Subject: Emergencies and Major Disaster Declarations
Telephone Operator: 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 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 your FEMA region 5 tribal liaison, Bill Sulinckas.
William Sulinckas: Thank you very much, operator. Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the region five consultation conference call. I want to thank you all for taking time to be on the call 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 the tribal major disaster and emergency declarations.
This is just the beginning of the consultation process. In the open comment period running through April 22nd, 2013, comments you provide today will be the foundation for the development of the pilot guidance which will be used to create the final regulation. I will be facilitating our call today. Before we begin I would like to address a quick housekeeping note. We will not be taking a role 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 as the record of it - excuse me, as a record of this meeting, it'll be posted on fema.gov/tribal-consultation for your review. FEMA is not soliciting or accepting consensus advice or recommendations on federal laws, regulations, or policies during this meeting. Rather, the purpose of the meeting is to gather individual input from a diverse group of partners regarding the federal declaration process.
Today you will hear from region 5 regional administrator Andrew Velasquez III. Andrew is a career emergency manager with experience working at the local, state, and national levels. Mr. Velasquez began his appointment as regional administrator of FEMA region 5 in May of 2010. Mr. Velasquez will be followed by subject matter experts on the Stafford Act, the declaration process, disaster assistance, Individual Assistance, Public Assistance, and Hazard Mitigation assistance and the cost share criteria. After a brief description of each agenda topic, the operator will open the line to provide approximately 10 minutes for you to provide comments. The operator will then close the lines and we'll move to the next topic. Given the number of participants on the line and the limited time we have for each topic, we ask that you limit your comments to allow others the opportunity to provide input. You may also provide your written comments through the following venues. You can do it online at the federal register notice docket ID. The ID is FEMA-2013-0006. The document number is 2013-05391, and that can be done and reached at the federalregister.gov/a/2013-05391. You can also provide comment through FEMA's online collaboration site at fema.ideascale.com, or you can use an email inbox at tribalconsultation, all one word, tribalconsultation@ FEMA.DHS.gov. Lastly you can also provide through postal mailing address, and it would be sent to the regulatory affairs division office of chief counsel, federal emergency management agency, room 835, 500 C Street SW, Washington, DC 20472-3100. You were sent this information both postal mail and email in the invite letters. You can also contact me directly for Web site addresses, email addresses, or postal addresses for - and information. Please do not submit your comments to me here at the regional office; only those processes I just mentioned are the acceptable official channels for your comments. We'll now here from Mr. Andrew Velasquez, FEMA Region 5 Regional Administrator.
Andrew Velasquez: Thank you very much, Bill. Good afternoon, everyone. As Bill stated, my name is Andrew Velasquez, and I serve as the regional administrator, and I would like to welcome you to the regional tribal consultation conference call. As you know on Tuesday, January 29th, 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 or to make a request directly to the President for a federal emergency or major disaster declaration, or to seek assistance as was done 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 commitments to Indian country, strengthens the government to government relationship between FEMA and federally recognized tribal governments, and it will enhance the way FEMA supports tribal communities before, during, and after disaster strikes. Now I just want to take the opportunity to commend the efforts of all of you, your representatives, and organizations who have made this change a reality.
This amendment reflects FEMA administrator Craig Fugate's three core principles regarding tribal governments. First, federally recognized tribal governments are sovereign governments. As such 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. Second, FEMA is committed to a government to government relationship with federally recognized tribal governments, and third, tribal governments themselves should determine the best way to address their disaster needs. This new legislation now provides tribal governments the choice to request declarations on their own, but tribal governments are not required to make a request on their own and may continue to seek assistance through a state's request if they choose. The legislation does not require tribal governments to change their relationship with states, and states cannot direct tribal governments to make a request on their own or require tribal governments to be included in the state's request. Ultimately it is you as a tribal leader who will determine how best to seek federal disaster assistance. This is a substantial change to the Stafford Act; changing the Stafford Act to recognize tribal sovereignty is just the beginning. Through this consultation process we want to hear from you, our tribal leaders, tribal emergency managers, and disaster recovery subject matter experts, regarding the items that FEMA should consider as we develop pilot guidance to implement tribal declarations. And it is my commitment to you that this consultation process be a two-way dialogue. It is critical that we incorporate your input in every step we take to implement this legislation, so we appreciate you participating in today's call, and informing the development of pilot guidance. So with that I'll turn it back over to our regional tribal liaison, Bill Sulinckas.
William Sulinckas: Thank you, Regional Administrator Velasquez. 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 will now hear a quick overview of the Stafford Act change from Maureen Cunningham, regional counsel.
Maureen Cunningham: Thank you, Bill. 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 US President for a federal emergency or major disaster declaration, or to seek assistance as they previously did under a declaration request by a 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 of the Stafford Act addresses major disasters, and section 501 of the Stafford Act addresses emergencies. The amendment allows tribal governments to be eligible to receive assistance through a state declaration, as 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 state and local government in the Stafford Act should be read to also include tribal governments, and references to the governor or the state, should also be read to include chief executive or tribal government as appropriate. FEMA is required to consider the unique conditions that affect the general welfare of tribal governments when implementing this new authority.
William Sulinckas: Thank you, Maureen. We will now hear a quick overview of declarations tribes may request and assistance that may be made available. We will now hear from Amanda Radliff, the Recovery Branch Chief.
Amanda Radliff: Thanks, Bill. I'm going to now provide an overview of the declaration and disaster assistance. 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 a state or tribe is overwhelmed and the response to the event is beyond the state 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: an emergency declaration or a major disaster 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. 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 disaster requests: the request must be submitted by the chief executive of a federally recognized tribal government. The request must be submitted within 30 days of the date of the incident. Within 30 days of the date of 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 as well as information describing the nature and amount of tribal government resources which have been or will be committed to alleviate the results of the disaster. Requests must also include preliminary estimates based on joint FEMA tribal preliminary damage assessment 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 declaration. They must comply with the grant administrative requirements and must also have Public Assistance Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and/or other needs assistance administrative plans in place. More information on these requirements can be found at www.fema.gov/tribal-consultation. With that I'll turn it back to Bill for comment.
William Sulinckas: Thank you, Amanda. 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?
Telephone Operator: If you would like to make a comment or provide input please press star then one on your touchtone phone. If you've been listening via speakerphone, please make sure the mute button is off. Once again that is star one for comments or questions at this time. One moment, please. It appears we have no questions in the phone queue at this time.
William Sulinckas: All right, thank you, operator. We will now hear an overview of Individual Assistance from Amanda, and then we'll open it up again for comment for tribal governments. Here's Amanda.
Amanda Radliff: Thanks, Bill. Under the Individual Assistance program, there are several types of FEMA disaster assistance that may be made available by major disaster declarations. Individual Assistance or assistance to individuals and households - the Individual Assistance program can provide disaster housing, which provides grants for rental assistance and/or home repairs. This is a 100% federally funded program. The other needs assistance program which provides grants for replacement of personal property, transportation, medical, dental, and funeral expense - the Stafford Act sets the cost share for other needs assistance cost at 75% federal and 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 determine whether federal assistance is needed. These are the current procedures developed for states. We need your input to modify the requirements to fit tribal government needs. The first area we consider is concentration of damages. FEMA evaluates the concentration of damages to individuals. High concentrations of damage generally indicate a greater need for federal assistance than widespread and scattered damages throughout a state. FEMA also 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 widespread loss of power or water. Further, we consider 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 is considered in terms of the extent to which they may be able to meet the needs of disaster survivors. 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 - concentration of damage, 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. The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act also includes a provision which directed FEMA to review, update, and revise the factors considered when evaluating a dates 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 interested to hear what criteria you think should be used to evaluate state requests for Individual Assistance. I will turn it back to Bill now to facilitate the question and answer period.
William Sulinckas: Thank you, Amanda. Operator, we'll now open it up to comment for the first tribal executives. And then I'll provide your input. If you would please identify your name, title, and affiliation before you ask your questions. Again, operator, can we have those instructions?
Telephone Operator: If you would like to make a comment or provide input, please press star then one on your touchtone phone. Please check that your phone is unmuted before you record. One moment, please. And Mr. Sulinckas, it appears we have no questions in the phone queue at this time.
William Sulinckas: Great, thank you, operator. We'll now hear an overview of Public Assistance criteria from Amanda, and then open it up for comments for tribal governments. Again, here's Amanda.
Amanda Radliff: Thanks again, Bill. 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 out the cost share for Public Assistance at not less than 75%. The Stafford Act also 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 developed for states. We need your input to modify the requirements to fit tribal needs. The first factor considered 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 disaster.
The second factor considered is Hazard Mitigation. We consider the extent to which state and local government has mitigation measures contributed to the reduction of disaster damages for the disaster under consideration. We consider 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.
We consider programs of other federal assistance. We consider programs of other federal agencies because at times their programs of assistance might more appropriately meet the needs created by the disaster. FEMA also evaluates the impact of the disaster at the county and local government level, as well as the impact on American Indian or Alaskan 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. Finally we consider the cost of - the estimated cost of the assistance. Many of you know this is the Public Assistance per capita indicator and it is generally a $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 it 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 impact, 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 per capita damage. 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. 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 and recover from an event for Public Assistance. I'll turn it again back to Bill to facilitate any questions or comments on this topic.
William Sulinckas: Thanks, Amanda. Operator, we'll now open it up for comments from the tribal executives. Could you please provide the instructions again?
Telephone Operator: If you would like to make a comment or provide input, please press star then one on your touchtone phone. Please check that your phone is unmuted before you signal, and once again star one for comments or to provide input at this time. We do have a signal from Monte Fronk with 1855 Mille Lacs Reservation.
Monte Fronk: Yes, Bill, can you hear me?
William Sulinckas: Certainly, Monte, go ahead.
Monte Fronk: Hey, Bill. Yes, we learned through Mille Lacs, through our two fairly declared declarations that it's always important when looking at this aspect and working with you through our two of that to include our sacred sites and understanding the impact of natural resources on - upon the tribes and Region 5, because that is - that's kind of who we are and what we are is tied to our natural resources. And I know we had to do some education on that with our FEMA folks here as you know, but I think that's something to consider when looking at damage estimates is sacred and also the natural resource based cost, too. That's it.
William Sulinckas: Thank you, Monte. I'll give it back to the operator. Is there anyone else?
Telephone Operator: At this time, Mr. Sulinckas, it appears we have no further comments in the phone queue.
William Sulinckas: All right, thank you, operator, and thank you, Monte. We will now hear a brief overview of Hazard Mitigation assistance from Chris Stack, the division director, then open it up for comment from tribal governments again, and here is Chris Stack.
Chris Stack: Hazard Mitigation assistance is assistance to state, tribal, and local governments and certain non-profit private organizations for actions taken to prevent or reduce long-term risks to life and property from natural hazards. The Stafford Act allows the President to contribute up to 75% of the cost of Hazard Mitigation. The total mitigation funding for a disaster is based on a percentage up to 15% of the total obligations for the disaster.
Let me emphasize, if requesting a Hazard Mitigation Grant Program or permanent work under Public Assistance program, the tribe must have a FEMA-approved or approvable mitigation plan within 30 days of the date of declaration. FEMA welcomes comments on whether 30 days is an appropriate amount of time for tribal governments to submit an approved or approvable tribal mitigation plan during the pilot program. FEMA also welcomes comments on whether there are circumstances that may prevent a tribal government from submitting a tribal mitigation plan or a request for an extension within this time. With that I'll turn it back to Bill Sulinckas for comments.
William Sulinckas: Thank you very much, Chris. Operator, we'll now open it for comments for first from tribal executives. Again can you please provide the instructions?
Telephone Operator: And if you would like to make a comment or provide input, please press star then one on your touchtone phone. Please check that you mute - your phone is unmuted before you signal. Once again, star one for a question, for a comment, or to provide input, please. Mr. Sulinckas, we have no comments in the phone queue.
William Sulinckas: Thank you, Operator. Now that we've heard some background on FEMA's declaration process, the disaster assistance process, and the change to the Stafford Act, we'll now hear about cost share criteria again from Amanda Radliff, and then open it up for comment for tribal governments. Amanda?
Amanda Radliff: Thanks, Bill. 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 for other needs assistance at 75% federal, and 25% non-federal. The Stafford Act sets the cost share for the 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 the Public Assistance program. 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 cost share from 75% to not more than 90% when federal obligations under the Stafford Act meet or exceed $133 per capita of the 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 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.
William Sulinckas: Thank you very much, Amanda. Operator, we'll now open it up for comments, first from tribal executives, and again please provide them with the instructions.
Telephone Operator: If you would like to make a comment or provide input please press star then one on your touchtone phone. Please check that your phone is unmuted before you signal. We do have a comment from Monte Fronk with the 1855 Mille Lacs Reservation.
Monte Fronk: Yes, Bill?
William Sulinckas: Yes, Monte, go ahead.
Monte Fronk: I think on that question I think we discussed in our regional conference calls as well as some that Richard Flores has hosted regarding that threshold, and it sounds like from what we've heard in previous conference calls the data loan probably should be lowered, and I think that's where those consultations, I think we heard different conference calls with the chief executives would be very good to readjust that threshold based upon the chief executives' belief within their community for infrastructure and population size. That's it.
Telephone Operator: Again, star one for comments.
William Sulinckas: All right, thank you, and again, thank you, Monte. Now that we've heard some background on Individual Assistance, Public Assistance, cost share and the changes to the Stafford Act, we'll now move to the part of the agenda where we want to hear from you in an open forum. This is where we ask tribal leaders and other executive members to let us hear your voices, inputs, and concerns. Operator, we will now open it up for comment, first from tribal executives, and please provide the instructions.
Telephone Operator: Again, if you would like to make a comment or provide input, please press star one on your touchtone phone. Please check that your phone is unmuted before you signal. Once again, star one for comments or input. Mr. Sulinckas, we have no comments in the phone queue.
William Sulinckas: Thank you, operator. I'd like to thank everyone very much for your input. I would like to conclude this FEMA region 5 tribal conference call with a few closing remarks. First I would like to thank you for participating in Region 5's tribal consultation call. The transcript of this call will be posted on www.fema.gov/tribal-consultation in the next few days.
The consultation site also includes important background information on declarations and disaster assistance. We thank you for your time and we look forward to advancing FEMA Region 5's relationship with tribal leaders, emergency managers, and disaster recovery subject matter experts. The deadline to provide your input on the implementation and tribal declaration process is April 22nd, 2013. So please do not forget to submit your written comments through the following venues. The federal register notice, docket ID FEMA-2013-0006, document 2013-05391, and you do that at federalregister.gov/a/2013-05391. It could also be submitted online through the collaboration site at fema.ideascale.com and through the email box at firstname.lastname@example.org. The postal mailing address again is regulatory affairs division, office of chief counsel, federal emergency management agency, Room 835, 500 C Street SW, Washington DC, 20472-3100. All this information was sent both postal mail and email in the invitation letters. Please do not send any comments or suggestions about the declaration process to the FEMA regional office. The email address for contacting me William.Sulinckas@fema.dhs.gov. My office phone is 312-408-5210 and thank you once again, have a great day.
Telephone Operator: This does conclude today's conference call. Thank you for your participation. You may disconnect your lines at this time.