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FEMA Says No — Again

Agency rejects governor’s request to reconsider aid.

Local victims of recent flooding in the Mount Vernon District of Fairfax County, Alexandria City and Arlington County have again been officially denied any aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That was the answer to Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s request for a reevaluation of the agency’s initial rejection.

On Aug. 4 Kaine requested FEMA re-evaluate its original denial which the federal agency based on their evaluation that the local jurisdictions in question were too wealthy to be entitled to aid. That response was later rescinded by another FEMA official but it did not change final outcome. FEMA officially denied Kaine’s appeal last Friday.

Residents of Huntington were particularly hard hit by flooding that occurred in late June when Cameron Run, without warning, overflowed its banks and devastated nearly 150 homes. Most of those residents were not covered by flood insurance because FEMA had previously determined they were not within a flood plain.

“FEMA’s response is totally dismissive. The people of Huntington are hard working people that lost most of their assets. They are not wealthy people. They are people that pay their taxes year after year without trying to find loop holes. That tax money goes to pay FEMA salaries,” said U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-8).

“The job of FEMA is not to find excuses in order to stay out of situations but to come to the aid of those that are in need. FEMA has lost sight of its mission,” he said. “They [FEMA] are more interested in giving out large lucrative contracts to politically connected individuals and firms than helping people in need. It’s not the hard working regular federal employees of FEMA who are doing this. Its the political appointees,” Moran said.

“FEMA staff members are as frustrated with these political appointees, that obviously have no humanitarian concerns, as we are. But, I’m afraid it’s a done deal,” he said.

Moran’s anger and frustration was echoed by Virginia State Del. David L. Englin (D-45). “This callous, hard-hearted decision is another example of the Federal Government abandoning vulnerable citizens in their time of need,” he said.

Several families in Huntington have lost everything and do not have the means to recover with the very financial tools FEMA has denied. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, President Bush paid lip service to reforming FEMA, but apparently those were hollow assurances. The message from FEMA is now crystal clear: when disaster strikes, you’re on your own,” Englin said.

“Fortunately, our state and local leaders understand that we are one community and must be ready to help our neighbors in their time of need. I commend Governor Kaine and Congressman Moran for pushing the issue with FEMA and Supervisor Gerry Hyland and his staff for their superlative response throughout the crisis,” he said.

Hyland was out of the area and not able to be reached for comment. However, both he and Moran personally worked along side other citizen volunteers assisting Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department personnel aiding flood victims clean the debris from their homes after the devastation. That effort continued throughout the July 4 holiday weekend.

In light of FEMA’s refusal to aid flood victims, Tuesday Kaine asked the U.S. Small Business Administration to clear the way for emergency low interest loans to homeowners and renters who had suffered major flood damage as a result the severe storms in June and July.

“Low-interest loans from SBA would offer some assistance and support to many Virginians facing major repairs to their homes,” Kaine said. SBA can provide Real Property Loans up to $200,000 to homeowners and renters to repair or restore their primary home to its pre-disaster condition.

Additionally, SBA can authorize Personal Property Loans to provide homeowners and renters with up to $40,000 to help repair or replace personal property, such as clothing, furniture and vehicles, lost in the disaster. Businesses suffering damage are eligible for loans up to $1.5 million to help repair or replace damaged property.