From Staff Reports
WASHINGTON, D.C. —
West Virginians “need and deserve timely answers” to questions about getting a helping hand after the blizzard of October, Rep. Nick Hall advised the Federal Emergency Management Agency Tuesday.
Thousands of state residents are awaiting word from FEMA on whether they qualify for individual disaster assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, said Rahall, ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“I fully understand the tremendous burden FEMA officials are under during such widespread disasters like Sandy,” Rahall, D-W.Va., said during a committee meeting.
“They are on the front lines of emergency response and have been there for West Virginians time and again. But our citizens need and deserve timely answers, especially when such disaster assistance is so critically needed.”
Eighteen counties fell under a federal disaster declaration, seven of them in southern West Virginia, but FEMA is yet to rule on whether residents there are eligible for aid, Rahall pointed out.
“Clearly, Sandy is yet another reminder that updates to FEMA guidelines are very much needed in order to ensure more timely and responsive disaster assistance,” the 3rd District congressman said.
“More than a month after the storm. West Virginia families are still waiting for a decision on whether individual assistance will be made available to help them repair broken roofs, fix affected businesses and recoup lost wages. Our residents should not be subject to a drawn out and bureaucratic process or left to wonder how much of this storm’s terrible burden they will have to bear on their own.”
Legislation was enacted at Rahall’s insistence after the June 29 derecho that knocked out power in all but two West Virginian counties.
That measure encouraged more flexibility and more objective criteria in the guidelines used by FEMA to assess disaster assistance requests, such as losses caused by extended power outages.
FEMA would be given a year to review, update, and revise through rulemaking factors considered when the severity, magnitude and impact of a disaster is measured.
“West Virginians across our state were dealt a double blow from mother nature in less than six months time,” Rahall said.
“Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on southern West Virginia following the devastating June derecho. After both disasters, power outages were long lasting and widespread. Property was destroyed and lives were seriously disrupted, and even lost.”