With West Virginia residents and communities working to recover from Superstorm Sandy, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) voted last night in support of a robust disaster relief funding package that would help reimburse West Virginia communities for storm related damage and prepare for future disasters. The package provides more than $51 billion to help states pay for cleanup costs associated Sandy.
"Helping our communities get back on their feet after an unforeseen tragedy or disaster has always been a hallmark of our country, and I am pleased that needed relief is a step closer to being delivered. While the damage from the November storm was not as catastrophic as what our Northeastern States experienced, West Virginia still saw a ferocious blizzard that caused roofs to collapse and inflicted long-lasting and widespread power outages, and this aid package will help our ongoing recovery efforts."
The package approved by the House replenishes the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) allowing West Virginia communities that have already qualified for Public Assistance to receive funding for storm related costs. Additionally, West Virginia would receive mitigation funds that can be used to help lessen the impact of future storms, such as the purchase of generators and other emergency response equipment.
"This relief package is welcome news for our communities that have incurred such large and unexpected cleanup costs, and it follows a separate bill passed yesterday by the House, at my request, requiring FEMA to reexamine the criteria it uses to determine eligibility through the Individual Assistance program," explained Rahall. "Too many West Virginia residents have been left for months on end to wonder if federal assistance would be available following monstrous storms that we experienced last year and we need to ensure that our disaster assistance programs are in fact reaching those in need."
Rahall, who is the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has jurisdiction over FEMA disaster assistance, successfully included a provision in separate legislation passed yesterday that will encourage FEMA to reassess the guidelines the agency uses to evaluate future Individual Assistance requests and to consider losses that result from extended power outages. Both the funding and authorization packages are expected to be considered by the Senate later this month.
"It is unfortunate that Congress has broken from precedent and has waited more than 80 days, and counting, to deliver the funding needed to heal broken communities and help Sandy's victims back on their feet," continued Rahall. "This drawn-out process also highlights the need to invest in our infrastructure before disasters strike and considers measures that can mitigate the effects of future disasters through regular order and not just emergency spending bills. I will continue to use my position on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to push for such investments, but in the meantime, I encourage my colleagues in the Senate to quickly act on this relief package."