Native News Network Staff in Native Briefs. Discussion »
WASHINGTON In an effort to further streamline federal aid in the time of disaster requests, thereby cutting the time funds can get to tribes, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate released a letter of support for specific legislation in both the United States Senate and House of Representatives that would allow federally recognized tribal governments to make a request for a federal emergency or disaster declaration directly to the President.
Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act
In December last year, FEMA announced its support to amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to allow tribes to make a request directly to the President for declarations. Currently, only states and their governors can make such requests.
“Our country's tribal nations and leaders are an integral part of our national fabric,”
“ FEMA is committed to supporting Indian Country in its' efforts to build resilient communities that are prepared for all hazards.”
Currently, the law states that only the governor of an affected state can request a major disaster or emergency declaration from the President under the Stafford Act. Federally recognized tribes are excluded from making such a direct request for a Presidential declaration and must make a request through the state or states in which they are geographically located.
This process, however, limits FEMA from effectively working with federally recognized tribes on a government to government basis. To improve the way we serve and engage the entire community in emergency management, FEMA and the Obama Administration support a legislative change to the Stafford Act that would authorize tribal governments to make requests directly to the President for a federal emergency or disaster declaration. Additionally, FEMA supports a legislative change that would also give tribal governments the option to receive assistance as they do presently, as part of a declaration for a specific state.
Legislative proposals to change the Stafford Act in favor of this amendment have been introduced in both the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. If passed, such an amendment would acknowledge the right of federally recognized tribes to ask for direct assistance in a major disaster scenario, enhance FEMA's working relationship with tribal governments, and improve emergency and disaster responsiveness throughout Indian Country.
posted June 13, 2012 9:50 am edt