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Tribal areas disastersLawmakers consider bill to ease red tape for Native American Tribes in disasters

Published 14 March 2012

To help Native Americans living on tribal lands recover from natural disasters, lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow tribes to directly request relief from the President of the United States rather than state governors

To help Native Americans living on tribal lands recover from natural disasters, lawmakers are consideringa bill that would allow tribes to directly request relief from the President of the United States rather than state governors.

Under current law to obtain a federal disaster declaration, tribal officials must have state governors request disaster aid on their behalf, but with the proposed bill, tribal leaders can avoid this extra step and gain access to federal relief directly.

The White House and FEMA have both endorsed similar legislation in the past.

Last May, Representative Nick Rahall (D – West Virginia) introduced a bill to the same effect. In support of the law, at the time FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said, “Consistent with our strong government-to-government relationship, FEMA and the administration support amending the Stafford Act to allow federally recognized tribal governments to make a request directly to the president for a federal emergency or disaster declaration.”

Fugate added, “Tribal members are an essential part of the emergency management team, and amending the law would enhance FEMA’s working relationship with tribal governments and improve emergency and disaster responsiveness throughout Indian country.”