Tribes To Be Authorized in Making Disaster Declarations to President

January 29, 2013 –

Stafford Act passes Senate on 62- 36 vote – Headed to President Obama’s Desk for Signature


Washington, DC – Tribal nations will soon have the same ability provided to states to make disaster relief declarations and requests for assistance directly to the President of the United States. In a 62-36 vote on Monday night, the U.S. Senate passed H.R. 152, the Hurricane Sandy Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill, which includes amendments to allow tribal governments to make direct requests for emergency assistance to the President under the Stafford Act. Under current law, tribes must seek assistance through a state governor’s office, often causing critical delays in emergency response on tribal lands.  The legislation, which also includes $50 billion in Hurricane Sandy relief funding, passed 241-180 in the House of Representatives two weeks ago and now goes to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law.


“Some tribal nations in the U.S., many in remote areas, are larger than some states and every tribal nation has unique disaster response and recovery requests. The final passage of this bill marks a historic moment in tribal emergency preparedness and response. Our nations, devastated too often by natural disasters with disproportionate impacts, will be more capable to respond immediately to major disasters, and the bipartisan support for this legislation should not go unnoticed,” said Jefferson Keel, President of NCAI. Keel is also the Lt. Governor of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma.


NCAI further acknowledges that the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) made the tribal amendments to the Stafford Act its sole legislative priority under Administrator Craig Fugate’s direction. The need for this critical policy change has been called for repeatedly in FEMA tribal consultations and meetings with tribal leaders during NCAI conventions.


“State and tribal governments will now be able to access disaster assistance as needed to aid the people, local communities, and regions in recovering quickly from catastrophic situations. NCAI looks forward to the signature of this landmark legislation by President Obama. NCAI is prepared to work with FEMA to ensure its implementation contains fair and inclusive eligibility criteria and will benefit the maximum number of tribal communities,” concluded Robert Holden, NCAI’s Deputy Director and longtime coordinator of emergency management policy and response efforts at NCAI.