PHOENIX, Ariz. -- A formal agreement between the sovereign Navajo Nation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) clearing the path for federal disaster recovery relief was signed in a ceremony in Window Rock, Ariz., Friday, Oct. 27.
The agreement was signed for the Navajo Nation by President Joe Shirley. Signing for FEMA were Lee Rosenberg, the federal coordinating officer who oversees the disaster recovery in Arizona, and Tony Russell, his FEMA counterpart for the New Mexico disaster.
FEMA's Arizona office will handle federal assistance to the Navajo Nation in both Arizona and New Mexico.
"This is the first time that FEMA has responded to natural disasters that cross the boundaries of two states, two (FEMA) regions and two Joint Field Offices," Russell said. "The whole design is to give the Navajo a single point of federal contact."
"The government-to-government agreement between FEMA and the Navajo Nation paves the way for us to continue working closely together," Rosenberg said. "We have taken an important step toward recovery from the monsoon storms that struck the Navajo Nation."
During the ceremony Navajo President Shirley said, "This is the way it should be. We stand side-by-side and work together. We can't do it alone."
The federal disaster declarations include Navajo Nation lands within Navajo County in Arizona and in New Mexico within Cibola, McKinley, Rio Arriba, Sandoval and Socorro counties.
President Bush signed a disaster declaration for New Mexico on Aug. 30 and for Arizona on Sept. 7.
The signing of the agreement allows the federal government to begin releasing funds to assist in repairing roads and other public facilities damaged by flooding. Under terms of the presidential disaster declarations, reimbursement for the Arizona portion is limited to damage occurring between July 25 and Aug. 4. In the New Mexico portion, reimbursement is available for damage between July 26 and Sept. 18.
The declarations allow federal assistance for tribal, state and local governmental entities and certain qualifying private non-profit organizations in the declared areas. FEMA reimbursement covers debris removal, emergency protective measures and the repair or replacement of damaged public facilities.
FEMA personnel will work with staff of the Nation to review eligible disaster recovery projects. FEMA covers at least 75 percent of an eligible project's cost, with the Navajo Nation providing the remaining 25 percent.
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident, initiates mitigation activities and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA works closely with state and local emergency managers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters and other first responders. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.