The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported this week that a record $4.27 billion in FEMA disaster funds have been expended to date to aid people and communities victimized by one of the most intense and damaging Atlantic hurricane seasons in recent times.
Michael Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response and Director of FEMA, attributed the expenditures to 27 major disasters declared by President Bush in response to hurricane-related damage in 15 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“The level of assistance provided to date shows how destructive this year’s storms were, and through the efforts of thousands of dedicated disaster workers FEMA has delivered unprecedented aid to individuals and governments affected by the storms quicker than ever before,” Brown said. “With President Bush’s continuing support, FEMA and the federal family remain committed to staying for as long as it takes to ensure that all recovery needs are met in Florida and the other affected states.”
In addition to declarations issued for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the agency reported that four major disasters were declared for Florida, three for South Carolina, two each for Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and one each for Alabama, Delaware, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.
According to FEMA data, the amount of funding obligated by FEMA in less than four months for Tropical Storms Bonnie, Gaston and Jeanne, and Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne surpassed the previous record total of $2.36 billion that has been expended for hurricane relief in 1998. Additionally, the more than 1.6 million storm victims that have applied for aid through November amounted to three times the number of FEMA’s annual total registrations for declared disasters.
Of the total FEMA funding, the agency reported that $2.25 billion has been provided in aid for affected individuals and families. The outlay included $1.29 billion in housing assistance, $918 million for other needs assistance, such as medical expenses and personal property losses, $30.98 million in unemployment benefits, and $5.23 million for crisis counseling services.
In addition, $286 million in FEMA funds have been committed to state and local governments for the restoration of damaged facilities, $1.11 billion spent in mission-assigned federal emergency work, and $2.94 million obligated for hazard mitigation activities.
FEMA figures also showed that the bulk of the funding, or more than $3.1 billion, was expended in response and recovery aid for Florida, where more than 1.1 million hurricane victims have registered for assistance since mid-August. To date, $1.43 billion has been spent for individual assistance needs and $1.15 billion in public assistance for the state and local governments, of which $979.5 million was obligated for emergency response work undertaken by the federal government.
The agency also reported that a total of 15,560 federal workers were engaged in response and recovery operations for the declared disasters, including more than 11,000 FEMA personnel and 1,900 disaster medical specialists. As part of the massive response effort in Florida and other hard hit states, 163 million pounds of ice, 10.8 million gallons of water, 14 million meals-ready-to-eat and 151,000 rolls of plastic roofing material were delivered to help meet immediate emergency needs.
To expedite aid to storm victims, FEMA operated its toll-free registration phone lines 24-hours a day in Florida and the other declared states and implemented an online registration service. In addition, the agency opened multiple fixed and mobile Disaster Recovery Centers to assist applicants and deployed 3,100 community service workers to provide door-to-door applicant service.
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