The Northeast is learning what the southeast has some time ago. Federal disaster response is not what it used to be.
From what I can best tell the change started with Hurricane Floyd in North Carolina back when Clinton was president. North Carolina had a significant rainy day fund that it had accumulated and kicked it in to help the people affected by the disaster. Floyd at the time was known for having hit the some traditional African American communities. African American communities, a Democratic President, a State Legislature, and a Democratic Governor, the presumption that the Federal money was following seemed like a safe one.
That money took a long time coming. Why was there a pull back? Adjusting for inflation the 1989 Oakland area earthquake had been enormously expensive. Politics had kept the money spigot open for an extended period of time. it helps to have your earthquake televised during the World Series. Ten years latter, with Hurricane Floyd covering such a large area, one suspects that there was a reluctance to pay a similar amount of money for an area that was not considered to be economically vital to the country.
Both FEMA, and the insurance companies were able to get away with the foot dragging to some degree. When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and travelled well into the mountain regions of the East Coast, the poor response by FEMA and the insurance companies was not an accident. There was an understanding that we no longer had the ability to pay for wide spread disaster relief. From an insurance point of view, it is dubious that policies that would have to pay out on such a broad scale at one time where ever realistic to begin with. A forced savings program would have been more realistic, but is not politically realistic.
Well we are back to the Northeast. And they are learning some hard lessons. Note that the first article is from a month ago and the budge issue is still unresolved.
Daniel Stone, The Daily Beast, 27 August 2011
It’s been a busy year for America’s disaster agency, and that may soon spell disaster for its budget.
It started with severe winter storms in the east and southwest in January. Tsunami waves from the Japanese earthquake struck the West Coast and Hawaii in March, followed by the tornado that flattened parts of southern Missouri in May. Several Midwest states saw flooding earlier this month. And an earthquake and hurricane rocked the East Coast this week.
So far in 2011 the Federal Management Agency (FEMA) has responded to “major disasters” 65 times, among the highest in the agency’s history. The unprecedented demand has stretched the agency and its budget increasingly thin.
Robert Pear, New York Times, 26 September 2011 via Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette
TUNKHANNOCK, Pa. -- Standing in the living room of their house, now full of mud, slime and debris, Helen and Peter Kelly cannot believe that Congress is bickering over disaster aid to people like them.
The roaring waters of the Susquehanna River burst into their home in Mehoopany more than two weeks ago. "Water -- you work with it every day, and then it destroys your whole life," Mrs. Kelly said.
Her husband, still looking shell-shocked, said: "We lost everything. Stove, washer, dryer, TV. Hot water heater, clothes, dishes, refrigerator. Everything, just gone."
The Kellys also lost confidence in government and politicians.