Davis Urges FEMA to Consider Local Impact When Determining Latest Illinois Disaster Request
Cites FEMA Reform Legislation Passed Unanimously By the House
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) this week sent a letter urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator to follow language included in H.R. 1471, the FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act, when evaluating Governor Rauner’s request for federal assistance. H.R. 1471 passed the House unanimously last week and includes Davis’ language that requires FEMA to “give greater weight and consideration to severe localized impact.”
“This legislation passed unanimously with this provision in it so clearly there is a desire to change the way FEMA determines the need for disaster assistance in rural areas,” said Davis. “All we are asking is for FEMA to take that into consideration when determining this latest request for help. FEMA often relies heavily on this arbitrary, population-based formula to make these determinations but legally they have a lot of discretion over this matter. I believe if they look at the localized impact of the recent flood damage, they will find that $15 million is a lot for these rural communities to handle.”
Although Illinois’ assessed damages were shy of FEMA’s $18.1 million population-based threshold, FEMA continues to have discretion to give greater weight to other factors when determining the need for federal assistance. Davis fought to include language in H.R. 1471 that would require FEMA to give greater consideration to severe localized impact when determining the need for public disaster assistance.
Text of the letter to FEMA Administrator William Fugate is as follows:
Dear Administrator Fugate,
On Friday, February 26th, 2016, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner requested federal assistance for 21 counties as they recover from severe flooding that began on December 23, 2015, and continued through January 13, 2016. Public Assistance was requested for Alexander, Bureau, Calhoun, Cass, Cumberland, Jackson, Jersey, Madison, Menard, Monroe, Morgan, Moultrie, Pike, Randolph, St. Clair, and Vermilion counties.
As I and members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation mentioned in our letter to the president dated February 26th, 2016, Governor Rauner has determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and local governments. Upon consultation with state and local officials, Governor Rauner has determined that supplemental federal assistance will be necessary to help local governments in these counties recover up to 75 percent of their disaster-related expenses.
Preliminary Damage Assessments determined that Illinois communities experienced uninsured damages and losses of more than $15 million and every county included in the request for Federal assistance exceeded the required threshold of $3.57 per capita. Unfortunately, this did not meet FEMA’s population-based formula threshold of $18.1 million for federal assistance, a formula that negatively and unfairly punishes rural areas in highly-populated states like Illinois. It is important to note, however, that FEMA has the authority to place greater weight on the severe localized impact of damage when making a recommendation to the President regarding a disaster declaration.
Placing greater weight on the localized impact of damage and losses in these types of situations would greatly increase fairness in this process. On Monday, February 29th, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1471, the FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act of 2015. Among the several important reforms in this bill was a provision I worked to include that would require the Administrator of FEMA, when making recommendations to the President regarding a disaster declaration, to “give greater weight and consideration to severe localized impact.”
I respectfully request that FEMA consider the severe localized impact when considering Governor Rauner’s request so affected counties and communities can receive the financial assistance that they need. Thank you for your time and consideration of this important request.