West Virginia got a little good news from FEMA this week, but U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., is pushing a change so more states hear good news from FEMA more often.
The House of Representatives approved legislation Rahall sponsored that would require FEMA to reassess how it evaluates requests for individual assistance after a disaster.
FEMA announced this week that it had approved individual assistance for four West Virginia counties hit by the June 29 derecho. Those counties originally were denied individual assistance, but Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin filed an appeal Aug. 18. He originally asked for individual assistance for 24 counties. Individual assistance aids households in home repairs and property loss.
“West Virginia’s successful appeal for disaster assistance was welcome news for residents, but it was a lengthy and strenuous process that should have been avoided,” Rahall said in a news release. “The sensible and timely review of FEMA’s individual assistance guidelines, which the House has now called for, will help to ensure that our disaster assistance programs are in fact quickly reaching those individuals they are designed to help and that needed aid is locked behind rigid and inflexible bureaucratic rules.”
Rahall is the ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has jurisdiction over FEMA.
The language Rahall requested in the FEMA Reauthorization Act of 2011 encourages more flexibility along with the use of more objective criteria in FEMA’s guidelines to assess disaster assistance requests. The proposed changes would provide FEMA with a full year to review, update and revise the factors it considers when it measures the severity, magnitude and impact of a disaster, including losses that come from an extended power outage.
“The derecho that struck on June 29th took a terrible toll on West Virginia residents and businesses,” Rahall said in a news release. “Families saw food and medications spoil, businesses were forced to close and breadwinners lost pay.
“But because these losses did not neatly fit into the scenarios envisioned by the Stafford Act, FEMA’s response to West Virginia’s request for disaster assistance was needlessly delayed and narrowed in scope.”
Rahall said he hopes his proposed update to
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