U.S. Senators Barbara A. Mikulski and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) today sent a letter to Shaun Donovan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Craig Fugate, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), urging them to cut through red tape to provide aid for the Lower Shore in the wake of Super-Storm Sandy. Somerset, Worcester and Dorchester counties, which were denied Individual Assistance aid from FEMA earlier this week, have among the highest poverty and unemployment levels in the state.
"We appreciate the Public Assistance that has been awarded to 20 counties and the City of Baltimore. However, there are more resources required--particularly on the Lower Eastern Shore--where there are serious and significant unmet needs," the Senators wrote in the letter. "This region is already facing tough economic times. They are heavily dependent on seafood and agriculture, have high unemployment rates and are without the cash to recover from a storm as severe as Sandy."
Earlier this week, Senators Mikulski and Cardin participated in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security hearing "Hurricane Sandy: Response and Recovery -- Progress and Challenges" where they called for immediate action on support for the Lower Shore.
Secretary Donovan and Administrator Fugate testified at this hearing. Administrator Fugate committed to work with Governor O'Malley on the appeal for Individual Disaster Assistance. Senator Mikulski invited them to visit the affected communities and see the impact that the storm had on the area's families.
Senators Mikulski and Cardin led the Maryland delegation in urging President Obama to support a Pre-Disaster Declaration, Disaster Declaration and Individual Assistance for Maryland counties impacted by Super-Storm Sandy. The delegation also urged the President to approve Governor O'Malley's updated request for Individual Assistance. This critical aid provides housing assistance and disaster related support for families and individuals coping with the immediate aftermath of the storm. Their letter is available here. Administrator Fugate committed to work with Governor O'Malley on the appeal for Individual Disaster Assistance.
The full text of the letter is below:
December 7, 2012
The Honorable Shaun Donovan
U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20410
The Honorable Craig Fugate
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C Street, SW
Washington, DC 204772
Dear Secretary Donovan and Administrator Fugate:
We thank you for your commitment to help Marylanders get the assistance they need to recover from Hurricane Sandy during the recent Congressional hearing titled: "Hurricane Sandy: Response and Recovery--Progress and Challenges." To fulfill this promise, we ask that you exercise flexibility in determining eligibility for federal assistance, cut through red tape to ensure help gets to those in need promptly, and waive regulations where needed.
We appreciate the Public Assistance that has been awarded to 20 counties and the City of Baltimore. However, there are more resources required--particularly on the Lower Eastern Shore--where there are serious and significant unmet needs. This region is already facing tough economic times. They are heavily dependent on seafood and agriculture, have high unemployment rates and are without the cash to recover from a storm as severe as Sandy. We ask that you consider the difficult realities faced by these communities as you consider their eligibility for FEMA Individual Assistance and HUD Community Development Block Grants.
First, please apply flexibility in the guidelines used to determine whether Somerset, Worcester, and Dorchester counties meet the necessary threshold for Individual Assistance. You must consider factors such as poverty rate and median income, unemployment rate, local tax base, and the value of assets in this region. Similarly, the low rate of insurance coverage must be a significant factor in your determination. It is estimated that only 32% of residents in Somerset County are insured--not because they don't want it but because they can't afford it. Lastly, please consider the specific realities of a rural area where damage may be less concentrated but more severe than in more populated areas.
Second, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) disaster assistance fills important gaps that FEMA disaster assistance doesn't meet. As such, we ask that you use maximum flexibility with the CDBG program to provide aid quickly to affected states and communities for housing infrastructure, economic development, community planning, reimbursement for the loss of personal property, and other needs that are not met by existing FEMA disaster assistance.
Thank you for your continued leadership and commitment to the recovery from this storm, for not only Maryland, but for all affected. I look forward to continuing to work with you as we help rebuild these communities.