Hoeven: DHS Secretary Napolitano Agrees to Review Additional Counties For Individual Assistance

Secretary Sending FEMA Deputy Secretary Serino to North Dakota

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today spoke with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who has agreed to review additional counties for inclusion in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Individual Assistance program. 

Napolitano said she is sending FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino to North Dakota tomorrow to oversee a reevaluation of Morton, Renville and McHenry counties over the course of the week. She said the agency would continue to work on the Devils Lake Basin region as well. 

The Secretary also said FEMA would extend the appeal period 45 days, to August 15, enabling officials to assess fully the impact of flooding. 

“I have known Secretary Napolitano for a long time due to our service together as governors, and I believe that after our conversation, she will take a fresh look at the situation on the ground in North Dakota in order to arrive at a more inclusive decision that better meets the needs of people affected by flooding,” Hoeven said. “That’s why she’s sending the deputy director for FEMA Rich Serino to North Dakota, and I have also asked her to visit personally to see the impacts on the ground for herself.” 

The call comes following a letter that the state’s congressional delegation and governor sent to Secretary Napolitano and FEMAAdministrator Craig Fugate earlier today calling on them to provide a quick and fair review to North Dakota’s request for FEMA’s IA. 

That means making eligibility decisions based on conditions on the ground rather than on just a county-by-county basis, which often provides an inaccurate representation and produces an inequitable outcome, they said. The delegation and governor also asked for a follow-up call pursuant to their Friday call with the secretary and administrator to update them on the ongoing situation across the state. 

After FEMA denied the governor’s request for IA in 22 counties and two Indian reservations, the congressional delegation and governor immediately called on Napolitano and Fugate last Friday to reverse the initial decision and approve all counties requested. Subsequently, FEMA announced it had approved IA for only Ward and Burleigh counties, but not adjacent counties, like Morton, Renville, and McHenry, or for Ramsey and Nelson counties, where residents of the Devils Lake Basin have been hard hit by this year’s record flooding.