Heckuva job: FEMA rejected aid for earlier storm in Central Florida 2 days ago

Michael Roston
Published: Friday February 2, 2007
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Tornadoes ripped through central Florida overnight and killed 14 people. The disaster came on the heels of a decision by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials to deny federal aid to victims of tornadoes on Christmas Day in 2006, RAW STORY has learned. Federal authorities have not yet declared the current situation a federal disaster zone, although a congressman claims that "the White House has already pledged to do everything they can to help."

Areas in the same counties afflicted by last night's tornadoes were slammed by storms on Christmas Day. For instance, in Volusia County, 300 homes were damaged, and 140 sustained serious damage according to the Orlando Sentinel. An editorial in today's Orlando Sentinel noted that many of those destroyed structures were mobile homes. Additionally, in Pasco County, 105 homes were damaged, reported TBO.com.

According to a report at WESH-2 in Florida, "Despite being asked by his brother former Gov. Jeb Bush to do that after the storms, President George W. Bush declined." Apparently FEMA found that while many homes met the damage conditions for federal aid, the threshold of financial loss for the Christmas Day tornadoes was not reached.

When making financial judgments against providing aid, FEMA often concludes that state and local authorities will be able to pay for disaster relief. Officials in the area north of Orlando were unhappy that the determination was made in this case. The Orlando Sentinel on Jan. 31 quoted Jim Ryan, the Volusia County director of emergency management, as saying "There is not a pot of gold out there that anyone can tap,...It's going to be a lot more complicated to provide assistance."

Volusia is one of the counties where a State of Emergency was declared today. The State of Florida immediately appealed FEMA's decision.

Rep. Ric Keller (R-FL) claims he has spoken to the White House, which said they would do everything they can to help. According to a report by Florida's Local 6 News, the congressman said, "We'll make sure we get the funds needed from the federal government." Florida's new Governor Charlie Crist said he had contacted FEMA and the White House before touring the damage, but made no statement about whether aid was coming for the current storm.

FEMA has been highly criticized for its weak response to Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast area. In the immediate aftermath of the storms, President George W. Bush declared that ex-FEMA director Michael Brown was doing a "heckuva job."