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Letter to Craig Fugate, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency - Timely Clarification in New FEMA Policy

Durbin, Illinois Delegation Members Ask for Timely Clarification in New FEMA Policy

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today led a bipartisan group of Illinois Congressional Delegation members in urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to immediately clarify the disaster assistance policy that was released on February 25, 2009. Last month, Durbin asked the FEMA Administrator, Craig Fugate, to resolve the issue as soon as possible. In their meeting, Durbin pressed Fugate to ensure that during the process of clarifying the policy, there would be no lapse in coverage of disaster relief to Illinois communities. FEMA has assured Durbin that there will be no lapses and local communities will not be left footing the bills.

"Our communities are asking for clear delineation of FEMA's authority to fund repairs to levees and other flood control works, including the removal of debris and the placement and removal of flood fighting measures. At least four natural disasters have impacted Illinois in the last year alone, including historic levels of flooding in September 2008," said the Illinois members. "We respectfully request that you work with the USACE to resolve any discrepancies in coverage of disaster relief and emergency assistance and clearly communicate FEMA's policy regarding flood clean-up to regional, state and local officials."

Other members of the Illinois Delegation signing on to today's letter include: Senator Roland Burris (D-IL), Representatives Jerry Costello (D-IL), Judy Biggert (R-IL), Bill Foster (D-IL), Debbie Halvorson (D-IL), Phil Hare (D-IL), Tim Johnson (R-IL), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), John Shimkus (R-IL) and Aaron Schock (R-IL).

[Text of letter below]

Dear Administrator Fugate:

We write to follow up on earlier communication regarding FEMA's new disaster assistance policy, released on February 25, 2009. This new policy concerning the Rehabilitation Assistance for Levees and other Flood Control Works supersedes the Response and Recovery Policy 9524.3.

It has been five months since the policy was released. Over a month ago, congressional representatives of river communities met with Acting Assistant Administrator Mr. Walke of FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to discuss our concerns with apparent gaps in disaster coverage outlined by this new policy. In that and subsequent discussions, FEMA acknowledged the lack of clarity in the policy as written and vowed to work with the USACE on a speedy resolution.

Our communities are asking for clear delineation of FEMA's authority to fund repairs to levees and other flood control works, including the removal of debris and the placement and removal of flood fighting measures. At least four natural disasters have impacted Illinois in the last year alone, including historic levels of flooding in September 2008. These events have exhausted the resources of state and local governments, making federal disaster assistance a critical part of recovery and restoration.

We appreciate FEMA's assistance to date. We respectfully request that you work with the USACE to resolve any discrepancies in coverage of disaster relief and emergency assistance and clearly communicate FEMA's policy regarding flood clean-up to regional, state and local officials. Thank you in advance for your timely consideration of this urgent request.

Sincerely,

Dick Durbin
U.S. Senator


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