For Immediate Release
December 8, 2011
Contact: Wallace Collins
Phone: 405-427-3366


Support Legislation for Tribes to Apply for FEMA Assistance


OKLAHOMA CITY – Yesterday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), under the direction of President Obama and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, announced that it supports amending federal law to allow federally recognized tribal governments to make disaster declaration requests directly to the president.

“The Oklahoma Democratic Party supports legislative efforts to strengthen the bonds between Native American tribes and the U.S. government. We also recognize the importance of having access to FEMA resources during a time of crisis,” said Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins.

Under current law, only states, through the governor, can make disaster declaration requests directly to the president. Amending the law would acknowledge the sovereignty of federally recognized tribes and the trust relationship of the United States, and enhance FEMA’s working relationship with tribal governments. Such a change would be another step in fulfilling the promise of a presidential memo issued by President Obama to improve the administration’s support for tribal governments. Such a legislative change to the Stafford Act would allow a tribal government to choose whether to directly request a separate declaration or to receive assistance, as they do presently, under a declaration for a state.

As part of these efforts to work with tribal governments directly, during the past year, and as part of their continued commitment, FEMA has designated tribal liaisons in each of their ten regional offices, and hired an attorney who is educated, trained, and experienced in federal Indian law and emergency management to better support tribes before, during and after an emergency or disaster strikes.  This has allowed FEMA to closely coordinate with tribes, and make sure they have the support they need while planning, preparing for, responding to and recovering from emergencies and disasters.