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Begich Ensures Alaska Natives Are Heard and Disaster Relief Needs Are Met

Indian Affairs Committee Holds Hearing to Make Sure FEMA Works With Tribes

In his role as a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, U.S. Senator Mark Begich directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to better assist tribes in responding to natural disasters as it develops its 2016 budget request for tribal engagement and outreach.

At the hearing Begich listened to witnesses, including Mary David of Kawerak, Inc. in Nome, who testified about what resources are available to tribes in these dire situations, how they can access those resources, and what tribal communities’ experience have been in preparing for and recovering from natural disasters.

“I appreciate Mary David’s attendance at the hearing – I believe it is critically important for FEMA leadership to practice what they preach when it comes to meaningful outreach and consultation with Alaska’s tribes,” said Begich. “I will continue to use my role as Chairman of the Emergency Management Subcommittee and as a member Indian Affairs to make sure FEMA listens and Alaska Native and American Indian tribes’ get the resources they need to respond to natural disasters.”

Begich spoke Wednesday (44:00 min. mark) at the Indian Affairs Oversight Hearing "When Catastrophe Strikes: Responses to Natural Disasters in Indian Country"


The Senate Indian Affairs Committee on Wednesday held a hearing entitled: “When Catastrophe Strikes: Responses to Natural Disasters in Indian Country.” The hearing focused on implementation of new Stafford Act authorities regarding American Indian and Alaska Native tribes’ ability to directly request and obtain assistance in responding to natural disasters.

In March, Begich and Senator Tester (D-MT) wrote to FEMA Administrator Fugate about how FEMA was implementing the recent tribal disaster declaration provision in the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act (SRIA).  Both Senators have worked with FEMA to increase its outreach efforts to ensure the Agency is meeting with Alaska Native and tribal leaders through face-to-face meetings as they work to work to implement this new provision.  In April, Senator Begich also brought Administrator Fugate on his first trip to Alaska to meet with Alaska Native leaders.

The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013, a bipartisan measure Begich supported, contained numerous legislative reforms to disaster relief programs, including authority for tribal governments to cut through bureaucracy and request assistance directly from FEMA.

Witnesses:

  • Elizabeth Zimmerman, Deputy Associate Administrator for the Office of Response & Recovery (ORR), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • Ms. Mary David, Executive Vice President, Kawerak, Inc., Nome, Alaska
  • The Honorable J. Michael Chavarria, Governor, Pueblo of Santa Clara, Espanola, New Mexico
  • Ms. Ronda Metcalf, Secretary, Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe, Darrington, Washington
  • Mr. Matt Gregory, Executive Director of Risk Management, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Durant, Oklahoma
  • Mr. Jake Heflin, President/CEO, Tribal Emergency Management Association, Reno, Nevada

In addition to his role on the Indian Affairs Committee, Begich is Chair of the Subcommittee on Emergency Management, Intergovernmental Relations and the District of Columbia, which has jurisdiction and oversight over FEMA.

For more information on Begich’s work on Alaska Native issues visit his Senate website.

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