Davis Requests Meeting With FEMA Administrator
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) today requested a meeting with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator in light of FEMA’s denial of Illinois’ appeal for disaster assistance. Davis requested the meeting to discuss the way FEMA currently considers localized impact when making recommendations for a disaster declaration.
“FEMA continues to say one thing and do another,” said Davis. “They say they take into consideration the localized impact of a disaster but it’s clear from this latest denial, and past requests, that this is not the case. For example, according to IEMA, expenses in one county totaled more than $4 million, which is $486 per person in that county. That is, by FEMA’s own standards, beyond the capability of the county. Clearly, FEMA’s current process is not working for communities in downstate Illinois.”
According to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, FEMA generally looks for a minimum of $3.50 per capita in infrastructure damage in a county before designating it for federal assistance. Davis is working on legislation requiring FEMA to place greater weight and consideration on the severe localized impact of a disaster when determining assistance. This FEMA reform bill passed the House with unanimous support in February and is awaiting action by the Senate.
After Illinois requested federal disaster assistance, Davis wrote FEMA Administrator Fugate encouraging them to weigh the localized impact of the flood damage. Davis received, in part, the following response from FEMA:
“FEMA does consider localized impacts when evaluating requests for major disasters. Those impacts are given the consideration warranted by the specific event. Ultimately, pursuant to the Stafford Act, an event must be beyond local and State capability to warrant a major disaster declaration.”
Davis’ letter requesting a meeting with FEMA Administrator William Craig Fugate is as follows:
Dear Administrator Fugate,
On Friday, April 22nd, 2016, I was forwarded a two-paragraph letter sent from your office to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner. This letter was to notify him that the State’s appeal of FEMA’s initial denial of Public Assistance due to damage related to flooding in the state during December 2015, which was submitted just two weeks earlier on April 8th, had been denied. As you know Public Assistance was requested for Alexander, Bureau, Calhoun, Cass, Cumberland, Jackson, Jersey, Madison, Menard, Monroe, Morgan, Moultrie, Pike, Randolph, St. Clair, and Vermilion counties.
Once again, as I and members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation mentioned in our letter to the president dated February 26th, 2016, Governor Rauner had determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and local governments and voluntary agencies.
In a letter to me dated March 21st, and in response to a letter I sent to you on March 7th, FEMA Associate Administrator Elizabeth Zimmerman claimed it was the opinion of FEMA that “damage from this event was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state, affected local governments, and voluntary agencies” without providing any reasoning or rationale as to why. In addition, Assistant Administrator Zimmerman referenced 44 CFR 206.48(a)(2), claiming that FEMA already considers the localized impacts of disasters, without explaining how the agency does so.
Placing greater weight on the localized impact of damage and losses when disasters such as these occur is necessary in regions like downstate Illinois, where population centers in other parts of the state skew the threshold needed to be met for consideration of a disaster declaration. As I mentioned in my previous letter, in February the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1471, the FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act of 2015 which includes my provision 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.” But the reality is that FEMA has the authority to make these changes today, without the need for legislation.
Therefore, I respectfully request to meet with you in order to discuss (1) how FEMA currently considers localized impact when making recommendations for a disaster declaration and (2) why FEMA has chosen to not place greater weight on the severe localized impact when considering requests like that submitted by Governor Rauner in February of this year. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.