Congressmen Joe Donnelly and Mark Souder released the following statement after receiving FEMA's response to their request regarding FEMA's decision to deny disaster assistance to three Indiana counties. Donnelly and Souder had requested FEMA provide more information to explain the agency's denial of federal relief to victims of the tornado that struck Elkhart, Kosciusko and Marshall counties.
Donnelly and Souder, in their letter dated February 15, requested that, "FEMA provide us with all PDA reports compiled related to the October 18, 2007 tornado; FEMA staff recommendations related to analyzing and determining whether a major disaster declaration and eligibility for Individual Assistance was warranted; and a detailed explanation by FEMA of how this information was used to determine that the impact of the event was not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration and eligibility for Individual Assistance for Elkhart, Kosciusko and Marshall counties."
What Donnelly and Souder received was a one-and-a-half page tally of basic information that was gathered by state and federal officials during the preliminary damage assessment. It does not shed any light on how or why FEMA ultimately opted to deny aid to the three counties.
"FEMA's response is far from satisfactory," Donnelly said. "The people of Nappanee and other communities want to know why FEMA made the decision it did; and the information provided to Congressman Souder and I actually raises more questions than it answers."
"We will continue to push FEMA to satisfactorily explain why Hoosiers were denied aid at the time they needed it most. If necessary, we will look into crafting legislation that would change how FEMA operates such that communities that are hit by future disasters are treated better than ours have been."
"FEMA's lack of transparency on this issue is very disappointing," said Congressman Mark Souder. "The data they provided lacked context or explanation, and we will continue to push for full disclosure of the facts. I am interested in obtaining data on other cities that experienced disasters to see if discrimination has occurred. After seeing the extent of the damage in Nappanee, we must fight to be sure this federal agency is not biased against small towns."