Washington – Resident Commissioner in Washington Jenniffer González introduced legislation to include first-aid personnel, solid waste management, and land and sea transportation systems among the "critical services" that should receive federal emergency assistance during a natural disaster.
González said that all of those areas are essential for the recovery of a jurisdiction after a natural disaster, but they are not included in the definition of critical services in the Stafford Act.
Section 428 of the Stafford Act directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support disaster-affected jurisdictions to restore "critical services" that are necessary for the recovery through public assistance program funds, she recalled.
But when defining critical services, she mentions "energy services, water (including water provided by an irrigation organization or facility), sewerage, wastewater treatment, communications, education, and emergency medical care."
González said that her measure seeks to emphasize that port and transportation services, for example, are equally important.
González indicated that the early recovery of critical services depends on getting “the necessary materials, supplies and personnel” to the area. “Port and transportation services that allow it, naturally, should be considered equally critical,” she stressed.
She added that especially in non-contiguous jurisdictions such as Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa, Alaska and Hawaii, ports are a lifeline for at-risk populations and for the arrival of first responders, food, medical supplies, and fuel.
She said the same applies to solid waste management, such as debris or dead animals, and rainwater infrastructure.
González said she has discussed these proposals both with FEMA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
"If these services are not defined as critical, then the availability of FEMA assistance and recovery funds to provide efficient solutions to systems that have a great impact on the short and long term recovery of the affected residents will be limited," González added.
The legislation was introduced last April 11 and referred to the subcommittee in charge of emergency management within the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. González is part of that commission.