Sign up to receive email updates
Working Together to Recover from the Storms
On July 23rd, the President issued a major disaster declaration that will provide our communities with access to Federal disaster assistance in recovering from the severe storms and extended power outage that began on June 29. Forty-five West Virginia counties – including Cabell, Wayne, Lincoln, Boone, Logan, Mingo, Mercer, McDowell, Wyoming, Raleigh, Fayette, Nicholas, Webster, Greenbrier, Pocahontas, Summers, and Monroe – were included in the disaster declaration, clearing the way for Federal aid to be made available for emergency work and the repair or replacement of publicly owned facilities, as well as for hazard mitigation projects to protect against the impact of future storms and power outages.
I welcome the Federal aid for emergency work and repair of our State’s public facilities and critical services, and I am working hard to ensure that Federal officials have a full understanding of our State’s needs, as well as the financial losses incurred by residents and businesses.
Recently, I was at the White House and discussed with the President the needs of West Virginia residents and businesses and urged expeditious action on our State’s disaster request. I also invited West Virginia Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Jimmy Gianato to testify at a hearing held before my Committee – the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which holds jurisdiction over FEMA. Jimmy’s unique perspective was most valuable as the Congress looks at long-range measures to help protect communities from future disasters.
Also at the hearing was a representative of FEMA and I had the chance to share with him my own insights about the devastation experienced by our families and businesses and to make the case for full and expeditious delivery of Federal disaster aid. I asked FEMA to give the same sense of urgency to West Virginia’s request for assistance as was given in past emergencies and to continue expediting efforts to ensure that West Virginians receive the full range of Federal assistance available as they work to recover from the devastating storm.
FEMA officials have responded positively, saying that FEMA will give West Virginia’s request “the fullest consideration,” and noted that FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate is conscious of how disasters affect individuals.
During the hearing, I highlighted the impact of this disaster on West Virginia’s families, our seniors and business owners, many of whom went two weeks or longer without power. I toured communities throughout Southern West Virginia following the storm, and I witnessed firsthand the widespread damage. I described the challenges and heartbreaking despair that individuals and families, elderly in poor health, hospital and nursing home workers, first responders, and small business owners suffered coping with the aftermath of massive power outages, and the loss of food, medicine, homes, transportation, and livelihoods the monstrous winds caused.
Those thoughts were echoed by Jimmy Gianato. “The widespread devastation this storm produced in West Virginia was without precedent,” Jimmy told the Subcommittee. And, when I asked him if the Individual Assistance program administered by FEMA was sufficiently flexible given that so many families suffered losses that they cannot afford, he responded, “No two disasters are alike. This latest storm that impacted West Virginia is unlike anything we have seen and the impact on the citizens is not like a traditional disaster. The key is having the flexibility in the law so that FEMA and the Administration can work through the different problems as we come to them.”
We are forever indebted to public servants like Jimmy Gianato and all our emergency officials and volunteers who responded in the aftermath of this storm. I am encouraged to hear that FEMA will be giving full consideration to West Virginia’s request for disaster assistance, and I will continue to work with our State officials as we press for the full range of assistance for our residents. It is certainly my hope that this process is moved along quickly so that West Virginians can soon receive the help they so badly need to recover from the devastating June storm.
For individuals and businesses looking for more information, you may contact FEMA by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362), or visit its website at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) represents West Virginia’s 3rd District
For more information contact: Diane Luensmann (202) 225-3452