FEMA Needs To Look Beyond Pure Numbers

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The federal government made a major mistake on Monday in denying what was figured to be a routine request to help distressed residents and businesses in Somerset County who are still struggling from Hurricane Sandy.

Word is Maryland will appeal the denial of the request for Individual Assistance to residents of the lower shore who suffered damages from Sandy.

In the meantime, elected officials are weighing in and Senator Barbara Mikulski testified at a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security entitled “Hurricane Sandy: Response and Recovery – Progress and Challenges.” She called for immediate action for communities on the Eastern Shore that are still suffering in the wake of Super-Storm Sandy.

Maryland had sought individual assistance as part of the requested presidential disaster declaration for Dorchester, Somerset and Worcester counties. On the heels of the denial, Maryland Emergency Management Agency Director Ken Mallette said, “We will appeal this decision. Although state agencies and volunteer groups have done their best to assist local residents, many residents have needs that go beyond the scope of those programs.”

As they wait for this process to go through the governmental hurdles, homeowners, renters and business owners who suffered losses not covered by insurance are asked to document their situations and report to the county emergency managers.

Nearly every local public official has weighed in on this denial, and we expect FEMA, the federal body that made the decision, to release some funds after the appeal is heard. Simply put, Somerset County needs a funding interjection desperately and life may never be the same for the lower shore residents if there is not some federal help. More specifically, Crisfield might cease to exist if the 300 homes in the town do not get repaired and if the unknown number of businesses that are currently shuttered do not get a breath of help.

“As one of Maryland’s poorest counties, and the one that has been hardest hit, Somerset County needs the help that these funds will provide. We can protect the families, farming, commercial waterman and other small businesses in Somerset, and help others struggling in our communities, who preserve our traditional legacy, and I urge FEMA to act and grant this relief to our community,” said Senator Jim Mathias, who represents the lower shore in Annapolis.

There is a proper protocol to follow with all government agencies, and FEMA’s requirements are extensive and well documented. On paper, it appears the devastated area of Crisfield does not meet the official criteria. However, there are times when what’s on paper is not enough and human safety and livelihood needs to be considered. This is one of those cases and FEMA needs to direct some funding to help save this area, which has already fallen on difficult times due to economic pressures.

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