Friday, August 23, 2019

Analysis: Rural disasters get less attention, federal funding

Supportive messages adorn a fence in Oso, Wash., on a still-blocked street
where 43 people  died in a 2014 landslide. (News21 photo by Allie Barton)
Major disasters like Hurricane Katrina get the lion's share of headlines and federal funding, but hundreds of smaller disasters actually accounted for most of the federally declared disasters between 2003 and 2018, and recently fewer of the smaller ones have qualified for assistance to individuals, according to an analysis of Federal Emergency Management Agency funding.

"From 1999 to 2008, almost 60 percent of disasters met the requirements needed to pay individual assistance to affected survivors, while in the following decade, 29% of all declared disasters met those requirements," Justine Coleman and Isaac Windes report for The Fairfield Sun Times in Montana. "As more expensive storms become more frequent, these hazards paint a picture of a steady, pervasive and growing threat in areas that are often less prepared for storms and disasters."

Coleman and Windes report, "Since 1999, 651 declared disasters did not receive individual assistance. In addition to public assistance, which pays for restoring roads, bridges and other public facilities, uninsured people whose homes or businesses are damaged by larger disasters also qualify for direct individual assistance to pay for temporary housing, repair costs and replacement costs."

FEMA gives individual assistance to survivors who can't afford their needs, but obtaining it is slower and more complicated than getting the community-wide assistance offered after disasters. The individual assistance is often not enough to completely rebuild a home, which can be devastating to those already living in poverty, Coleman and Windes report.

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