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MEMA Director Robert Latham Testifies before Congress about Disaster Preparedness

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 04 Dec 2012 06:40pm | comments

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency director is making recommendations to Congress about streamlining the recovery process in large disasters. MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports.


Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Director Robert Latham, was one of about a dozen witnesses who testified yesterday before a congressional hearing to review the preparedness, response and recovery from Hurricane Sandy. Latham was eager to tell congress what Mississippi has learned from the more than 20 presidential disaster declarations the state has received since 2000 including Hurricane Katrina in 2005.


"Recovery is a shared responsibility and must be driven by a well thought out long term recovery plan. The strategy can only be successful when driven at the local level. The absence of such a plan will often result in hasty decisions guided by political posturing and constantly changing priorities. There are never enough resources to rebuild as we want to. But that does not mean that we cannot build better, smarter and more resilient communities."


Latham told congressional leaders  that after Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi officials were frustrated that the federal government required separate environmental and historic preservation reviews for some projects. He says the duplicated efforts severely hampered recovery.



"So what can we do to make the recovery process easier. Congress should work with FEMA to change the language in the law that would allow FEMA to advance public assistance funds using estimates similar to block grants allowing for flexibility within specific guidelines for  applicants and help applicants recover,"


Latham is urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency to allow states to spend slightly more to manage recovery projects. He says doing so would allow the hiring of additional employees for recovery, freeing up regular government employees to focus on providing basic services. Lawmakers say the hearing will help them focus on reforms that will help streamline the recovery process for disaster victims.  Lawayne Childrey, MPB News.




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