WHAT OTHERS SAY: Don't splinter the nation over disaster aid

Thursday, September 1, 2011 | 2:53 p.m. CDT; updated 11:13 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 28, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY — In the aftermath of devastating tornadoes, flooding and a hurricane, let’s not balkanize this nation over federal disaster aid.

Balkanization occurs when a unified whole subdivides into smaller, often hostile, units.

A recent manifestation is the response to the federal government’s decision to freeze some disaster aid to the Midwest and redirect it to Eastern Seaboard states recently impacted by Hurricane Irene.

Bob Josephson, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency said the agency’s Disaster Relief Fund is depleted to between $800 million and $1 billion.

When that occurs, FEMA shifts its priority to immediate response rather than long-term rebuilding, while remaining mindful new disasters might occur.

The reallocation is appropriate because the federal agency — as its name implies — focuses on emergencies.

The change will delay long-term rebuilding projects in tornado-devastated Joplin and elsewhere. Specific projects in Joplin to be placed on hold have not been identified yet.

Individual assistance will continue for victims of tornadoes and other natural disasters. The assistance includes temporary housing and debris removal.

Missouri officials are disappointed, but disappointment must not escalate to an us-versus-them attitude.

Sen. Claire McCaskill sounded a divisive tone in response to FEMA's actions.

“I do, candidly, worry because folks in other parts of the country feel the world revolves around the corridor between Washington and New York City,” McCaskillsaid.

On a broader scale, some observers expect a political showdown between the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate when disaster spending is debated in Congress.

We urge all members of Congress to begin putting the needs of the people they represent before the desires of campaign contributors and special interests.

Natural disasters are non-discriminatory phenomena. Wherever they strike, they leave destruction, anguish and loss in their wake.

We all are citizens of the United States, and suffering as a result of natural disasters must not become a regional or political battle that only will intensify the misery.

Copyright Jefferson City News Tribune. Reprinted with permission.

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