Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

02/04/2010 09:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved SB 217 Out of Committee
Moved SB 216 Out of Committee
Heard & Held
               SB 216-GRANTS TO DISASTER VICTIMS                                                                            
9:02:33 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  MENARD  announced the  first  order  of business  to  come                                                               
before the committee would be SB 216.                                                                                           
MCHUGH PIERRE,  Deputy Commissioner,  Department of  Military and                                                               
Veterans  Affairs   (DMVA),  said  that  in   addition  to  state                                                               
disasters,  two presidential  disasters  were  declared in  2009:                                                               
flooding  on the  Yukon  and Kuskokwim  Rivers  and mudslides  in                                                               
Kodiak. He explained that  the Legislature implemented Individual                                                               
Assistance Grants  in 1977 in  the amount  of $5,000 which  go to                                                               
victims who  have no other  means of recovery, such  as insurance                                                               
or savings. Mr. Pierre felt  that $5,000 was an inadequate amount                                                               
to help people get back on  their feet during the 2009 disasters.                                                               
He noted  the purpose of  the Individual Assistance Grant  is not                                                               
to make disaster  victims whole again, but to help  them start to                                                               
recover. He felt the grant amount  should be increased to half of                                                               
the federal  amount which  is adjusted  annually by  the consumer                                                               
price index;  in 2009 it  was $30,300 and  in 2010 it  dropped to                                                               
$29,900.  The  proposed  amount [for  the  Individual  Assistance                                                               
Grants]  was thus  $14,950  or  half of  the  2010 federal  grant                                                               
amount. He pointed  out that $14,950 would be a  maximum and does                                                               
not mean that every person would get that amount.                                                                               
SENATOR  PASKVAN  asked  how  much more  money  would  have  been                                                               
distributed in 2009 if the $14,950  grant amount was in place. He                                                               
asked what  the rationale is  for the  50 percent of  the federal                                                               
MIKE O'HARE,  Deputy Director, Division of  Homeland Security and                                                               
Emergency Management, said  that after the 2008  Tanana floods, a                                                               
multi-agency task  force considered the Individual  Grant Program                                                               
and  modernization  of  disaster   assistance  according  to  the                                                               
current economy.  The task force  included Homeland  Security and                                                               
Emergency Management, DMVA, Health  and Social Services, Commerce                                                               
Community Economic  Development, [Department  of] Labor,  and the                                                               
federal  Department  of  Agriculture. The  task  force  suggested                                                               
increasing the  grant amount  to half  of the  Federal Individual                                                               
Assistance  amount,  similarly   allowing  fluctuation  with  the                                                               
consumer  price index  and the  economy. Mr.  O'Hare pointed  out                                                               
that the state  is not an insurance company but  does try to help                                                               
[disaster  victims]  get  some normalcy  back,  such  as  heating                                                               
systems, subsistence tools or  other appropriate, eligible costs.                                                               
He stressed  that the grants  are not issued lightly  but involve                                                               
an intricate  application process utilizing  staff who go  to the                                                               
affected  communities,   set  up  disaster   assistance  centers,                                                               
interview the victims and identify losses and proof of loss.                                                                    
9:08:35 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. O'HARE said a mechanism is  needed to increase the cap amount                                                               
of the grant while allowing it to fluctuate with the economy.                                                                   
MR. PIERRE explained that a  presidential disaster is much larger                                                               
than a  state disaster  and the  grants should  not be  equal. He                                                               
reported  that the  majority [of  last  year's disaster  victims]                                                               
were covered by,  and received money from,  the Federal Emergency                                                               
Management  Association  (FEMA).  A   disaster  victim  can  only                                                               
receive  money from  either  the federal  or  state program,  not                                                               
both. Only  about 30 people received  state Individual Assistance                                                               
Grants during the Interior flooding.                                                                                            
MR. O'HARE said if all eligible  state victims had been given the                                                               
proposed maximum  amount, it  would have  equated to  $600,000 to                                                               
$700,000. He  felt that  having provided  eligible people  with a                                                               
$5,000 check was nothing.                                                                                                       
SENATOR  KOOKESH asked  how a  person's  eligibility for  federal                                                               
versus state funding is determined.                                                                                             
MR.  O'HARE   replied  that   a  federal   disaster  declaration,                                                               
requested by  the Governor,  considers the  communities affected.                                                               
In the 2009  flooding, the communities along  the Kuskokwim River                                                               
and  other smaller  communities with  about 30  affected families                                                               
were  identified. The  federal government  approved the  disaster                                                               
declaration for  the widespread Yukon Kuskokwim  communities. Due                                                               
to  the  lack   of  widespread  damage  in   the  other,  smaller                                                               
communities,  those  30  individual  affected  families  did  not                                                               
qualify for federal aid.                                                                                                        
9:10:51 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  MENARD  said  she  appreciated that  the  amount  [of  the                                                               
Individual Assistance Grant]  had not been looked at  in 20 years                                                               
and  that the  increased amount  would be  the maximum  allowable                                                               
SENATOR  MEYER  moved  to  report  SB  216  from  committee  with                                                               
individual  recommendations and  attached  fiscal note(s).  There                                                               
being no objection, the motion carried.                                                                                         

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