Region 4 Tribal Consultation Call - Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 9:30am Central

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Emergencies and Major Disaster Declarations

 

Operator:             Please stand by. We’re about to begin. At this time all participants are in a listen-only mode until the comment portion of the call. If you’d like to provide a comment at that time, please press star then 1 on your touch-tone phone. Today’s conference is being recorded. If you have any objection you may disconnect. Now I’d like to turn the call over to your FEMA Region IV Tribal Liaison, Elisa Roper. Please go ahead ma’am.

Elisa Roper:         Thank you very much Operator. Good morning everyone and welcome to the Region IV consultation conference call. I want to thank you all for taking the time to call in today to share your input on the implementation of tribal declarations.

                              The purpose of today’s call is to hear from tribal leaders, tribal emergency managers, disaster recovery subject matter experts, and other interested tribal members or partners and to capture their thoughts, comments and concerns about FEMA’s implementation of tribal major disaster emergency declarations.

                              This is just the beginning of the consultation process in the open comment period running through April 22, 2013. Comments you provide today will be the foundation for the development of the pilot guidance which will be used to create the final regulations.

                              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 record of this meeting will be posted on www.fema.gov/tribal-consultation. 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 Region IV Regional Administrator Phillip May. Mr. May coordinates preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation activities in Region IV’s eight states. He also oversees recovery offices throughout the region. Mr. May will be followed by subject matter experts on the Stafford Act, the declaration process, disaster assistance, individual assistance, public assistance, hazard mitigation assistance, and cost-share criteria.

                              After a brief description of each agenda’s topic the operator will open the line to provide approximately ten minutes for you to provide comments. The Operator will then close the line and we’ll move to the next topic. You may also provide your written comments through the following venues. Online at the Federal Register notice docket ID fema-2013-0006 document number 2013-05391 at http://federalregister.gov/a/2013-05391.

                              FEMA’s online collaboration site at fema.ideascale.gov and e-mail inbox tribal consultation at fema.dhs.gov. There’s also a postal mailing address which is Regulatory Affairs Division, Office of Chief Counsel, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Room 835, 500 C Street SW, Washington, D.C. 20472-3100.

                              I did provide this information in the invitations and I will also provide it again because I know you all probably didn’t catch all that that I just read off. So but you can contact me for the website address, email address, and/or the postal address if I don’t get the information to you as quickly as you’d like me to. Now we will hear from Mr. Phillip May, FEMA Region IV Regional Administrator.

Phillip May:          Thank you, Elisa. Good morning everyone. As Elisa said, my name is Phillip May. On Tuesday, January 29, 2013 President Obama signed the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013 which 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 President for a federal emergency or major disaster declarations or to seek assistance as they did previously under a declaration for a state.

                              The enactment of this provision is a clear demonstration of the importance that tribal leadership and their governments are to our nation. It follows on the President’s commitment to Indian Country, strengthens the government’s - the government relationship between FEMA and federally recognized tribal governments and will enhance the way FEMA supports tribal communities before, during, and after disasters. We commend the efforts of tribal leadership representatives in their organizations who have made this change a reality. The amendment reflects the FEMA administrators’ three core principles regarding tribal governments.

                              First, federally recognized tribal governments are sovereign governments. The Stafford Act now clearly reflects the federally recognized tribal government’s status as a sovereign nation giving them the same status as states when requesting federal disaster assistance. Two, FEMA has a government-to-government relationship with federally recognized tribal governments.

                              Three, tribal governments themselves determine the best way to address their disaster needs. The Stafford Act amendment now gives tribal governments the choice to request declarations on their own but tribal governments are not required to make requests on their own. The tribe may continue to seek assistance through a state request if they choose. The legislation does not require tribal governments to change their relationships with the states but states cannot direct tribal governments to make a request on their own or require tribal governments to be included in the state’s request. The tribe makes that determination.

                              This is a substantial change in the Stafford Act. Changing the Stafford Act to recognize tribal sovereignty is just the beginning. Through this consultation process today we will hear from you, tribal leaders, tribal emergency management directors, disaster recovery subject matter experts regarding the items FEMA should consider as we develop pilot guidance to implement tribal declarations.

                              We appreciate your participating in today’s call and forming the development of the pilot guides. Remember, you may also provide your written comments to the Federal Register at Idea Scale. I’ll now return it to Elisa Roper. Elisa.

Elisa Roper:         Thank you Mr. May. Our speakers today will describe specific aspects of the programs as applied to states and territories. We need your input to modify the requirements to fit tribal government needs. We’ll now hear a quick overview of the Stafford Act change from Stuart Baker, Regional Counsel.

Stuart Baker:       Thank you, Elisa. As the Regional Administrator mentioned, 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 United States President for a federal emergency or major disaster declaration or to seek assistance as they did previously under a declaration request by a state.

                              Specifically the amendment permits the chief executive of an affected tribal government to submit the request to the President for a declaration that a major disaster or emergency exists consistent with the requirements listed in Stafford Act Section 401 for major disasters and Section 501 for 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 amendment also gives the President the authority to waive or adjust the cost share for public assistance. The amendment specifies that references to any combination of the words state and local in the Stafford Act should be read to include the tribal governments and that references to a governor or a state should also be read to include chief executive or tribal government as appropriate.

                              Finally the amendment requires FEMA to consider the unique conditions that affect the general welfare of tribal governments when implementing this new authority.

Elisa Roper:         Thank you, Stuart. We will now hear a quick overview of declarations tribes may request and assistance that may be made available. We will now hear from Gary Brewer, Recovery Division Deputy Director about the declarations and disaster assistance process.

Gary Brewer:      Thank you, Elisa. Good morning everyone. What I want to cover is an overview of the declarations process and the disaster assistance that’s offered. 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’s or tribe’s capability to respond.

                              Upon receiving a request for a declaration FEMA assesses the impact of the event and makes a recommendation to the President. The President in his discretion may determine that the situation warrants supplemental assistance under the Stafford Act and make the declaration. Tribal governments can request the following types of declarations. Emergency declarations. Emergency declarations are to supplement state, tribal and local efforts to save and protect lives, protect property, public health and safety or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe.

                              A major disaster declaration may provide a wider range of federal assistance programs for individuals and public infrastructure including funds for both emergency and permanent work required as a result of a natural catastrophe or, regardless of cause, a fire, flood or explosion. The following are requirements for declaration requests. It must be submitted by the chief executive of a federally recognized tribal government.

                              It must be submitted within 30 days of the date of the incident or within the 30 days of the date of the incident the chief executive may submit a written request for additional time. Such request must provide the reasons for 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 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. An estimate of the amount and severity of damages and losses stating the impact of the disaster on the public and private sector, and information describing the nature and amount of tribal government resources which have been or will be committed to alleviate the results of the disaster.

                              Preliminary estimates based on joint FEMA, tribal, preliminary damage assessments or PDAs of the types and amount of supplementary federal disaster assistance needed under the Stafford Act, and a certification that the tribe will meet all applicable cost-share requirements. If requesting the hazard mitigation grant program or permanent work under the public assistance program, the tribe must have a FEMA-approved or approvable mitigation plan within 30 days of the date of the declaration.

                              It must also comply with grant administrator requirements and the tribe must also have public assistance hazard mitigation grant program and/or other needs assistance administrative plans. More information on these requirements can be found at www.fema.gov/tribal-consultation. With that I’ll turn it back to Elisa for comments.

Elisa Roper:         Thank you very much, Gary. Operator, we will now open it up to comments first from tribal executives. When you provide your input if you could please identify your name, title, and affiliation before you ask. Operator, can we have those instructions?

Operator:             If you would like to make a comment or provide input please press star then 1 on your Touch-tone phone. You will be prompted to record your first and last name. Please check that your phone is unmuted before you record. One moment please to allow time to queue up.

Elisa:                    We do have five of the six tribes on the line now plus (unintelligible)

Operator:             And we have no one in queue. We’ll go back to Ms. Elisa Roper.

Elisa Roper:         Thank you, Operator. Gary will now present an overview of individual assistance criteria and then we’ll open it up for comments from tribal government. Here you go, Gary.

Gary Brewer:      Thank you, Elisa. What I’d like to cover now is one of the types of FEMA disaster assistance that may be made available with a major disaster declaration, individual assistance. Individual assistance provides direct and financial assistance to individuals for housing and other disaster-related needs. Individual assistance ensures that disaster survivors have prompt access to a full range of programs and services to speed and simplify their recovery through a coordination of assistance and partnerships among federal, state, tribal and local government, voluntary agencies and the private sector.

                              So individual assistance includes assistance to individuals and households. Individual assistance programs can provide disaster housing which provides grants for rental assistance and/or home repairs and this is 100% federally funded. Other needs assistance which provides grants for replacement of personal property, transportation, medical, dental and funeral expenses and the Stafford Act sets the cost share for other needs assistance at 75% federal and 25% nonfederal.

                              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 determine whether federal assistance is needed. These are the current procedures as developed for a state. We need your input to modify the requirements to fit tribal government needs.

                              The first is a concentration of damages. FEMA evaluates the concentration of damages to individuals. High concentrations of damages generally indicate a greater need for federal assistance than wide spread and scattered damages throughout a state. Trauma. FEMA considers the degree of trauma to the communities. 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 wide spread 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. Voluntary agency assistance. FEMA considers the extent to which voluntary agencies and state or local programs meet the needs of disaster survivors. Insurance. FEMA considers the amount of insurance coverage because by law federal disaster assistance cannot duplicate insurance coverage. The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act also included a provision which directed FEMA to review, update and revise the factors considered when evaluating the state’s request for a major disaster declaration authorizing individual assistance.

                              FEMA is required to revise these criteria 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. FEMA is soliciting comments on whether these individual assistance factors, again, 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 any additional factors that may be appropriate for FEMA to consider when evaluating tribal government requests for individual assistance. We are also interested to hear what criteria you think should be used to evaluate state requests for individual assistance. I’ll turn it back to Elisa Roper for comment.

Elisa Roper:         Thank you, Gary. Operator, we’ll now open it up to comments first from tribal executives. When you provide your input if you’d please identify your name, title and affiliation before you ask your question. Operator, can we have those instructions again please?

Operator:             If you would like to make a comment or provide input please press star then 1 on your Touch-tone phone. You will be prompted to record your first and last name. Please check that your phone is unmuted before you record. And once again, if you would like to make a comment or provide input please press star then 1 on your Touch-tone phone. And at this time we’ll go back to Ms. Roper.

Elisa Roper:         Thank you, Operator. Gary will continue with an overview of public assistance criteria and then we’ll open it up to comments from tribal governments. Go ahead Gary.

Gary Brewer:      Thank you, Elisa. Now I’ll cover the second type of FEMA disaster assistance that may be made available with a major disaster declaration, public assistance. Public Assistance provides federal disaster grants to eligible state, tribal and local government and certain private non-profit organizations for debris removal and emergency work and for the repair, replacement or restoration of publicly owned facilities and infrastructure damaged by a disaster.

                              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.

                              These are 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. Hazard mitigation. FEMA also considers the extent to which the state and local government mitigation measures contributed to the reduction of the deaths or damages for the disaster under consideration.

                              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. Programs of other federal assistance. FEMA also considers the programs of other federal agencies because at times their programs of assistance might more appropriately meet the needs created by the disaster.

                              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 damage 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 as 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 year 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, again 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 request for public assistance.

                              We would like to hear your thoughts on whether tribal government request should be evaluated based on 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 is applied to stay requests for public assistance.

                              FEMA also welcomes comments on whether there are additional factors that may be appropriate for FEMA to consider when evaluating the level of impact in tribal government’s capability to respond to and recover from an event for public assistance. I will turn it back to Elisa Roper for comments.

Elisa Roper:         Thank you very much Gary. Operator, we’ll now open it up to comments for some tribal executives. When you provide your input if you could please identify your name, title, and affiliation before you ask a question. Operator, can we have those instructions.

Operator:             If you would like to make a comment or provide input, please press star then 1 on your Touch-tone phone. You will be prompted to record your first and last name. Please check that your phone is unmuted before you record. And we’ll allow everyone time to queue up.

                              And once again, if you would like to make a comment or provide input, please press star then 1 on your Touch-tone phone. You will be prompted to record your first and last name. Please check that your phone is unmuted before you record. And at this time I’ll turn the call back to Ms. Roper.

Elisa Roper:         Thank you operator. We will now hear a brief overview of hazard mitigation assistance from Ernest Hunter with our regional mitigation division and then open it up for comments from tribal governments. Here’s Ernest. Ernest are you there?

Ernest Hunter:    Hello?

Elisa Roper:         Hi Ernest?

Ernest Hunter:    Yes?

Elisa Roper:         It’s all on you now.

Ernest Hunter:    Hello? Yes? Can you hear me?

Elisa Roper:         Yes, go ahead.

Ernest Hunter:    Yes. What is mitigation and the head of mitigation grant program better known as HMGP. An action that reduces or eliminates long term risk to people and property from natural hazards and their effects. It is authorized on Section 404 of the Robert T. Stafford Act. It provides grants to states, tribes, and local governments.

                              Typically on the 404 hazard mitigation grant program, funding is available statewide; however, if a tribe receives a presidential declaration, these grants will be restricted to tribal territory. Tribes set funding priorities and selects projects.

                              The Stafford Act allows the president to contribute up to 75% of the cost to fund a project. Total mitigation funding for a disaster is based on 15% of the total obligation of the disaster. Let me reemphasize, if requesting the hazard mitigation grant program or permanent work under public assistance program, the tribes must have a FEMA approved or approvable mitigation plan within 30 days of the date of declaration.

                              FEMA welcomes comments or whether 30 days is an appropriate amount of time for a tribal government to submit and approve or approvable tribal mitigation plan doing the pilot program. FEMA also welcomes comments on whether there are circumstances that may prevent tribal governments from submitting a tribal mitigation plan to request for an extension within this timeframe. I will turn it back over to Elisa for any comments at this time.

Elisa Roper:         Thank you Ernest. Operator, we’ll now open it up to comments first from tribal executives. When you provide your input, if you could please identify your name, title, and affiliation before you ask your question. Operator, can we have those instructions again please?

Operator:             If you would like to make a comment or provide input please press star then 1 on your Touch-tone phone. You will be prompted to record your first and last name. Please check that your phone is unmuted before you record. And we’ll allow everyone time to queue up. (Unintelligible).

(Molly Grant):     Hey Elisa, this is (Molly Grant) with Eastern Banded Cherokee Indians.

Elisa Roper:         Hi (Molly).

(Molly Grant):     Can I - actually I was - I’m interested to see what other tribes are on this conference call.

Elisa Roper:         From what I understand we have the Seminoles, the Poarch Creek, the Choctaw, the Catawba, and we also have BIA and (unintelligible).

(Molly Grant):     Okay the question that I have is, where it is stating that you all allow the tribes 30 days to get a FEMA approved hazard mitigation plan, realistically that’s not going to be enough time. Because first of all you’ve got to write this plan - if you don’t already have a plan you’re going to have to get - you’re going to have to write this plan then you’re going to have to send it for FEMA’s approval which could take weeks.

                              So I just feel like, you know, that’s not enough time for you to get an approved - or FEMA approved hazard mitigation plan

Elisa Roper:         Well thanks for the comment (Molly). Basically what we can do is if you would write that information down and all the specifics that you have said about it and we can actually send that in for the comments to be put in for the comment period for the federal register notice. That would be a great thing to add in. Do you have any other questions (Molly) or comments?

Molly Grant:        I’ll call after the conference call.

Elisa Roper:         Okay.

Operator:             And once again, if you would like to make a comment or provide input, please press star then 1 on your Touch-tone phone. You will be prompted to record your first and last name. Please check that your phone is unmuted before you record. And we’ll go back to Ms. Roper at this time.

Elisa Roper:         Now that we’ve heard some background on FEMA’s declaration process, disaster assistance, and the change to the Stafford Act, Gary Brewer will join us again and share information about cost share criteria and then open it up for comments from tribal government. Here you go Gary.

Gary Brewer:      Thanks Elisa. As previously discussed, most types of disaster assistance provided under the Stafford Act have nonfederal cost share requirements. The Stafford Act sets the cost share for other needs assistance at 75% federal and 25% nonfederal.

                              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 nonfederal cost share for public assistance.

                              The discretion to adjust or weigh the nonfederal 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 $133.00 per capita of state population. This number is adjusted annually 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 thresholds used for states would be appropriate for evaluating whether to recommend a cost share adjustment for tribal declarations. FEMA also recommends, I’m sorry, FEMA also welcomes comments on what other factors may be appropriate for FEMA to consider when evaluating potential cost share adjustments for tribal declarations. I will turn it back to Elisa for comments.

Elisa Roper:         Thanks Gary. Operator, we’ll now open it up for comments first from tribal executives. When you provide your input if you could again, please identify your name, title, and affiliation before you ask your question. Operator, can we have those instructions?

Operator:             If you would like to make a comment or provide input please press start then 1 on your Touch-tone phone. You will be prompted to record your first and last name. Please check that your phone is unmuted before you record. And we’ll pause for one moment to allow everyone time to queue up.

END

Last Updated: 
07/24/2014 - 16:00
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