Disaster recovery dollars on the table

Cleveland County road crews lay asphalt on Etowah Road. The road project was received disaster recovery funding through a federal program. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is assessing its disaster relief policy and could soon raise the threshold of damage states must meet to qualify for federal assistance. Fortunately, Oklahoma and Cleveland County have a seat at the table to inform national policy on disaster relief through a locally elected county commissioner.

Cleveland County Commissioner Darry Stacy reported this week on a recent trip to Washington D.C. where he met with county and federal leaders on this and other topics of concern to counties and to Oklahoma.

“The big issue is FEMA is taking input now on how they are going to revamp, nationally, the qualifications for disaster relief,” Stacy said.

Stacy expects a higher threshold of damages and requirements for mitigation prior to disasters to lessen the impact.

Cleveland County knows the benefit of disaster relief funds first hand following the 2012 wildfires and the 2013 tornadoes. 

During the first round of disaster relief funding, Norman was awarded $12,054,090 and Cleveland County received $7,952,350. In a second award phase, Norman qualified for $5,004,821 and Cleveland County for $2,607,239. Moore has also received millions for the 2013 tornadoes including $52.9 million in disaster relief fund through Housing and Urban Development and more than $10 million in FEMA funds. 

At the Board of County Commissioners meeting on Monday, Stacy said the unusually warm weather has allowed crews to lay asphalt in February and they recently finished work on Etowah Road which was funded by disaster relief funds. He also reported on his recent trip to D.C.

 “I’ve been invited to be part of two ongoing discussions — justice and FEMA,” Stacy said. “I look forward to giving input from our state on directions we want them to go.”

Stacy represented Cleveland County at the National Association of Counties’ annual meeting from Feb. 20-24. According to NACo, the meeting brings “2,000 elected and appointed county officials from across the country to focus on legislative issues facing county government.”

Stacy is vice chair of the Resilient Counties Advisory Board which discussed the need to provide input to FEMA. He said it’s vital that less populous states like Oklahoma make their voices heard during the process.

“This is extremely important to us in Oklahoma because it would have a huge financial impact on us,” Stacy said.

The less densely populated states could have a difficult time meeting higher standards of damage, he said, but those counties need that assistance for recovery efforts.

During the  Resilient Counties Advisory Board meeting, county leaders discussed “The Economics of Risk: New Tools to Address the Rising Costs of Disasters,” to tackle what seems like an increasing frequency of extreme weather events and the cost to government budgets as counties struggle to provide essential services. 

Also discussed was “Evaluating County Projects: Resilience Impact Assessment,” which looked at the “social, economic and governance resilience for county-led plans and projects,” according to the NACo agenda.

Stacy also serves on the Board of Directors for the University of Oklahoma’s Resiliency Institute. He taught classes on resiliency at a conference in Oklahoma City and in October he will present in New Orleans.

“I’ve had the opportunity to speak through NACo once in Iowa and once in Texas,” he said. “A big part of my presentation is on, not only natural disaster, but man made terrorist disaster that we need to be prepared for.”

Stacy is also a member of NACo’s Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee and a vice chair on the Homeland Security subcommittee. The justice committee is looking at sentencing reform, jails, mental health issues and juvenile offenders just to name a few.

“We’re looking at best practices throughout the country,” Stacy said.

As a former law enforcement officer, Stacy said he does not want to be soft on crime, but it’s time to be smart on crime.

“We are on a non-sustainable track and we can’t continue to put people in jail right now at our current rate,” Stacy said.

Joy Hampton

366-3544

jhampton@mooreamerican.com

Follow me @joyinvestigates

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