Tag Archives: FEMA

FEMA’s ‘About Face’ on the West Explosion

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.

FEMA Denies Aid for West Explosion Victims

From the AP newswire

WEST, TX — The Federal Emergency Management Agency is refusing to provide additional money to help rebuild the small Texas town where a deadly fertilizer plant explosion leveled numerous homes and a school, and killed 15 people.

According to a letter obtained by The Associated Press, FEMA said it reviewed the state’s appeal to help but decided that the explosion “is not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration.”

FEMA already has provided millions of dollars in aid to the town of West and its residents, but the decision prevents them from getting some of the widespread assistance typically available to victims of tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

It remains unclear what funds may not be available to individuals, but the decision likely means less money to pay for public repairs to roads, sewer lines, pipes and a school that was destroyed.

FEMA denied the “major disaster declaration” both for public assistance — which would give money to the city to help rebuild — and for further individual assistance.

It’s not unusual for FEMA to turn down that level of assistance for emergencies not stemming from natural disasters. In 2010, for example, officials denied a request for millions in aid after a gas pipeline explosion that consumed a Northern California neighborhood.

Some funds would be available in West through insurance pay outs and because it believes the state or the municipality has the resources to cover the costs, among other things, agency spokesman Dan Watson said in a statement.

So let’s just be clear about a few things here…

FEMA is the Federal Emergency Management Agency, not the Federal “Natural Disaster” Management Agency. Whoever has decided that what happened in West does not qualify as an emergency needs to be fired. It doesn’t matter what caused the explosion because the results are just as horrific and life-altering of a disaster as anything else. In the now famous words of Hillary Clinton, “what difference at this point does it make?”– 15 people are dead and half of a town was destroyed. This is an Emergency in every sense of the word, and these people need help putting their lives back together. They need it NOW. Who cares what the insurance companies may or may not pay? The citizens of West are Americans and taxpayers like everyone else. My tax dollars go to keep this government running, and I can think of no better use for it than to help people when they need help the most.

I live in Texas. I get that there’s a lot of political stunts that get played from a very vocal minority of Texas leaders. Rick Perry loves to throw around the ideas about Secession, and Ted Cruz just says the craziest crap he can think to say. But this isn’t about politics. This is about people that have suffered a great deal of physical, mental and emotional stress. They’re not the ones getting on TV making speeches. They are people just like you and me. And if you had suffered the loss of so much at one time, you would need help too.

For the sake of all of these people, I hope that FEMA Director Craig Fugate reconsiders this decision, and fast. The people of West don’t have time to be caught in political battles. West needs us right now.