Connolly Responds to FEMA Comments


Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
703-324-3187, TTY 711, FAX 703-324-2010

Aug. 4, 2006

Chairman Gerald E. Connolly Responds to Recent FEMA Comments

Gerald E. Connolly, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, in response to recent comments attributed to FEMA official Daniel Martinez, has sent the below correspondence to elected officials representing Fairfax County.  In addition to Sen. George Allen, the attached correspondence was sent to Sen. John Warner, Rep. Tom Davis, Rep. James Moran and Rep. Frank Wolf.

For more information, contact Connolly’s office at 703-324-2321, TTY 711.

 

Text of Chairman Connolly's letter: 

August 3, 2006 

The Honorable Tom Davis
U.S. House of Representatives
2248 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressman Davis:

I must bring to your attention the highly troubling comments of Federal Emergency Management Agency official Daniel Martinez regarding Virginia’s application for federal funding aid to assist the residents of Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax County who were devastated by flooding caused by the late June 2006 torrential rains.

According to The Washington Post article of August 2, 2006, Mr. Martinez stated that FEMA has denied federal assistance to Virginia because as a whole, the Northern Virginia region affected by the disaster is “affluent.” This is an outrageous public policy statement that bespeaks of a profound ignorance of our area and the needs of our lower income residents. Many of the residents in the Huntington community of Fairfax County are lower to middle income families, doing their best to provide for themselves and this disaster has had a particularly devastating impact on them.

The overly simplistic characterization of Fairfax County as affluent also reveals a lack of understanding of our complex demographics. While Fairfax’s poverty rate of 4.4% may seem low at first blush, in real terms, that represents over 44,000 people living below the poverty line; more than the total population of almost 100 Virginia jurisdictions.

Furthermore 8.3% of Fairfax households have incomes of less than $25,000 – in one of the highest cost of living areas in the U.S.

Not withstanding the thousands of Fairfax families who struggle with fiscal stability, Fairfax County and Northern Virginia as a whole contribute a significant amount of tax dollars to the federal government. As part of the overall federal revenue, these funds are used to assist many communities in the United States during their time of need. Yet when our community experiences a devastating disaster, and particularly when our lower-income residents face tremendous financial hardships during recovery, the federal government’s policy according to Mr. Martinez is to ask us to further tax ourselves, locally, since the revenues our residents send to the federal government are to be apparently forever denied us.

I call your attention to United States Code, Title 42, Chapter 68, 5151 a., located on FEMA’s own website:

“The President shall issue, and may alter and amend, such regulations as may be necessary for the guidance of personnel carrying out Federal assistance functions at the site of a major disaster or emergency. Such regulations shall include provisions for insuring that the distribution of supplies, the processing of applications, and other relief and assistance activities shall be accomplished in an equitable and impartial manner, without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, or economic status.” [emphasis added.]

Apparently, according to U.S. Code, economic status cannot be a factor in receiving federal assistance; however, according to Mr. Martinez, the lower income residents of the Huntington community in Fairfax County will be denied similar aid because their surrounding neighbors have been deemed by a bureaucratic review as too wealthy. I cannot believe that this result was the intention of the drafters of this code section, yet I also cannot understand how this section of U.S. Code can be reconciled with Mr. Martinez’ public policy ruling.

Mr. Martinez’s outrageous remarks now stand as stated public policy of FEMA. The implications of this are unacceptable. I ask that you intercede on behalf of your and my constituents and clarify that this particular public policy, denying federal assistance to the needy residents of Virginia is improper and I ask that you assist the residents of Northern Virginia affected by these devastating rains and floods in receiving the proper federal aid.

I further request that Mr. Dan Martinez be disciplined or removed from his position for enunciating a policy that denies federal assistance to needy individuals and forces local communities to raise local tax dollars as a substitute for federal assistance we, like any other community in need, have a right to request and indeed, expect. If FEMA is to continue forward with its mission of providing assistance to United States residents in times of need during major disasters than the mindset evident in Mr. Martinez’ comments and ruling cannot be allowed to stand.

Thank you very much for your attention to this matter as we all work towards assisting the people of Fairfax County.

Sincerely,


Gerald E. Connolly

To request this information in an alternate format, call the Office of Public Affairs at 703-324-3187, TTY 711.

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