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Congressional Black Caucus urges Trump to modernise disaster policies, procedures

Sunday, November 19, 2017

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WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — In the wake of destruction caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria to the United States Gulf Coast and the Caribbean, the chairman of the US Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Congressman Cedric Richmond, a Democrat from the state of Louisiana, has dispatched a letter to President Donald Trump and congressional leaders urging them to modernise federal policies and procedures.

Richmond said this is necessary “so that the people most affected by natural disasters get the help they need to get back on their feet and communities are stronger and better protected than before.”

The letter included long-term disaster principles that the CBC would like the US federal government to adopt.

“Bad recovery policies can also destroy a community by turning a natural disaster into a manmade one,” Richmond wrote. “The key to a successful recovery is making sure that it includes everyone, allows people to participate in their own recovery, and invests in mitigation to ensure that communities are rebuilt stronger than before.

“When these conditions are not met, recovery is uneven and communities remain vulnerable to future disasters,” he added. “This is particularly true for poor and minority communities.”

In addition to the letter, Richmond sent a list of “eight disaster principles” to congressional leaders.

Some of the principles would require new legislation, and others would require amendments to the Stafford Act.

The Robert T Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act) is a United States federal law designed to bring an orderly and systemic means of federal natural disaster assistance for state and local governments in carrying out their responsibilities to aid citizens.

According to reports, Congress's intention was to encourage states and localities to develop comprehensive disaster preparedness plans, prepare for better intergovernmental coordination in the face of a disaster, encourage the use of insurance coverage, and provide federal assistance programs for losses due to a disaster.

The Stafford Act is a 1988 amended version of the Disaster Relief Act of 1974. It created the system in place today by which a presidential disaster declaration or an emergency declaration triggers financial and physical assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The Act gives FEMA the responsibility for coordinating government-wide relief efforts. The Federal Response Plan includes contributions from 28 federal agencies and non-governmental organizations, such as the American Red Cross.

“After a disaster, Americans look out for each other,” Richmond said. “We should make sure the federal government is looking out for them, too.

“These commonsense principles would improve our disaster recovery efforts by making programs more efficient, getting help to the people and places that need it most, and planting the seed for stronger and faster recoveries,” he added.

On Friday, the White House sent the US Congress a US$44 billion disaster aid request that legislators have already described as too small.

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