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Disaster or not? Katko bill to fix disaster assessment process after flooding, storms gets through House

In recent months the ways in which federal disaster aid is either distributed, or not, has become a controversial topic. For example, select counties in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes were denied federal aid after historic flooding during the summer and fall.

The answer? Counties worked with residents to advocate for disaster declaration, FEMA funding, etc.

This week the House of Representatives passed a bill put forward by Rep. John Katko to reform the way preliminary damage assessment is conducted. Following a flood or storm, the way in which those assessments are completed would change under the proposal.

FEMA works with state and local officials to make the determination. However, local officials have raised concerns about the coordination process with FEMA. Duplicate paperwork, conflicting guidance, and other issues inevitably come up during the process.

So, Katko’s legislation would create an advisory panel to work with the agency on improving the damage assessment process. It would also standardize training for FEMA personnel so there is a true standard between emergencies.

The panel would consist of state and local emergency personnel as well as representatives from FEMA.

State task force to address flooding in Finger Lakes was formed several years ago, but never convened