December 04, 2012

Rahall Presses FEMA to Expedite West Virginia Disaster Assistance

Says Mountain State Residents ‘Deserve Answers’ from Agency

Washington, DC – With thousands of West Virginia residents still waiting to hear if they will be eligible for individual disaster assistance following Superstorm Sandy, U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall, top Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, today pressed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ensure that West Virginians affected by the Storm receive the full range of Federal assistance. 

At a hearing before Rahall’s Committee this morning to examine FEMA’s response to Hurricane Sandy, Rahall said, “I fully understand the tremendous burden FEMA officials are under during such widespread disasters like Sandy. They are on the front lines of emergency response and have been there for West Virginians time and again.  But our citizens need and deserve timely answers, especially when such disaster assistance is so critically needed.” 

Last week, at Rahall’s urging, a Federal disaster declaration was issued for 18 counties in West Virginia, including 7 counties in southern West Virginia.  A decision on whether Individual Assistance will be made available is still being considered by FEMA.

“Clearly, Sandy is yet another reminder that updates to FEMA guidelines are very much needed in order to ensure more timely and responsive disaster assistance,” Rahall continued.  “More than a month after the storm, West Virginian families are still waiting for a decision on whether Individual Assistance will be made available to help them repair broken roofs, fix affected businesses, and recoup lost wages.  Our residents should not be subject to a drawn out and bureaucratic process or left to wonder how much of this storm’s terrible burden they will have to bear on their own.”

In response to the June Derecho, the House of Representatives passed legislation at Rahall’s request that encourages greater flexibility and more objective criteria in the guidelines that FEMA uses to assess disaster assistance requests, including losses that result from extended power outages.  Under the legislation, FEMA would have one year to review, update, and revise through rulemaking the factors the Agency considers when measuring the severity, magnitude, and impact of a disaster.

“West Virginian’s across our state were dealt a double-blow from mother nature in less than six months time,” explained Rahall.  “Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on southern West Virginia following the devastating June Derecho.  After both disasters, power outages were long lasting and widespread; property was destroyed, and lives were seriously disrupted, and even lost.  I will keep fighting to expedite Federal assistance and ensure our State’s residents and businesses have every Federal resource available to aid in our recovery.”