The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Thursday that it would not provide individual aid to those affected by the storm that tore through West Virginia June 29, prompting the state’s political leaders to begin pressuring the administration to reconsider.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin released a statement expressing dissatisfaction after learning of FEMA’s decision to deny individual assistance.
“I strongly disagree with FEMA’s decision to deny sorely needed federal assistance to the victims of the unprecedented June 2012 derecho,” Tomblin said. “I intend to appeal this decision and ask our Congressional Delegation to arrange a meeting with the FEMA leadership as soon as possible so that I can explain firsthand the devastation that I witnessed in the wake of this storm.”
The administration has only approved public assistance.
Yesterday, Tomblin requested FEMA and West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management officials to begin reassessing homes and property damaged by the storm.
“I’ve requested this reassessment to gather additional information to hopefully reverse FEMA’s recent denial of my request for much needed individual assistance for seniors, individuals and families throughout our state,” Tomblin said. “I strongly encourage all West Virginians, with storm-related damage to their homes and property, to report the damages to their local emergency management offices. Assessment teams will then travel throughout our communities and review all damage reported.”
U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller and U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (all D-W.Va.) also released statements regarding FEMA’s decision.
“I am working with the members of our state’s Congressional Delegation to urge the president to reconsider FEMA’s denial of individual assistance to residents after recent storms,” Manchin said. “I am disappointed in FEMA’s decision, but I am determined to continue to fight for the recovery funds that are vital to so many West Virginians. I saw the devastation firsthand and witnessed the heavy toll this took on our communities, our economy and our people. I will continue working tirelessly to make sure our state and our people get the help they need and deserve.”
“In immediate response to FEMA’s letter of denial for the State’s request of individual assistance, I contacted Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Jimmy Gianato to offer my assistance in the state’s appeal,” Rahall said. “Once the state is prepared to make its case to FEMA, I stand ready to help in any way I can, including seeking a meeting with FEMA officials, so that our hard-hit citizens can obtain as much assistance as possible from FEMA.”
“I absolutely agree with Gov. Tomblin,” Rockefeller said. “I strongly encourage FEMA’s administrator to reconsider its decision and I support the governor’s appeal. Three-quarters of West Virginians were affected by the storm, and so many people are still trying to recover their losses and damages. Providing individual assistance for these West Virginians is just the right thing to do.”
Also yesterday, West Virginia’s entire Congressional Delegation wrote a letter to President Barack Obama, urging him to reconsider FEMA’S decision. The letter is as follows:
Dear Mr. President:
As you know, the June 29th derecho and subsequent storms that hit our State this summer crippled power, water, and communication systems, resulting in significant financial damages for residents and businesses and jeopardizing the health and well-being of citizens. Countless West Virginians are still struggling to recover.
We saw firsthand the devastation that the storms and extended power outages caused in our communities, our economy, and to our people. Many of the residents who were affected by the storm – and who are now being denied Individual Assistance – are elderly, or disabled and live on a fixed income. Even during the best of times, many of these West Virginians struggle to maintain basic necessities.
As the State compiles new information related to the losses and expenses incurred by West Virginia residents and businesses, we strongly urge you to favorably consider Governor Tomblin’s appeal when it is submitted and to provide all available assistance allowed under the Stafford Act. We also ask that FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate begin immediate discussions with the appropriate State officials in regard to Governor Tomblin’s imminent appeal.
We remain so very proud of the work of our local leaders, first-responders, and National Guard, and we trust that you will do everything in your power to make sure that West Virginians receive the help they need and deserve.