Native News Network Staff in Native Currents. Discussion »
WASHINGTON Tribal nations will soon have the same ability provided to states to make disaster relief declarations and requests for assistance directly to the President of the United States. In a 62-36 vote on Monday night, the US Senate passed HR 152, the Hurricane Sandy Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill, which includes amendments to allow tribal governments to make direct requests for emergency assistance to the President under the Stafford Act.
Request Assistance Directly
The legislation, which also includes $50 billion in Hurricane Sandy relief funding, passed 241-180 in the House of Representatives two weeks ago and now goes to President Obama's desk to be signed into law.
Under current law, tribes must seek assistance through a state governor's office, often causing critical delays in emergency response on tribal lands.
“Some tribal nations in the US, many in remote areas, are larger than some states and every tribal nation has unique disaster response and recovery requests. The final passage of this bill marks a historic moment in tribal emergency preparedness and response. Our nations, devastated too often by natural disasters with disproportionate impacts, will be more capable to respond immediately to major disasters, and the bipartisan support for this legislation should not go unnoticed,”
said Jefferson Keel, President of National Congress of American Indian. Keel is also the Lt. Governor of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma.
The National Congress of American Indian further acknowledges that the Federal Emergency Management Administration, FEMA, made the tribal amendments to the Stafford Act its sole legislative priority under Administrator Craig Fugate's direction. The need for this critical policy change has been called for repeatedly in FEMA tribal consultations and meetings with tribal leaders during the National Congress of American Indian conventions.
“State and tribal governments will now be able to access disaster assistance as needed to aid the people, local communities, and regions in recovering quickly from catastrophic situations. National Congress of American Indian looks forward to the signature of this landmark legislation by President Obama. National Congress of American Indian is prepared to work with FEMA to ensure its implementation contains fair and inclusive eligibility criteria and will benefit the maximum number of tribal communities,”
concluded Robert Holden, National Congress of American Indian's Deputy Director and longtime coordinator of emergency management policy and response efforts at the National Congress of American Indian.
posted January 30, 2013 8:40 am est