A bill making its way through Congress could change the way the federal government determines whether to give states disaster aid.
Indiana applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance twice in the past year—once when more than two dozen tornadoes hit the state in November and a second time when bad winter storms swept through in early January.
FEMA denied Indiana’s request both times—saying the state didn’t meet the minimum threshold.
A bill Illinois’ U.S. Senators are proposing could change how that threshold is calculated. Right now Indiana must prove it has more than $9 million in damage—or about $1.40 per resident—before FEMA will provide assistance.
FEMA also looks at whether a state has the ability to recover without federal assistance.
John Erickson, Indiana Department of Homeland Security spokesman, says Indiana is one of a few states that has its own disaster relief fund.
“We are in good shape financially,” Erickson said. “I think the thing we don’t want to be is penalized because we’ve been fiscally responsible.”
The proposed legislation would develop a type of rubric for FEMA to use that includes more emphasis on local rather than statewide impact.
A FEMA spokeswoman says the administration does not comment on pending litigation, but FEMA’s aid requirements do make exceptions for quote “extraordinary concentrations of damages.”
As far as Indiana goes, Erickson says his department would have to look more closely at the proposed legislation before deciding whether they could support it, but he says in general he would support anything that would get more assistance to people who are affected by disasters.