The new law providing federal disaster aid for victims of Superstorm Sandy includes a provision that makes it easier for native American tribes to access recovery aid.
The provision gives tribal governments the option of applying directly to the President for emergency aid or applying through governors of their states, as they must do now.
The change was sought by tribal governments and supported by the Obama Administration.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate applauded the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013 for amending the Stafford Act to grant tribes this additional option.
“This amendment to the Stafford Act follows on the President’s commitments to Indian Country, strengthens the government to government relationship between FEMA and federally recognized Tribes, and will enhance the way FEMA supports Tribal communities before, during, and after disasters,” Fugate said.
Fugate said FEMA will provide interim guidance in the coming weeks explaining how and when Tribal governments may seek declarations, while more comprehensive consultations and administrative procedures are undertaken.
According to the U.S. Census, there are 565 federally recognized Indian tribes with a total population of close to 2 million.
In the 2010 Census, the tribal groupings with 100,000 or more in population were Cherokee (819,105), Navajo (332,129), Choctaw (195,764), Mexican American Indian (175,494), Chippewa (170,742), Sioux (170,110), Apache (111,810), and Blackfeet (105,304).
There are 15 states with more than 100,000 American Indian and Alaska Native residents: California, Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas, New York, New Mexico, Washington, North Carolina, Florida, Michigan, Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, Minnesota and Illinois.