|Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said regulations that prevented Kaycee from receiving disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) must be revised, if not administratively then through legislation.
"FEMA's own standards prevent it from helping the communities that are least able to help themselves - rural communities," said Enzi in a Dec. 19 letter to President Bush and FEMA Administrator Joseph Allbaugh. "If this problem cannot be addressed using the administrative and regulatory powers of FEMA, I would then offer my assistance in changing the language legislatively."
FEMA failed to provide disaster assistance to Kaycee when an August flood heavily damaged 80 percent of the town's businesses and 35 percent of the homes.
Enzi hosted a meeting in Kaycee in October to view the extent of the town's damage and determine what other options are available to help in its recovery. FEMA representatives chose not to attend the meeting.
Enzi praised other government agencies such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Small Business Administration and the Army Corp of Engineers for their efforts to help the people of Kaycee through this disastrous time.
Enzi's letter is included below.
Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Mr. Joseph Allbaugh
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C Street, SW
Washington, DC 20472
Dear Mr. President:
I am writing to address the inadequacies in the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) handling of a disaster in Kaycee, Wyoming this year. As you know, on August 27-28, 2002, Kaycee was overwhelmed by a four-foot surge of water from the Powder River caused by a severe and destructive rain storm. On August 30, 2002, Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer requested a Presidential Disaster Designation for Kaycee and the surrounding area. The request was denied because "the impact of this event is not of a severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration." Since 80 percent of Kaycee's business district was damaged, the criteria that determine the severity of disasters does not appear to accurately account for their impact on rural communities.
FEMA subsequently failed to consider these circumstances and act on Governor Geringer's October 3, 2002 request for reconsideration of the denied Presidential Disaster Designation.
In October, I hosted a meeting with interested federal agencies in Kaycee to personally view the extent of the town's damage and determine what future actions are available to help Kaycee's recovery. Although FEMA representatives chose not to attend the meeting, the agencies represented made good headway in determining potential solutions to rectify the damage done to the community's infrastructure.
Community members are using state and local resources to repair and rebuild physical structures and encourage the reestablishment of businesses. Federal entities like the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Small Business Administration and the Army Corp of Engineers are also committing their resources to assist in Kaycee's recovery.
It is unfortunate that FEMA, the "emergency" agency, has been unable to assist the people of Kaycee with their emergency. FEMA's own standards prevent it from helping the communities that are least able to help themselves -- rural communities. To qualify for Individual Assistance, at least 100 homes in a specific area must be destroyed or receive major damage. To be eligible for federal Public Assistance, damage to the infrastructure must reach a qualifying factor of $1 million or $1.07 per capita of the state's population, whichever is greater. These standards preclude rural communities in sparsely populated states from receiving federal disaster assistance. Again, these communities are the most in need of help during an emergency.
I am writing to reinforce my earlier request that the regulations that prevented Kaycee from receiving disaster assistance be changed so that our rural communities will be protected in the future. If FEMA's regulations are inadequate to serve their purpose in assisting all disasters throughout the United States, rural or not, they must be revised.
If this problem cannot be addressed using the administrative and regulatory powers of FEMA, I would then offer my assistance in changing the language legislatively. Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter. I look forward to your response.
Michael B. Enzi
United States Senator