Congressman Mike Michaud has sent a bipartisan letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate urging him to ease administrative burdens on state emergency management offices. Currently, states must submit new emergency preparedness plans every three years in order to qualify for federal disaster assistance funds. The letter Michaud sent urges FEMA to extend that deadline for an additional two years, giving state planning offices more time and resources to help local communities prepare for severe weather.
"I've heard directly from Maine's state planning office on the importance of addressing this issue," said Michaud. "At a time when our emergency management workers are being asked to do more with less, it's critical that states have the time and resources they need to get the job done right. The work of state planning offices across the country helps protect our homes and businesses and is vital to emergency preparedness. Having time to properly prepare for extreme weather today also can lead to substantial cost savings when a storm hits in the future."
Michaud's letter is supported by the National Emergency Management Association, a non-partisan association of emergency management directors from all 50 states, eight U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. The full text of the letter that Michaud and his colleagues sent to FEMA can be found below.
W. Craig Fugate
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C Street, SW
Washington, DC 20472
Dear Administrator Fugate:
We are writing to request that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) alter its regulations under 44 CFR Part 201 and extend to five years the cycle by which State Hazard Mitigation Plans must be submitted. The existing three-year time frame for FEMA to review and approve new mitigation plans has become increasingly burdensome for many state planning offices. Because many of these offices' resources are getting cut, it is increasingly important to improve the plans' flexibility to ensure our nation's mitigation infrastructure is functioning at the highest level possible
As you know, State Hazard Mitigation Plans must be reviewed, updated, and reapproved by FEMA every three years in order for states to remain eligible for FEMA-funded public assistance. Local hazard and Indian tribal mitigation plans, however, must be reviewed every five years. The shorter cycle creates an undue hardship on states with limited staffing or those that have experienced multiple disasters within a plan lifecycle. In order to prevent a disqualifying lapse, these states are compelled to restart the process immediately following the approval of the previous plan.
Extending states' revision cycles will allow additional resources to be allocated for the implementation of mitigation activities. For example, Washington State has a FY11 Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant award pending for about $450,000 to update the state mitigation plan; if applied to a local mitigation project instead, these dollars could be used to elevate five to eight homes.
FEMA has been forced to respond to concerns surrounding the shortened time frame since the regulation was first established. After numerous state emergency management agencies and local governments filed objections in the federal register, FEMA published an interim rule in 2004 to provide a mechanism for Governors and Indian tribal leaders to request a six month extension. Additionally, in response to a 2008 National Emergency Management Association unanimous request to extend the cycle to five years, the agency announced plans to evaluate input from states, tribes, and local communities on the matter. Despite these measures, FEMA has not given state planning offices permanent relief by bringing state and local mitigation plans together on the same timeline.
Maintaining high quality up-to-date mitigation plans is a critical component of our national disaster response plan. Extending the update cycle to five years would ensure that our state planning offices can complete this vital task, along with their other duties, while maximizing available resources. We ask you to amend the final rule under 44 CFR Part 201 to accommodate this change.
Michael H. Michaud
Pedro R. Pierluisi
Terri A. Sewell
Steven M. Palazzo
Leonard L. Boswell
Cathy McMorris Rodgers