cited in 42 USC 51-70.
The following are requirements for declaration requests. They must be submitted by the chief executive of a federally recognized tribal government. They must be submitted within 30 days of the date of the incident. Within 30 days of the incident, the chief executive may submit a written request for additional time, and that request must provide the reasons for the delay.
The basis for the request shall be a finding that the disaster is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the tribe and that federal assistance is necessary. The request must also include a confirmation that appropriate action under tribal government law has been taken, and the execution of the tribe’s emergency plan has been directed as applicable.
There should be an estimate of the amount and severity of the damages and losses, stating the impact of the disaster on the public and private sector. There should be information describing the nature and amount of tribal government resources which have been or will be committed to alleviating the results of the disaster.
Preliminary estimates based on joint FEMA tribal preliminary damage assessments of the types and amount of supplementary federal assistance that is needed under the Stafford Act, and then a certification that the tribes will meet all applicable cost share requirements. If there is a request for the hazard mitigation grant program or permanent work under the public assistance program, the tribe must have in place a FEMA approved or approvable mitigation plan and that has to take place within 30 days of the date of the declaration.
In addition, they must comply with grant administrative requirements and must also have a public assistance hazard mitigation grant program and/or an other needs assistance administrative plan. More information on these requirements can be found at http://www.fema.gov/tribal-consultation. FEMA would like to hear from you on whether there are circumstances that may prevent a chief executive of an Indian tribe from complying with these current requirements and processes for declaration requests, things like the 30 day timeline to submit a declaration request or administrative plan requirements. And with that I’ll turn it back to Jessica for comments.
Jessica Stewart: Thanks, Cynthia. Operator, we’ll now open it for comments, and I ask if you’d like to provide input, if you could please identify your name, title, and affiliation before you proceed with your comments or questions. Operator, can we have those instructions?
Operator: Thank you. If you would like to make a comment or provide input please press star then one on your touchtone phone. I will announce your first and last name and your company or tribe name. Please check that your phone is unmuted for your record. One moment please. Again, that is star one, and we’ll go first to Frank Paiz from Selta Del Sur Pueblo.
Ralph Johnson: Yes, ma’am, this is actually - Governor Paiz is - he’s in the room with me, but this is Ralph Johnson, chief of fire safety operations for the tribe. A couple things that we wanted to mention, we talked about this when we had our regional - our region six conference call, but we want to make sure that - I’m sure it’s going to get forwarded to you, but we wanted to do it in a national call too. We talked about the 30 days, having this mitigation plan submitted for those who don’t have one.
We think that that’s really way too tight of a timeline for tribes to put a mitigation plan together. I think what we came up with, our suggestion would be a minimum of 90 days. And then we also want to know is what if the tribe - because again, let’s remember, we have 566 federally recognized tribes, and not - some of them are going to be really prepared and some of them aren’t going to be as prepared as others, so what we want to make sure is what if some of these tribes decide to be on the mitigation plan with some of their regional partners?
Will that mitigation plan be accepted by you all as covering that need that they’re supposed to have? And if not, we think that you should allow that, because writing a mitigation plan, I know the office of emergency management’s going through that right now. It’s a daunting task.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you, sir. We appreciate those comments and we did hear those from the region six call. They’re posted on our tribal consultation page as well, and appreciate those, and we’ll definitely take that back and influence the development of the pilot guidance. Thank you.
Ralph Johnson: Thank you.
Operator: We’ll take the next question from David Munro with Morongo band of mission Indians.
David Munro: Good afternoon, everybody. Stephanie, Jessica, Beth, I want to thank you for your time this morning, and I know the tribe has submitted their formal comments and I’m trying to work up mine as the emergency management director for the Morongo band of mission Indians here in southern California. So I have a couple kind of clarifying questions that can help me do that.
And I noticed in the federal register that FEMA states that you plan to establish a pilot program for managing requests from Indian tribal governments, and during the development of this you’ll engage in a comprehensive consultation effort with the tribes. Can you explain what a comprehensive consultation process is, and what - how you plan to undertake that, and kind of what the next steps are?
Jessica Stewart: Stephanie, are you still on the line?
Stephanie Tennyson: I am.
Jessica Stewart: Would you like to field that call?
Stephanie Tennyson: Sure. So we’re working through that process now, and obviously we did not - weren’t able to do a lot of the face to face meetings that we would have hoped to do in this initial phase of the project due to budget restrictions and the like, but as we work through the pilot project then move on to the final federal register notice, we would conduct similar tribal consultation calls, and to the extent that we’re able to do in-person meetings within the regions with tribes to garner their feedback on the pilot project itself.
And we are - as we know that this timeline was rather shortened to get a pilot in place, we are trying to build in additional time on the other end to allow for consultation for a longer period, because we’ve certainly heard loud and clear the concerns that we’ve not been able to - that we’ve not had the full breadth and depth of the conversation that we would like to have in an ideal situation with the tribes.
So just doing more of that outreach and that education prior to making sure that as we go through the pilot that we’re capturing that feedback and the lessons learned as well and putting that back into the system, so typically you know, what you would see at a normal consultation period from you know, agencies and such as far as the calls and the meetings, just over a longer period of time, if that answers your question, David.
David Munro: It does a little, Stephanie, and then the second part, you know, kind of when - you know, I’m sure FEMA already has some draft guidance kind of promulgated and some framework floating around the office. When or how will you be sharing that draft guidance with tribes and tribal leaders, and how can we assist in your development of that?
Stephanie Tennyson: Do you mean the guidance for consultation or for the pilot itself?
David Munro: For the pilot program or pilot guidance. It’s been called two different things throughout these calls. It’s kind of morphed more into pilot guidance over the past couple weeks.
Jessica Stewart: As Stephanie can - and I think Beth has some things to share since that comes out of the office of response and recovery.
Beth Zimmerman: Yes, great. Hi, David.
David Munro: Hey.
Beth Zimmerman: This is something that I can honestly tell you we started with a blank piece of paper, and to hold the 26 - this is the 26th call that we’ve convened, and getting the comments in through the federal register and everything else, we’re really - the group now, there’s a workgroup here within FEMA both at the headquarters and regional level, lots of working groups, and they’re going to take all of the comments that we’ve received and come up with something and make a presentation to FEMA leadership.
And we’ll be putting that out, you know, for comment, so I can honestly tell you that we’ve - we’re starting with nothing at this point, so we appreciate - if there’s other things - I believe you said you’ve already submitted some comments, so that’s great. If there’s anything else that comes up in your minds that you want to submit all the way up until probably 11:59 on April 22nd, Eastern Time, we’d love to see it because we’re going to take everything and put something together, so...
David Munro: Okay, and then I guess - thanks, Beth - I guess next you know, as you start to develop that draft and is it kind of morphs itself into the rule making process, does the agency see another 45 day window, or are you going to stretch your 180 day, you know, right under the rule-making process, and you know, even use the tool of an advanced notice of a proposed rule-making to more fully consult with tribes rather than these serial phone calls?
Beth Zimmerman: Yes, we’ll be going through - like I say, we’re going to develop the pilot guidance to get us through the pilot program, through the next year, you know, couple years as we go further into the actual rule-making process, so as this comes out, like I said, to make comments on that, we’ll be taking a look at it, and then you know, we ourselves as we’re going out and as we’re putting it - implementing it, we’ll be looking to see how the pilot works, and to be getting, you know, information before - I mean, once we enter officially into the rule-making process we can’t get comments from people on the rule until we have a draft rule to put out for public comment.
So we want to - that’s why it’s important that we get all the comments now, go through the pilot. We know we’ll probably have a pilot for potentially three to five years, but it doesn’t mean we’re going to just stick with the same pilot. We’ll also have the opportunity to relook at our pilot and make adjustments if we see that’s necessary.
David Munro: Great. Thanks, and then finally - I promise, finally - okay, I noticed that the agencies posted the transcripts for the regional calls, and then this call is scripted the same and you know, I know that it’s noted that the operator takes roll. Can the agency post the rosters of the attendees to those phone calls on regulations.gov? I think that helped me gain a better understanding of how FEMA’s approaching its government to government relationship with the Indian tribes, if there’s more than tribes on that call. Thanks so much.
Jessica Stewart: Okay, sure, and we’ll take that back for action and see if that’s something that we can do.
David Munro: Thanks so much.
Jessica Stewart: All right, thank you.
Operator: We’ll go next to Elvin Windyboy with Chippewa Creek Rocky Boy.
Elvin Windyboy: Well, good afternoon. Actually one of the questions that I had was in response to the determination of the definition of what tribal consultation’s actually going to mean. The other point that I wanted to address is in looking at the guidance of that’s within the most recent amendment to the Stafford Act related to tribes or - was the FEMA allowing 25% estimated costs for tribes, meaning that tribes are going to have to come up with that amount. So what happens if tribes aren’t able to come up with that or don’t have the fiscal resources to do that? Are we going to be afforded any other opportunity to create waivers of some sort?
Jessica Stewart: Yes, Elvin, the - for the public assistance cost share, you know, there’s this - in the law of the Stafford Act, the federal government is no less than 75%, and there is a provision that tribes can request a waiver or cost share adjustment, so that will be looked at on a case by case basis.
Elvin Windyboy: Okay.
Jessica Stewart: And sir, if you have any thoughts on what criteria we should - FEMA should use to make recommendations to the President for cost share adjustments, we welcome those thoughts as well, either here in this forum, or written as well.
Elvin Windyboy: We certainly will provide that in written and before the time period that was indicated earlier. We certainly will.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you.
Operator: We’ll take the next question from Rod Mendes with Hoopah Valley Tribe.
Rod Mendes: Greetings, everybody. I just had a couple comments and I’m looking at a couple issues, one that kind of goes along with everybody else’s thoughts about cost share, and just things to consider: the cost share issue for tribes is difficult, and I agree that there is a lot of tribes across the nation that have you know, limited funding. Some tribes are bigger than others; they have more membership. They have maybe more income derived from whatever resources they have.
But for those tribes in some areas to be able to come up with the cost share amount, even a 10% amount of cost share may be too much for tribes to bear. There is some consideration that I was, or concerns that I have about if you are you know, if you’re able to work with state government and get funding through state government, like in California we don’t have that capability. We can’t do cost share with state, but if I was a city or I was a county and I needed to come up with cost share funding, I could get that through the state and I can’t do that with tribes.
Is there some discussion or a thought of allowing tribes to work through states for availability of funds for cost share? That’s one thing. Can we work that out, can we do that? Or how can we get this down to zero for cost share? I know it’s 75%, but there - for a lot of cities and counties and other organizations, municipal governments, they don’t have to come up with 25% or 10% out of their city budget or their county budget.
They go to the state and the state receives funding from DHS or from the federal government and some of that funding that they receive, they utilize that to assist cities and counties. So I would like to see, you know, more discussion about the cost share arrangement that tribes have, and their ability to receive alternate funding for cost share capability.
The other issue is when we go through this consultation process, one of the things that I was concerned about for - as an example was the THERA process when we do our planning, and we come out with the comprehensive planning guide two in one which is brought out I think last year, and some discussion about whether or not tribes were consulted about the THERA process and that that THERA process requirement was put on the shelf for tribes pending a decision.
And I still have not seen discussion or consultation for that process, and that process affects tribes’ capability to put together a comprehensive plan that would be sufficient enough for them to receive assistance. So those are a couple of my concerns, and I wanted to put those on the table. The third item I have is the threshold for disaster. I’m hoping that that threshold of that million dollars can be reduced significantly for tribes to allow tribes to do declarations at a far lesser amount of money.
For - and it goes back to a lot of other considerations. For a tribe to declare a million dollars worth of damage and to try to request public assistance, coming up with 25% of that is going to be very difficult, so more consideration about reducing the amount of money that tribes would - try to reduce the threshold for declaration, that’s one issue, and then of course the cost share is another issue, and then the consultation process, I’m really concerned about this consultation process that we’re having.
Currently I think FEMA’s done a really good job at trying to initiate consultations through the process that they’re currently using, but there are other many - there are many other instances where tribes are thrown into the mix with a lot of other - with everybody else and the consultation process hasn’t taken place, and the example of that is the THERA process, so those are my comments. Thank you for your time.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you very much for your comments and we’ll make sure those are recorded, so that’ll be good to go into the record.
Operator: We’ll move next to Perry Two Feather Strip) with Intertribal Council of California.
Perry Two Feathers Trip: Good morning, you all, and I really appreciate the time being on the call and your efforts, FEMA, for having these calls and including tribes in consultation, whether it’s telephonic or in person. My concerns are very similar to (Rod)’s. In California and being public law 280 states, my first question is, does FEMA plan on intending any joint consultations with the state Cal-EMA who has the tribal liaison and inter-governmental affairs unit that also lacks a tribal consultation policy with tribes in California, and if there’s going to be any future plans, not just with tribal consultation, with tribes in California, but that joint session.
The other issue surrounding having a joint session is similar to what (Rod) had said or mentioned. Depending upon jurisdiction and the definition of disaster is a concern for many tribes here in California. Their land base may be more than others and the population is very different, very - it varies from tribe to tribe. So I’m wondering if there can be considerations again, I mentioned in the pre-calls, for some type of formula-based, whether it be from the land versus population of that tribe, be considered for the cost share.
Is there to be some type of waiver process based upon tribal assets or what available resources that one tribe may have? If there is going to be any efforts with the shared cost with the state, of course many tribes, smaller tribes is my concern, that may be impacted a lot more than bigger tribes that have more resources or tribal resources where the small tribes are more dependent upon the state, local, county, or city resources.
Jessica Stewart: Okay, yes, thank you for those comments, and we’ll definitely take them in.
Operator: And we have a follow-up that we’ll go to next from (Frank Payes).
Steve Cordoba: Yes, ma’am. My name is (Steve Cordoba), emergency planner, and to follow up on the hazard mitigation, or actually the receive - in order to receive public assistance, all states must have some plans. They have to have the administrative plan and they have to have the (unintelligible) - the ONA plan, just that, and then of course the hazard mitigation plan. My question is, there is technical assistance for the hazard mitigation plan. Is it going to be technical assistance for these other two plans, and if not there should be.
Jessica Stewart: Yes, those other plans, we are working on some draft templates, because we - there currently are some templates for the state plans, and so we are working on those for - also for the tribal plans of those, so there should be something and that will be something that will come up on the Web site in the near future.
Steve Cordoba: Okay, and will that also be in the pilot program, and will there be a deadline that these plans will have to have them in place in order to apply for public assistance?
Jessica Stewart: Yes, I mean, that is a requirement right now, so if you have comments on that we would welcome you to submit those comments as to how you think that should be.
Steve Cordoba: Okay, thank you.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you, yes.
Steve Cordoba: (Unintelligible).
Operator: And we’ll take the next question from (Donna Arrott) with National Congress of American Indians.
Donna Arrott: You know, I think I’ll probably - I think actually I’m probably going to be able to address this mostly in comments that I worked with Robert Holden to submit, but maybe you can all just help me quickly address this. I’m looking at the federal register notice that went out years and years ago addressing the hazard mitigation planning requirements, and the section 201.6 that talked about planning requirements and especially dealing with local impoverished communities, and I realize the whole point of this is to finally recognize the sovereign status of tribes and to no longer treat them as local governments.
But it specifically carved out a 12-month period for plans to be completed, and so I’m just struggling to understand, if tribes are only going to be given right now a proposed 30 day period, it seems like we’re continuing to set up separate criteria and not parity, so I’m just trying to reconcile this. If in the federal register notice it’s already been designated that communities that have less than ideal resources are given 12 months or can be given 12 months with the discretion of the regional authority, why would we be going back or getting less than - but you know what? We can try to address that through a comment period.
Jessica Stewart: That would be great.
Donna Arrott: Thank you very much.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you, Donna.
Operator: And that does end the Q&A session for this portion. I’d like to turn the conference back to (Miss Stewart).
Jessica Stewart: Thank you. We’ll now hear - many of you have already brought up some of the PA criteria that FEMA uses to make a recommendation to the President, but we’ll move into an overview of what those are from Jim Calacal, public assistance specialist in region 9. (Jim)?
Jim Calacal: Yes, thank you, Jessica. Good afternoon. Public assistance is assistance to state, tribal, and local governments and certain private non-profit organizations for emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster damaged facilities. The Stafford Act sets the cost share for public assistance at not less than 75%. The Stafford Act gives the President the authority to waive or adjust the cost share for public assistance.
Currently when a major disaster request includes public assistance, FEMA uses the following criteria to make a recommendation to the President whether assistance is warranted. These are the current procedures as developed for states. We need your input to modify the requirements to fit tribal government needs. The first criteria that I will talk about is insurance coverage in force. For state requests, FEMA considers the amount of insurance coverage that is in force or should have been in force as required by law and regulation at the time of the disaster.
Another criteria is hazard mitigation. FEMA also considers the extent to which state and local government mitigation measures contributed to the reduction of disaster damages for the disaster under consideration. Another criteria is recent multiple disasters. FEMA evaluates the 12-month disaster history to better understand the overall impact on the state or locality. FEMA considers declarations under the Stafford Act as well as declarations made by the governor and the extent to which the state has spent its own funds on those disasters.
Another criteria is programs of other federal assistance. FEMA also considers the programs of other federal agencies because at times their programs of assistance might be more appropriately meet the needs created by the disaster. Some of those needs are localized impacts. FEMA evaluates the impact of the disaster at the county and local government level, as well as the impact on American Indian and Alaska Native tribal government levels.
This is because at times there are extraordinary concentrations of damages that might warrant federal assistance, even if the statewide per capita is not met. This is particularly true in situations where critical facilities are involved, or where localized per capita impacts might be extremely high. Estimated cost of the assistance, many of you may know this is the public assistance per capita indicator and $1 million minimum.
FEMA evaluates the estimated cost of public assistance against the statewide population. This provides a sense of proportional impact on the population of the state. For events occurring in fiscal years 2013, we use a figure of $1.37 per capita as an indicator that the disaster is of such size that might warrant federal assistance. This number is adjusted annually based on the consumer price index.
FEMA has also established a minimum of $1 million in public assistance estimated damages per disaster, based on the belief that we can reasonably expect even the least populated states to cover this level of public assistance damage. We would like to hear from you whether these factors, localized impacts, insurance coverage in force, hazard mitigation, recent multiple disasters, programs of other federal assistance, and the estimated cost of assistance, are appropriate for the evaluation of tribal government requests for public assistance.
We would like to hear your thoughts on whether tribal government requests should be evaluated based on a damage per capita. We would like to hear your thoughts on whether a tribal government should be expected to cover a level of damage, and whether there should be a similar minimum damage threshold for tribal governments as that applied to state requests for public assistance.
Finally, FEMA also welcomes comments on whether there are additional factors that may be appropriate for FEMA to consider when evaluating the level of impact and tribal governments’ capability to respond to and recover from an event for public assistance. And with that, I will turn it back to you, Jessica.
Jessica Stewart: Thanks, Jim. Operator, we’ll now open it for comments, so - and folks again, when you provide your input, you know, identify your name and your title and your affiliation before you give your comments or questions, so operator, will you open the line and give us those instructions again.
Operator: Yes, ma’am. As a reminder that is star one if you would like to make a comment or provide input. We’ll pause for just a moment. We’ll go first to Vernon James with San Carlos Apache tribe.
Vernon James: Good afternoon. I have several comments to make regarding the statement that was just made. With regard to the mitigation plan, states usually have multi-year mitigation plans that are used in lieu of 30-day plans. Tribes find multi-year, at least my tribe, finds multi-year mitigation plans very expensive, expensive due to the fact that it does not have the resources to develop such a plan, the resources to do studies that support say, a plan like this.
I would like to see FEMA develop a pool of funds to help those tribes develop multi-year mitigation plans so that we don’t have to develop a 30-day plan every time we have a state emergency, or I’m sorry, an emergency that may come about. The per capita requirement for tribes should be much different than what states have. Numbers of differences exist between tribal communities and off-reservation communities.
Tribal communities may also be divided by county jurisdictions. In other words if I can point to the community of San Carlos, San Carlos lies half in Beulah County and half in Graham County. With regard to the 25% match, again our tribe would have a difficult time of identifying resources for this match. 638 regulations allow for use of BIA, IHS dollars as matching for other federal programs that the tribe administers. I would like to see the same thing set up for FEMA.
If we use BIA resources, it would apply to the match required by FEMA. We have limited resources. You know, we - tribal governments did not have the luxury of time as it relates to other governmental entities developing resources, and it’s usually supported by a tax revenue structure, something that my tribe doesn’t have. Those are my comments, and I appreciate the opportunity to make them.
Jessica Stewart: So Vernon, thank you very much. We appreciate it.
Operator: We’ll go next to Jake Heflin with tribal emergency management association.
Jake Heflin: Hello, thank you very much for the opportunity to speak today, and I appreciate the outreach provided by FEMA on these issues, and I really have to share some of the sentiment explained by (Mr. James) from San Carlos previously, and I think one of the things that I’ve seen or have come across, and I’m a little concerned about are some of the inconsistencies between both the concept of technical assistance under the offices of disaster declaration or declaration of emergency, and the availability for tribes to go out and actually get that assistance prior to the event itself.
And I think one thing I’d really like to see worked on and I definitely know through multiple conversations with other tribes throughout this country is that based on whatever region they’re in under the FEMA regional allocation, it’s different, or there are different inconsistencies pertaining to whether or not technical assistance is provided for plans such as the hazard mitigation plan and/or their THIRA.
And I think specifically now that we’re maybe moving towards THIRA as a requirement, I think that technical assistance in the absence of a declaration is going to be critically essential, and I think that the idea of having that concept or that pool of funds to be able to support tribes and their development of those multi-year hazard mitigation plans is going to be critically essential for their success so they’re not placed under that tight framework of 30 days under the - you know, secondary to the disaster declaration to come up with those plans, because obviously it is extremely expensive and extremely time consuming, and certainly we don’t want to shortcut that at all.
So I’d like to see that that take place and become kind of a common message throughout FEMA to say technical assistance is available for the development of these plans with or - you know, with or without a declaration, so that the tribes can be proactive and not reactive during an event. Secondary to that, what I think is also important when we start talking about this per capita distribution and per capita, you know, as far as meeting the thresholds, many tribes out there have both native and non-native populations within the boundaries of their reservation and their land base.
And I think sometimes that provides a challenge from the standpoint of what you’re going to do to determine on these per capita distributions though as far as the impact on the tribal communities, so are you dealing strictly with tribal members and/or tribal members and/or the residents within the community, if those boundaries are shared with the reservation and/or the counties themselves?
So I think that really needs to be researched a lot more thoroughly with regard to identifying those thresholds per - on the per capita damage assessments, and having said that I think when we start talking about tribal communities, many tribal communities are not land-based, and I think there is an impact on those tribal communities with the regard - with or without the land base. And I think - so when we start talking about some of these thresholds, again we say, there are 566 different federally recognized tribes out there.
And accordingly, there may be that need to be very extremely flexible with regard to meeting and identifying what those thresholds are because of that - those specific nuances associated with each tribe individually, and to make a blanket statement out there I think is very - it’s I think in some ways it’s counterproductive and certainly not supportive of the tribal sovereignty with regard to the relationship with the federal government. Thank you.
Richard Flores: And (Jake), this is Richard Flores, so thank you for your comments and we’ll certainly add it with our regular comments, and again, appreciate everybody giving us those comments where everybody can hear within the agency, so thank you very much.
Jessica Stewart: And this is Jessica Stewart. We also welcome if you have any ideas of how you think that we should consider populations, native and non-native, on tribal lands or county lands. We welcome that input as well.
Operator: We’ll move next to Robert Holden with NCAI.
Robert Holden: Hi, can you hear me okay?
Jessica Stewart: Yes, sir.
Robert Holden: Okay, good. This is just a comment, and appreciate your conducting this listing session and seeking continued comment on this - these issues which - we’re trying to grapple with all of these difficult questions. As you can see, and in approaching or trying to find solutions and responses, you know, sometimes look back at a history as to what developed and how it developed and the why.
And one of the questions I had asked in previous meetings with some FEMA officials was the genesis of this formula and these numbers. And I asked the question about how and who came up with these based on what. I never got an answer because it was you know, basically they didn’t know, and I didn’t expect them to know because perhaps - but perhaps it was some sort of I don’t know, maybe not legislative or federal history.
But nevertheless that - I guess the point I’m making is that whatever we do, whatever tribes do, I don’t think it should be looked at as something as a - you know, as a giveaway or as something that is trying to look for a handout. That - it’s not poor us, regardless that these tribal economies are - you know, have changed or not changed, and I remember seeing something where the million dollar threshold was set up around 1999. Well, tribal economies haven’t improved that much since then in terms of how they - the cost of - the value of housing and so forth, the - all the economic indicators.
What I’m saying is that you know, there are - and when you add that to the fact that there’s some sort of (unintelligible) argument regarding how long tribes have waited, I’d want to revisit the - you know, the times where tribes sought declarations through state governors and were denied and - or through multiple governors, and one part was allowed but not others.
But nevertheless, I think there’s many, many considerations, and even in developing a guidance, policy guidance, it’s difficult for that to be in place because of the multiple number of tribes which all fall under the statutory trust responsibility of FEMA and the federal government, which I appreciate your looking at and your seeing if you know, the basic questions and the things that we want to address.
But nevertheless, you know, I just - it - that’s to say that you know, as you can see, we’re trying to arrive at difficult questions, but there are many, many, many considerations, and so that also goes to the part of well, this discussion regarding how the timelines for the deadlines for input and feedback, the drafts and when this is finalized and put, you know, pushed towards the federal register. So I’m sorry to ramble on that way, but nevertheless, it’s - appreciate the opportunity.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you, sir. We do appreciate it.
Operator: And we have a follow-up from Frank Paiz.
Ralph Johnson: Yes, it’s Ralph Johnson, fire safety and operations. Just three comments on this section. I think we’ve made them before but I just wanted to make sure that they’re put on this. Some of the items you were looking at when deciding whether public assistance is needed such as estimated cost of the assistance, localized impacts, what have you, I think we need to put sacred and ceremonial grounds in there as well.
I don’t know how tribes can put a dollar amount on those to get them repaired, but I think we need to leave it up to the tribes to do that, so I think we need to add that as a bullet point as one of the things that we look at when determining public assistance is needed. Back to - one of the things that I think Robert was talking about right now, that $1 million, I know what you guys are looking for. You’re looking for an answer that we say.
I think some of the states may have a problem getting to the - you know, paying the $1 million. The majority probably don’t have a problem at all. I think you need to look at the tribes in the same way, so if you put any dollar amount there, some will be able to make it with no problem, and others are going to have a problem, so our stance is, at least for the pilot project, make that dollar amount zero.
And I know that’s flabbergasting and all, but I mean, like I said with states, a million dollars to a state government - maybe not California right now, I know the trouble that they’re in, but some states actually have money in the bank and a million dollars to them is nothing, but others have nothing, so what I’m thinking is, if we drop that down to - amount down to zero during the pilot project and see how it goes.
And then thirdly, back to what Jake Heflin was talking about - or, no, the gentleman from San...
Ralph Johnson: San Carlos, that pool of money, there is a pool of money out there, and it’s called EMPG, and right now the states have built their programs on those EMPG dollars, and we’re - FEMA’s asking the tribes now to build emergency management programs. Well, we’ve got to have dollar amounts. We’ve got to have continual funding to have us do that, to help us write these plans, to bring in emergency managers. I mean states, now they all have very vibrant, vital emergency management programs, and that’s because they’ve been funded by the feds for decades now.
But the tribes are just getting on this horse, so it’s - and I don’t think it should be a paltry sum like you do with the tribal homeland security grant program and gave us $10 million out of a billion dollars. I’m talking really if you sit there and figure out the amount of money that it’s going to take for tribes to develop an emergency management program, so that pool of money is there.
If you want to expand that pool of money now because tribes are going to be getting part of it, but don’t expect us to be treated by the feds as a nation, a nation, but have us go begging to the states for crumbs that they want to give us from the EMPG program.
I think we need to have cutout money, a fair amount to the tribes that are building a viable emergency management program. Put stipulations on it, make sure they have a plan in five years. Have somebody check that plan out, but if you provide the tribes the money to do this, I think you’re going to see they want to be self-sustaining, but those are three comments I had on this section.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you, sir, and we’ll definitely share your comments with the grants directorate as well.
Ralph Johnson: Thanks.
Jessica Stewart: Sure.
Operator: And the next comment will come from Rod Mendes with Hoopah Valley Tribes.
Rod Mendez: Hello, again, everybody. Rod Mendez, I’m the director for the office of emergency services for the Hoopah Valley tribe in California, in case folks didn’t know where I was. So I - you know, I’ve got to stand up and applaud all those folks that have spoken up so far and have kind of given the folks that are doing the consultation process kind of an idea of where tribes are at. The states - you know, the percentage of match, that’s got to be a big consideration.
At you’re looking at - you know, in going over the - in the federal register, the solicitation and reading that, it’s kind of bothersome to me that when we’re talking about the mitigation plan requirements or other assistance needs requirements, or damage assessments, requirements for submitting declaration requests, it all says the state, the state, the state, and very, very rarely do you read the tribe. And so that - to me, that’s kind of a red flag in that tribes really have not been considered at the same level as other government agencies.
And I do agree that funding has been a big issue with us, so for us to have - you know, for us to be rated or to be looked at or to be assessed as to whether or not we have a viable plan, well most tribes don’t have plans because they haven’t had money for plans. I don’t think that you can put tribes in the same arena with states in terms of their capability because they haven’t had funding. I do believe that you know, if you’re going to be damaging on per capita, that the per capita has got to be - the damage per capita ratio that you do for states has got to be different than it is for tribes.
And then also you know, consultation has to be more in place for the planning process prior to stepping forward with the Stafford Act, because we’re going to - we’re all going to go to the Stafford Act draft and look at that, make sure the language is right. There are so many other things in the system that are not right, right now, that are broken that are going to affect our ability to provide a service to tribal nations and to people in Indian country that it’s difficult because of the funding mechanism.
I think one thing that I wanted to just say, one last thing I wanted to say before I get off here, is that - well, a couple things. I agree with what everybody is saying so far. We’re all mirrored. A lot of us are saying the same things, but the funding is the biggest issue for me, and there - and I don’t see why tribes cannot get direct funding through DHS like states do. We need to work on that issue. We need to move forward with that issue.
We’ve got to as tribal nations work together to incur at department of homeland security to carve out money of a proportionate share of funding they give the states and give it directly to tribes to allow tribes to put together viable emergency management organizations within - on their reservations, on their Rancherias, and within the communities they live. So that’s the only - those are my only comments. I thank you for your time.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you, sir.
Operator: We’ll move next to Rose Whitehair with Navajo nation.
Rose Whitehair: Yes, hi. Can you all hear me okay?
Jessica Stewart: Yes.
Rose Whitehair: Okay, great. I wholeheartedly agree with a lot of the comments that have already been expressed by my other fellow brothers and sisters on the phone, and I want to thank them for being able to eloquently put in what needs to be heard, that tribes should get direct funding from department of homeland security. I also know that there’s funding available under the department of commerce for first net, but even though we’re not hearing very much about that as well.
So I’m excited to hear that FEMA is still working on their outreach for tribal consultation, and I’m happy to hear that you guys are still going to keep it going. One of the things that I also am finding out here in my work here with the emergency management of the Navajo nation is that while we’re working with the tribes, we’re having a lot of different issues that are being brought to the table and referenced to land.
And by land, we have just different groupings of different lands and different land agencies, so this is another thing that we’ll - that you’ll definitely want to be touching base with the tribes on, is the land status. There’s some tribes as Rod Mendes from Hoopah had mentioned earlier. They have Rancherias. Some of the tribes have reservations. Other tribes have fragments of land. Some tribes have no land status whatsoever, but we also need to think about a lot of lands.
We also need to think about reservations that have again the fragmented tribal individual privately held lands. There’s just a lot of different land bases and land things that we need to consider when we move forward in our efforts as well, so that’s just one thing that’s just kind of what I’m noticing on this side. So that was one of the main things, and again also the thresholds that are being requested for the tribes. They - there is - when I - the Navajo nation itself is huge, and I’m sure that you guys have heard that we’re bigger than West Virginia. We’re also bigger than Switzerland.
So our communities are 110 different communities. There’s 110 different chapters here on our reservation alone, so these communities, when they’re being asked to assist with 25% cost share, some of them just do not have that, so if - and I know that when I read my public assistance guides, there is wording in there that states that there can be instances where 100% of the federal funding may even be available for a limited period of time if authorized by the President.
And that’s in the public assistance applicant handbook, FEMA P-323 on page 22, at the very bottom of the page, so if conditions warrant and if authorized by the President, 100% federal funding may even be available for a limited period of time. So we know that it’s doable. That’s just one thing that I wanted to share with you guys. Thank you.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you. So at this time we’re going to go through the next - I know we have a few people in the queue, and we’ll hold those comments until we go through what criteria FEMA uses to evaluate state requests for individual assistance, what criteria FEMA uses to evaluate a state’s need for a cost share adjustment and finally how FEMA designates areas once a Presidential declaration determination has been made.
So what we’d like to hear from you are any of those unique conditions or circumstances that either impact Indian country generally or your tribe specifically so that we can create criteria that best fit the needs of yours and your need for public assistance and individual assistance cost share adjustments. So with that I’ll turn it over to Colleen Finkl, the individual assistance branch chief in region 5. Colleen?
Colleen Finkl: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. The individual assistance program is assistance to individuals and households. The individual assistance programs can provide disaster housing, which provides grants for rental assistance and/or home repairs. This is 100% federally funded. FEMA’s other needs assistance provides grants for replacement of personal property, transportation, medical, dental, and funeral expenses.
The Stafford Act sets the cost share for other needs assistance cost at 75% federal, 25% non-federal. The Stafford Act does not give the President authority to waive the other needs assistance cost share. All other individual assistance programs have no cost share. Currently when a major disaster request includes individual assistance, FEMA uses the following criteria to make recommendations to the President whether federal assistance is needed. These are the current procedures as developed for states.
We need your input to modify the requirements to fit tribal government needs. FEMA looks at the concentration of damage. FEMA evaluates the concentration of damages to individuals. High concentration of damages generally indicate a greater need for federal assistance than widespread and scattered damages throughout a state.Trauma - FEMA considers the degree of trauma to a community.
Some of the conditions that might cause trauma are large numbers of injuries or deaths, large scale disruption of normal community functions and services, and emergency needs such as extended or widespread loss of power or water. Special populations - FEMA considers whether special populations such as low income, the elderly, or the unemployed are affected, and whether they may have a greater need for assistance.
We consider voluntary agency assistance. FEMA considers the extent to which voluntary agencies and state or local programs can meet the needs of disaster survivors. We also look at insurance. FEMA considers the amount of insurance coverage because by law federal disaster assistance cannot duplicate insurance coverage.
FEMA is soliciting comments on whether these individual assistance factors - the concentration of damages, trauma, special populations, voluntary agency assistance, and insurance, are appropriate for FEMA to consider when evaluating a tribal government request for individual assistance. FEMA also welcomes comments on whether there are additional factors that may be appropriate for FEMA to consider when evaluating tribal government requests for individual assistance.
FEMA is interested to hear what criteria you think should be used to evaluate state requests for individual assistance. The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act also included a provision which directed FEMA to quote, review update and revise, unquote, the factors considered when evaluating a state’s request for major disaster declaration authorizing individual assistance.
FEMA is required to revise these criteria, quote, in order to provide more objective criteria for evaluating the need for assistance to individuals, to clarify the threshold for eligibility, and to speed a declaration of a major disaster or emergency, unquote. And with that I’ll turn it back to Jessica.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you. Now we’ll turn it over to (Mark Price), the deputy recovery director in region six, to go over the cost share adjustment criteria that we use to evaluate a state’s request for a cost share adjustment. (Mark)?
Mark Price: Hey, thanks, Jessica. As previously discussed, most types of disaster assistance provided under the Stafford Act have non-federal cost share requirements. The Stafford Act sets the cost share of other needs assistance at 75% federal, 25% non-federal. The Stafford Act sets the federal cost share for public assistance at not less than 75%. The Stafford Act allows the President to contribute up to 75% of the cost of hazard mitigation.
The President may only adjust the non-federal cost share for public assistance. The discretion to adjust or waive the non-federal cost share rests solely with the President. FEMA’s regulations outline the criteria FEMA uses to recommend to the President whether an adjustment to the federal cost share is warranted. Currently FEMA will recommend the President adjust the federal cost share from 75% to not more than 90% when actual federal obligations under the Stafford Act meet or exceed $133 per capita of state population.
This number is adjusted annual for inflation. In making this recommendation, FEMA may also consider the impact of major disaster declarations in the state during the previous 12 months. FEMA is soliciting comments on whether the per capita threshold used for states would be appropriate for evaluating whether to recommend a cost share adjustment for tribal declarations. FEMA also welcomes comments on what other factors may be appropriate for FEMA to consider when evaluating potential cost share adjustments for tribal declarations.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you, Mark. We’ll turn it over finally to Dennis Moffett, who is the deputy director of the recovery division in region 7, who will provide an overview of the process that FEMA uses to designate state areas eligible for assistance. Thank you.
Dennis Moffett: Good afternoon, everyone. After the President declares an emergency or major disaster like this in a state, areas within that state are then designated eligible for assistance. FEMA’s regulatory definition of that term, designated area, is any emergency or major disaster affected portion of the state which has been determined eligible for federal assistance. That assistance could be the public assistance program we talked about, the individual assistance program, or the hazard mitigation program.
In practice if FEMA typically identifies designated areas on a geographical basis, typically counties, parishes, independent cities, sometimes Indian tribal governments. These are called designated areas eligible for assistance. We’re soliciting comment in twofold, how FEMA should designate tribal areas eligible for assistance, and one or more of the programs we talked about, whether it’s public assistance, individual assistance, or hazard mitigation branch program, and secondly, how FEMA should use the definition of tribal lands, or assigned tribal lands during the pilot program. With that, back to Jessica.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you, Dennis. So now we’ll open it back up for comments. You heard now about the Stafford Act change, the declaration requirements, the types of declarations that you can request, that tribes can now request, public assistance criteria that FEMA uses to make a recommendation to the President for states, as well as individual assistance criteria that FEMA uses to make a recommendation to the President for state requests for individual assistance, cost share adjustments, and designating areas.
So we’d like to take this time to take any comments, questions, concerns, on any topic that we’ve talked about today. If you want to talk about individual assistance or designating areas, we definitely welcome that as well. So with that, operator, can you give us those instructions again?
Operator: Certainly. As a reminder if you would like to ask a question, that is star one, and please make sure your phone is unmuted before you record, so we’ll go to Jack Schaefer with Native Village of Point Hope.
Jack Schaefer: Good afternoon. Thank you for allowing me to speak. I was hoping I would hear somebody from Alaska make some statements also. As we have discovered the government relationship with the federal government, we have a lot of expectations and - but we’ve been having you know, real problems with the state. The state doesn’t recognize us as tribes and they preclude all of our - practically all of our programs up here, and you know, we’ve been relying on municipalities and counties, otherwise known as burrows.
And so we’ve had some storms up here. I’m calling from way up in the Arctic, and I hope that there’s some mechanism in place for oversight to make sure that these burrows follow up on repair work for damages to homes. We’ve got a few homes that experienced - you know, went through a storm and had their roof torn and stuff like that, but there was no repair that was done and the burrow had made a commitment but never followed through to this day.
And it’s been just about a year now that this has happened, and we sure would like to have some type of oversight, and dealing with you know, disasters onshore or offshore, you know, shouldn’t be based just on mother nature but also by manmade activities. Back in 1957, all of the caribou nearly died in central Canada, and there was great starvation over there by the people over there back then because of fallout from nuclear testing.
There was a disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. There was a couple disasters in regards to the ocean and dealing with nuclear facilities. Chernobyl was a major disaster in regards to us and some of the side effects, and so I think there’s a need to look at those types of things and have those addressed also, and mechanisms for providing assistance in that regard, both for health and immediate, you know, needs that may occur and dealing with starvation as a result.
There’s been a lot of industry interest up here. There has been no mechanism to deal with responses, and there’s considerably different than the Gulf of Mexico. We had a loss of a couple of our food chains that have not been addressed by EPA. EPA has punished us in regards to our concerns in dealing with FEMA. I mean, not FEMA, but NEPA and their requirements of explanation of impacts and when we corrected them, they told us give us our money back.
And so we don’t even have money to operate in regards to whenever we express ourselves and provide corrections in dealing with our government to government relationship in public hearings. We have been punished, and so it’s a very interesting experience up here, up in the Arctic, in dealing with our desire to survive. We lost our food chain a couple times due to seismic activities that killed a portion of our food chain that resulted in the loss of food in our shores.
And then we have a disaster by a storm, we are forced to live in these houses that are constructed. We used to live in sod houses that didn’t take much heat. Now we’ve got houses that are made out of wood, and so it gets cold really easy. And so I do encourage that there be some oversight in regards and follow-up, and making sure that these things are being done.
The state has been very, very hostile to us throughout the whole state of Alaska, and we have 200 tribes here or more, and it both deals with subsistence and our way of life and survival, because we have no economy and no money, no taxation, as was stated by you all earlier. Thank you. I wasn’t really prepared for this and - but you know, a couple of my uncles had some problems and the burrow hasn’t helped, but they had helped to a certain point and they stepped in and they even sacrificed their application to FEMA for reimbursements, and so I hope there’s a follow-up to make sure that they do submit the paperwork and get something back. Thank you again.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you very much.
Operator: We’ll move next to Charles Kimet with IM Tribal Affairs Caucus.
Charles Kimet: Hi, can you hear me okay?
Jessica Stewart: Yes, we can, (Chuck).
Charles Kimet: Well, for - I’m coming to the party a little late, so I don’t know if this has already been discussed. Excuse me. But one of the things that needed to be considered with regards to PA and IA and tribal lands, some of what has already been talked about is that besides the different definitions of land masses for tribes, you also have the issue that most tribal communities cannot actually own the land that they live on.
So they may or may not own the house, but they can’t - they don’t have a deed to the land, so there’s that issue when it comes to the formula of individual assistance and how that actually plays out or doesn’t play out because of that problem, and then what you end up having a lot of times is tribes as you’ve heard through this conversation, tribes help out their tribal members from government funds to the tribal members or to the communities, which essentially ends up being like public assistance to the tribes.
But then it doesn’t interpret into that calculation for public assistance when it comes to reimbursement from FEMA. Just using the tribe that I worked for before as an example, we’ve gone through a couple Presidential declarations which caused a lot of home damage, one a couple years ago where we had 168 homes that were everywhere from minor to completely destroyed. We provided with tribal funds the means to be able to fix those homes, whether it just be you know, repairing roofs or sides and what not.
But then when FEMA came in from that declaration, none of those funds were eligible to be reimbursed because it was not considered public assistance, but then there was no way to have it fall under individual assistance, because the homeowners can’t - you know, they don’t own the lands, and the only people that - or you know, the people that essentially own the land is the government, so there’s a disconnect there that needs to be fixed as well as all the other issues that you guys have been talking about.
And I would say from the IAM standpoint, everything that I’ve heard on the call so far today from all of my fellow emergency managers out there, we completely agree with, and we definitely stand looking to FEMA for that help, and we’ll be there in any which way that we can in order to provide any assistance or guidance, and that’s all.
Oh, I’m sorry, one other thing, I would also encourage FEMA to put together some type of training whether it be at EMI or done out in the field or something for tribes so that way they can not necessarily just train on the disaster process, but how we actually go about writing a good disaster declaration request, because you know, the states obviously, they are used to doing this.
They know how to write the declaration, you know, request process that would get considered, but tribes obviously have never had to do that, so if FEMA wants to get good information from tribes as to what information, you know, they need for that request, tribes need to know how to write that request. It’s the kind of that old adage of garbage in, garbage out. So we would ask that FEMA comes up with some type of training course or process for helping tribes to be able to actually go through and write a good disaster declaration request. That’s all.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you.
Operator: And again we have a question from Elvin Windyboy with Chippewa Cree Rocky Boy Mountain.
Elvin Windyboy: Good afternoon. Let’s go back a little on the gentleman that mentioned the clarification on the colorful state’s comment. Here in Montana, Rocky Boy, we’ve encountered several disasters in 2010 and 2011 and the question that I would have is, there’s a number of sites that were potentially unearthed to the point that where we may have to go back out and reevaluate those. I’d like a little more in-depth discussion at some point.
The other one was a clarification on some tribes are self-governance tribes, and I realize FEMA is a part of the infrastructure and in that case government. What abilities do tribes have to be able to identify potential tribal shares, for the simple reason that we don’t have the fiscal resources to create this or (unintelligible). If given that opportunity, I’m sure we can create one. I would like a little more discussion on - at some point, on determination for - from FEMA on the government. Why couldn’t tribal governments determine I guess the deed issue for tribes that was discussed a little earlier? That’s it for now.
Jessica Stewart: Oh, thank you, sir. If you have any - let me ask a clarifying question. Are you asking about the administration of like a housing program or other needs assistance? Is that what you’re talking about?
Elvin Windyboy: Yes.
Jessica Stewart: Okay, all right. Well, we’ll - if you have any thoughts on - because a tribe or a state for that matter can administer their own, and Colleen, if you want to - do you want to answer this question about administering your own other needs assistance program, or just - we can follow up with them through region 8, whichever you prefer, Colleen.
Colleen Finkl: Probably in the interest of time, a follow-up afterwards.
Jessica Stewart: Okay, sounds good. So we’ll follow up with you.
Elvin Windyboy: Okay.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you.
Operator: We’ll go next to Elliot Ward with Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
Elliot Ward: Hello, this is Elliot. I’ve got the vice chairman here, Mike Faith. He’d like to address some of the questions for this response period, and then I want to throw a few things in there myself.
Mike Faith: All right, good afternoon, everybody. You know, when we have disasters in our areas, the first thing we always, you know, of course there’s funding. There’s grants available, but one thing I’ve got to bring to everybody’s attention is that the imminent threat grants that are out there, they’re great in the time of need, but they’re so poverty-stricken that 90% of our people of need can’t get them because their poverty guidelines, and again when disaster hits it’s everybody.
Fortunately some do have insurance, great. But I think that we need to really look at things like that when these grants become available to the tribe such as imminent threat. You know, the guidelines that come with it for the needs and repairs that are needed out there, I mean, we’ve got to look at moving those guidelines up a little bit, because most likely if a person that’s going to be under the poverty guidelines most likely going to be living in a HUD home anyway which is ensured, so sometimes it makes sense, don’t make sense.
The other thing, option to choose, that’s great. We have worked with FEMA and we really appreciate that. We’ll learn as we go, but again, population size of the counties, the magnitude of the disasters, I really liked what I heard today of the direct funded. You know, you got the 75%, 15% state and 10% tribal. Well, if that direct funding even came to us from the tribe as a 15% and still hold us accountable for 10, that would be great.
The 25% when we come into a disaster, it does create financial burdens for everybody. Of course, mother nature being what she is is just unexpected, but you could plan for the worst and again they still may not have enough money for that, so again the grants that are set aside, we need to look at putting up the income guidelines a little better, because like I said, the ones that are eligible for it, heck, they’re probably already in housing because of the poverty guidelines, and housing has those insured.
But you got that middle class people that are going to be hit with financial burdens, and I tell you what, there’s a lot of them. Now I’m talking Indian and non-Indian, because our neighbors, a lot of us that are there, when the storms hit, it’s just not natives. So again, citizens as a whole, we need to look at moving those guidelines up a little more. It’s too poverty-stricken.
So with that I want to thank everybody, and again just for everybody’s information, you know, technical systems from FEMA is there. We took advantage of that, and I’ll tell you what, they helped us out a lot with a multi-hazard mitigation plan, so again we thank FEMA for that. I’ll turn it over to (Elliot). You have a good day.
Elliot Ward: I just want to make a couple comments here. This emergency management area on homeland security, some of the things that we found here in the last year and a half is that working through the state with the grants on the preliminary damage assessments, the PDAs, seen in the Stafford Act that that can be - possibly be done by the Indian tribal governments. We would need probably some technical assistance from FEMA or some kind of training in that areas - in those areas.
That has caused problems in the past in some of our projects. The PDAs were done by the state emergency services. Sometimes we had problems getting the appropriate project worksheets for the different projects. Once that happens, a lot of times we would get project worksheets that indicated a certain project by latitudes and longitudes. Some - before that they were done by names of individuals or homes of individuals, house numbers, and so that caused a problem.
One of the things that we found out because of those things is sometimes we see that the project end dates, and now you’re saying that you know, 30 days to request an extension. I think that’s not long enough, because what happens is like in 2009, ’10, and ’11, we had those severe winter storms, ice storms, and then the flooding. We went from one declaration into another declaration into another declaration, and some of them that started in ’09 didn’t get finished until ’11 because of concurring incidences.
Once you exceed your project timeline, then you become a high risk and you have to work on a reimbursement basis, which causes problems because a lot of tribes don’t have the upfront money to do the projects, and if we have to do it on reimbursement, that becomes a problem, a big problem. I guess those are some of the things that I just wanted to share because of things that we saw here in the last couple years over our processes.
Someone mentioned the THERA process. I think that some of the grants that we worked with, the tribes did not have to comply with the THERA process at this time. I don’t know if any other tribes experienced that or not. Those things, one of the things is that, you know, in these grants there’s obligational funds within 24 months, and I explained that, that sometimes these projects go longer than 24 months, and in order to - I know there’s a few of them that used to be three years, and now it’s been changed back to two years, so that’s something to consider and the time periods of some of these grants.
There are some resiliency grants that are out there for tribal communities, but very limited. There are state programs out there for firefighters. Most of our HUD homes are on the reservation. We’ve got maybe over 1000 HUD homes scattered throughout the reservation, and because the tribe does not have its own fire department, structural fire department, the insurance costs are skyrocketing on those housing units.
BIA has wild land fire management teams, but they do not - according to their policies they cannot help with structural firefighters, structural fires, so then we’re left with a house that you can’t touch. By the time a volunteer department gets there they’ve burned down. And so those are some of the things, some of the grants that are out there and available but not enough funding for.
We need more funding for those types of things, if the tribe’s going to go directly with FEMA. We need additional funds. One of the things I noticed also too is that we did not have an office, emergency management office in place or a public works office in place to handle all of the PDAs, the project work orders, the grants themselves, all of these things.
And so starting up for a new tribe into working with FEMA directly is going to take some administrative and management costs. And if we could have some budget set aside for that, that would be great. It would help the tribes get a good start on that, but there has to be a lot more training. That’s all I have.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you very much.
Operator: And we’ll go next to Frank Paizwith Yosetta Del Sur Pueblo.
Josh Garcia: Yes, this is Josh Garcia, emergency management coordinator for Yosetta Del Sur Pueblo. In reference to the federal register section 9 designating areas eligible for assistance, definition of tribal lands, our comments are that tribal lands should be defined as all land under the control of the tribal council or tribal government of respective tribes, whether in trust or fee simple, and whether contiguous or non-contiguous to the main reservation. Tribal lands should include lands both inside and outside of the service area recognized by HUD, and those - that is my comment. Thank you.
Operator: We’ll go next to Rod Mendes with Hoopah Valley Tribes.
Rod Mendes: Once again, hi. Okay, you know that last comment about tribal designated areas, definition of tribal lands, I fully agree that we’ve got to make sure that that language is in there. I have just a couple comments and I’ll get off again. So I’m hearing kind of a commonality about what’s going on with tribes nationally and how we’re able to provide you know, either concierge components for public assistance, how tribes’ populations need to be looked at differently than states’ populations.
The damage per capita issue is damage per capita is always going to be an issue. Direct funding is a big issue for us, but one comment I wanted to make as I read through the big errors in the top of this document, as I read through the document that I was sent where we’re soliciting comments, I’m hoping that as FEMA goes through this process of real - and looking at the Stafford Act and making the changes specific to the Stafford Act that would affect tribes, that please, go in there and make sure that wherever it says state, that you also say and tribes, and tribal governments, or tribal nations, or tribes or something, because as you read this Stafford Act, it gets very confusing for tribes.
It gets very confusing for states, because unless you’re an expert in the Stafford Act language and understand it completely, folks that are going through there and looking for information to get guidance on a process, there’s no reference of tribes in there in the majority of the document. So I would say take a look at that and try to gear that document more towards being user friendly for tribes and the notice of tribes throughout the document, not just occasionally. So that’s the comment I had. Thank you.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you.
Operator: We’ll take the next question from Jake Heflin with Tribal Emergency Management Association.
Jake Heflin: Hello, everyone. I - you know, I just wanted to say again thank you for the opportunity to speak on this, and I just have some comments here, and some of them are related to the Stafford Act and some of them are a little bit beyond the scope of the Stafford Act, but nonetheless very relevant, and one thing that I really want to talk about is this consultation process.
And as we move forward with the pilot program and things like that pertaining to consultation, there’s going to be an important process not only for the Stafford Act, but other things such as the natural response framework and the national flood insurance plan, and I think those are things that are already in place and already well in motion, you know, to the White House.
And I’m concerned that in a lot of ways, we’re falling short on that consultation process with FEMA, and as we start moving forward towards developing these processes and these plans, especially the FIP and the NRF, those are significant things that have a significant impact on tribal government, and play a specific role with regard to the Stafford Act itself when we start talking about insurance and things like that.
So when we have these large scale processes that are in place, consultation, it has to be done to tribal communities and tribal nations, and it’s not just the Stafford Act, but it’s all these other nuances that play an integral role in how disasters impact tribal communities. Now the second thing I want to talk a little bit about is those - the emergency management chairs, and we talked about the direct funding and the importance of that, and we can see the value of those 638 chairs that tribes do bring back to their own communities and utilize for things like emergency medical services and fire services or wild land fire services.
And we see the value of bringing those chairs back to those tribal communities through that direct funding, but there’s no emergency management chairs, and I think that’s something that we really need to strive for, to follow through on, because in the absence of those emergency management chairs, that’s why we haven’t seen success perpetuated in tribal communities with regard to developing strong emergency management programs and these strong viable plans that require those - that funding, that direct funding to see.
And in turn what we do is we do this to the tribal homeland security grant process. We put tribes against tribes. We actually make it a competitive bidding process, and we limit the funding available to them and so now there’s only certain tribes getting funded for certain projects, and as we can see here in this phone call today, all these tribes, all the tribes on this phone, all the tribes in the country, all 566 of them have specific needs and issues that need to be addressed, and when we pit tribes against tribes and say we only have a limited amount of funding and make it competitive, there’s no winner in that.
And as we start looking forward to this process, I want to say that obviously many disasters that we talk about don’t ever hit the Stafford declarations, but none less they pose a significant impact on those tribal communities, and thus that’s one thing that I want to say is there’s no one solution for this, and many instances I think this is going to have to be on a tribe by tribe basis and have to be evaluated on a case by case basis, because I think there’s no one answer or one easy solution.
It doesn’t fit into a box with regard to tribal processes and tribal government. And then moving forward on that, I just want to talk about - obviously this is a big deal, and this is a really important time in our history as native people, and I want to talk about that because I think in context of this when we start looking at tribal communities and the outreach to the tribal nations, it’s not an external affair, and I really believe this should be - that it’s our own emergency support function.
We should create a tribal emergency support function because we are specific and we are unique and we are different, and I think that would also be in line with their trust responsibilities that the government has. And kind of lastly, what I’d like to talk about real briefly is as we start moving forward on some of these declarations and some of the response from FEMA to some of these tribes that experience these disasters and these emergencies is that we try to create a process that really supports the development of tribal FCOs, because I think more and more it’s going to be important that the FCOs are very aware of the tribal nuances and the importance and the relevancy placed on our cultures, traditions and customs, and our specific elements with regard to sovereignty and self-governance.
And those are specific things that are important that those FCOs need to be aware of when they come and work with tribal communities to help us recover and stride into the future. Thank you.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you.
Operator: We’ll move next to Vernon James with San Carlos Apache tribe.
Vernon James: Thank you. I appreciate what was said just right before me, and I’d like to go a little bit further. This amendment that we’re talking about allows tribes to make declarations regarding emergencies and disasters. I’d like to have us use this as a learning and developmental tool that should require updates, periodic updates, to evolve over the next five to ten years to mature tribal involvement.
In other words, as we implement the amendment, we’re going to find shortcomings. We’re going to find that we didn’t define this well enough. We’re going to find that we didn’t think about certain things. I’d like to mandate us to come together every two to three years and make revisions to this amendment as a collective body, and that’s my comment.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you, sir. We appreciate your comments.
Operator: We’ll move next to Rod Mendes with Hoopah Valley tribe.
Rod Mendes: Just - I’m sorry. You know, I hit the button in excitement, didn’t have any more to add, but I do want to say in kind of chiming in with Jake Heflin is that some of the 638 contracting is good. Hoopah is a self-governance compact tribe. We don’t have 638 contracting, so I think more so we need to look at - and that kind of gives you an idea of the difference in tribes. FEMA understands some of that.
I don’t think they fully understand all of it, but there are people that do within the organization. But it is all about if you want us to be effective and us to be efficient and to be able to be you know, in parity with everybody else nationally as government agencies or as government to government organizations, you’ll see this is going to come down to a matter of funding for tribes to be able to do the preparedness part of the planning.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you very much. We are also very excited to understand why you’d push the button to share your thoughts.
Operator: And it appears we have no further questions at this time. I’d like to turn the conference back to Miss Stewart.
Jessica Stewart: Thank you. We’ll hand it over to (Beth Zimmerman) for closing comments.
Beth Zimmerman: I just want to say thanks to everybody, if anybody’s still on the line. Thank you for your time. This has been a good conversation, good input from all of you, and this will all be documented and this transcript will go up on the Web site, so we’ll have a chance to take a look at that. I want to thank Jessica Stewart here who’s been running the show, Richard Flores from our tribal affairs office here at FEMA, as well as all the other FEMA agents, FEMA regions that have been participating with their subject matter experts on the different various programs that you heard today.
Thank you for our operator here, for monitoring the call. For everybody else that’s been participating, just want to thank everybody. Your input will assist us as we do move forward. As noted in one of the comments, we did start with a blank piece of paper here, and we’ll be looking forward to pulling in the comments after April 22nd to take a look at them and to develop a pilot program and to be able to put that out for folks to comment on.
Please, as I said, the transcript from this will be on fema.gov/tribal-consultation in the next few days. So if you have anything else, we do have the deadline of April 22nd, 11:59pm eastern, to submit any other written comments that you might think of, and we look forward to getting those comments, either through the federal register - this is our final call that we will be hosting, but there’s other ways of getting in through the email inbox under email@example.com.
And on that note, just once again, thanks, everybody. Through this process and as we move this forward, it is very, very important to us here at FEMA to be able to do this and to make the changes that we need to, so thank you to everyone.
Operator: And that does conclude today’s presentation. Thank you for your participation.