BATON ROUGE, La. (February 15, 2008) – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Louisiana hosted a two-day partnership meeting this week in Baton Rouge to discuss emergency preparedness and recovery issues, goals, objectives and policies among FEMA, the state and local governments.Participants came together to unify efforts and recognize strengths and weaknesses to maximize a successful recovery. The meeting served to break down communication barriers that may have impeded progress in the past and to generate a renewed sense of partnership among all leadership.
“I am very pleased with the results of the partnership meeting. We agreed to continue working together to find solutions that are legal, substantive and effective,” FEMA Deputy Administrator Admiral Harvey Johnson said. “There are a lot of new people in important positions, and the combination of fresh eyes and experience from those with first-hand involvement presents an opportunity to think differently about breaking down barriers to recovery.”
The increased communication provided resolutions in several critical areas, including an extension of the March 1, 2008 Hazard Mitigation application deadline to Sept. 1, 2008 and an agreement to establish a process that allows for discussion and resolution of many policy issues that will speed up the recovery process, in particular, a process to prioritize and streamline Public Assistance project worksheets. Also, FEMA committed to providing the state a decision on the development of an improved path forward for the appeals process within seven days and to creating a single project worksheet for applicants to hire personnel to conduct program/project management. Finally, the parties agreed to come together again to discuss progress on other outstanding issues within 30 days.
“Our focus in Louisiana is entirely on finding common sense solutions to speed the pace of payouts to local governments working to rebuild,” said Executive Director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) Paul Rainwater. “I want to thank Deputy Administrator Johnson for devoting this time to having an honest discussion about ways to achieve this, and we look forward to working together to continue moving our recovery forward.”
Other issues remaining to be resolved include such matters as identification and prioritization of applicants with project worksheet scope alignment issues, establishment of goals and milestones for revisiting the hazard mitigation portion of Public Assistance pursuant to Section 406 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, and looking at a more efficient and practical approach to conducting Environmental and Historical property reviews. However, federal and state representatives involved in recovery efforts agreed to continue working together to find solutions that will help not only Louisiana recover, but also serve as a model for future disasters.
“As our communities deal with the hardships and the recovery from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, we continue to build a strong working relationship with our federal and state partners,” said Director of the Governor’s Officer of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) Mark Cooper. “This meeting allowed federal and state partners to meet face to face to address the challenges that the state of Louisiana and its citizens face day to day, and come up with solutions to move forward in our recovery process.”
Meeting participants included FEMA Deputy Administrator Admiral Harvey Johnson, Acting Associate Deputy Administrator for FEMA’s Gulf Coast Recovery Office Jim Stark, LRA Executive Director Paul Rainwater, GOHSEP Director Mark Cooper, St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis, St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro, Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach and representatives from the city of New Orleans, Cameron Parish and Jefferson Parish.