It has been a little more than a month since Hurricane Sandy made landfall and pounded the Atlantic shores of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. Within hours, government big dogs, the president included, were on the scene promising speedy and comprehensive relief. When they left to attend to campaigning and other business, the bureaucrats arrived and took over. Now, things proceed slowly and in the usual fashion. The 'E' in FEMA may stand for emergency but that is no reason to get all excited and start rushing things. As Roger Kimball reports:
Yesterday I spoke to, let’s see, eight, maybe nine different FEMA agents. Each one was there to help. Each was polite, sympathetic. Oodles of sympathy. Almost all had a form for me to fill out, a web site to visit. Each of the long, long line of people who came to see these agents went away with forms to fill out, web sites to visit.
At the Disaster Recovery Area at our local Town Hall, a large RV stood humming outside with a placard announcing that it was the FEMA chariot. No one was inside, however. All the agents were huddled in a suite of offices down a long corridor inside Town Hall. There was the Cerberus outside the sanctum sanctorum that made sure you had “registered with FEMA.”That done, he provided you with a routing slip that detailed the services you might be eligible for. Then you sat for an hour or two, as if you were a patient at an NHS facility in Britain, or an Obamacare facility in America in the near future. You then talked to one nice person after the next. There was this form, and that form, and a web site you could visit, and handbook you could read. At one stop I was given, for free!, a longish pamphlet explaining what I could do to make my property less liable to flood damage: “Mitigation Ideas For Reducing Flood Loss” it said on its cover. After a flood, it told me, a house needs to be dried out and cleaned. “Move things you want to save to a safe dry place.” Noted. “The longer they sit in water, the more damaged they become.” I was glad to know that.
Kimball can, perhaps, take consolation in the news that it is not only mere citizens who are being slow danced on government relief and help with rebuilding. Governors and aspirants to the White House are also obliged to stand in line and behave as supplicants before they will receive their disaster money. If, indeed, they do get it and in the amounts they say they need. According to the Washington Post:
The White House is expected to issue its supplemental spending request for Sandy-related aid early this week, according to congressional sources who anticipate the request will account for most, but not all of the requested funds.
The urgency of the matter facing affected states may be best reflected Monday when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) — a potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate — makes his maiden voyage as governor to Washington. Cuomo spent several years in D.C. as Bill Clinton’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development, but has avoided visiting town since taking office in 2011.
Cuomo is expected to ask for:
$42 billion in federal aid: $32 billion in reimbursement requests for storm damage and about $9 billion for mitigation work to rebuild and strengthen the state’s infrastructure.
But there is no guarantee that he will receive as much as he says he needs. These are difficult time, and “like most non-cliff related issues these days, states affected by Hurricane Sandy may need to wait a bit longer for assistance — and may not get everything they want.”
It will not come as reassuring news to Kimball and Cuomo and all others looking to Washington for help in dealing with damage done by Sandy to learn that people in Vermont, whose property was damaged over a year ago by Hurricane Irene, are also waiting for government relief. According to this report on Vermont Public Radio:
At a time when many are preparing for the holidays, dozens of homeowners affected by Tropical Storm Irene are still waiting for the funds they need to get back on their feet. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved buyouts of several properties, but none of the owners has gotten any money.
"I would have expected it within a year, and that's gone by," says Bonnie Pemberton whose home ... was destroyed in the flood.
Ms. Pemberton and Mr. Kimball might find the delay hard to understand since, unlike Governor Cuomo, they have never run a big government agency or an entire state government. But there are rituals and standards and procedures to be followed, including
... environmental approvals, and, in some cases, even more time-consuming historical preservation reviews that have to be completed before homeowners get money.
And government will not be rushed.