FEMA denies disaster funds for West, Texas. Is that unusual?
West needs the disaster funds, say local and state politicians, but FEMA has turned down requests for non-natural disaster aid before. The decision is a new flash point between Texas and the Obama administration.
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Governor Perry criticized statements President Obama made at a memorial service for the 10 first responders killed in the April 17 blast.Skip to next paragraph
Chelsea Sheasley is the Monitor's Asia Editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine.
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"He said his administration would stand with them, ready to help," Perry said. "We anticipate the president will hold true to his word and help us work with FEMA to ensure much-needed assistance reaches the community of West."
At the service, Mr. Obama told town residents, “We’ll be there even after the cameras leave and after the attention turns elsewhere…. Your country will remain ever ready to help you recover and rebuild and reclaim your community.”
Rep. Bill Flores (R) of Texas, whose district includes West, told The Dallas Morning News he is “disappointed that we didn’t get it approved” and that the decision could mean a difference of more than $20 million in aid. He said he would work with Perry to try and get the decision reversed.
Officials can appeal FEMA’s decision within 30 days. Perry’s office said it would “assess what – if any – additional information federal officials might need to alter their decision,” writes The Dallas Morning News.
Sen. John Cornyn (R) of Texas, called FEMA’s response “completely unacceptable” and vowed to work to get the decision reversed.
Authorities haven't publicly determined what caused the fire, saying it could have started from a spark from a golf cart, an electrical short, or could have been set intentionally, CNN reports. In May, authorities announced they had launched a criminal investigation into the case, though no one has been charged.
Texas has a recent history of disputes with the federal government, notes Reuters: “The rejection is the latest in a host of disputes between the Republican-led Texas state government and Obama's Democratic administration, including FEMA's denial of a Texas request for disaster assistance for the devastating 2011 drought and wildfires.
Other disputes have included the administration's blocking of federal funds for a Texas health program for poor women after the state passed a law barring Planned Parenthood, a provider of abortions, from participating in the program. In addition, the US Justice Department last year went to court to block a Texas law requiring identification for voting, saying it discriminated against minority voters.”
• Material from the Associated Press was used in this report