Definitely better late than never.
In a surprising reversal that was cloaked by a late Friday news cycle, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)has now declared the April 17th explosion in West, Texas a major disaster. President Obama had already signed the disaster declaration when news of this change was revealed. And this is quite the surprise given what FEMA said after its June analysis. Here’s more from Matthew DeLuca of NBC News…
“The Federal Emergency Management Agency in June denied additional money to the town. In a letter to Gov. Rick Perry explaining the decision, FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said the damage from the massive explosion was “not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration,” according to The Associated Press.
The town had asked for a total of about $57 million to help repair the damage, the AP reported. That number included $40 million to help rebuild a school destroyed in the explosion. In June, the Insurance Council of Texas estimated that totaled insured losses from the blast could top $100 million.
Perry, who had written a letter to Obama protesting the earlier denial of a presidential disaster declaration, said in a statement on Friday that the federal aid will help the proud town of about 2,800 people piece itself back together.
“The approval of the state’s appeal for a major disaster declaration is great and welcome news for the people of West,” Perry said in the statement. “This, along with the disaster relief funding provided by the Texas legislature, will help this community rebuild their infrastructure, school district and public works as quickly as possible.”
The White House release on Friday said that the federal funding would be “available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the explosion in McLennan County.”
A spokesman for FEMA did not immediately reply to requests for comment on Friday.”
Obviously this is very good news for the victims of such a horrific incident. In June, when FEMA first denied the disaster declaration request, I wrote in vehement opposition to that decision, so I am very glad that it no longer stands. But it’s still important to ask… why play the political games in the first place? When American citizens are in trouble from a any catastrophic event, their government should be the FIRST ones to help, not the last. Anything less than that is simply unacceptable. Our lawmakers and government officials have plenty to fight about. I hope that someday soon, we can remove catastrophic events from the ring, and just do the right thing for the people in need.