Federal Emergency Funds Now Directly Available to Indian Tribes

Federal Emergency Funds Now Directly Available to Indian Tribes

Submitted to AZRE Magazine, February 4, 2013
By Roger Owers, Ph.D., P.E., J.D.

On January 29, 2013, in reaction to Hurricane Sandy, President Obama signed into law the “Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013”.  The Act included provisions recognizing the ability of Tribal government to declare an emergency on their particular reservation.

The Act also allows a Tribe to appeal directly to the President for federal disaster funds from FEMA to aid in recovering from the emergency.  Prior to the Act, Tribes could only apply for such assistance through a state.

Talk about timing.

A few days before the Act passed, the President of the Navajo Nation, Ben Shelly, had announced a state of emergency for the Navajo Nation.  The Navajo Nation, located largely in northeast Arizona, had been suffering from subfreezing temperatures.

In a press release dated January 25, 2013, President Shelly announced that the Nation’s Commission on Emergency Management passed a resolution declaring a state of emergency.  As many as 2,000 homes in the Window Rock area were affected by the cold weather.

President Shelly added, “We have waterlines that need repair, water storage containers that need to be replenished, and we need man power to help repairs the water systems that have been damaged.”

If President Obama authorizes disaster recovery funds to the Navajo Nation under the new Act, this will be one of the first instances of FEMA aid directly to a Tribe under the new Act.  Though it is unclear when such funds would arrive, this new ability of Tribes to apply directly to the President will certainly assist those Tribes who need federal help–even though their neighboring states may not.

This article is intended for general information only.  It should not be construed as legal advice with respect to any particular situation.  Readers should not act upon information contained in this article without first consulting their lawyer.

Roger S. Owers is a commercial real estate professional with Keyser LLC and is a lawyer with the Kaibab Law Offices of Roger S. Owers LLC.  Roger holds a Ph.D. in civil engineering, is a registered professional civil engineer, holds a real estate license, and is a licensed attorney.  He can be reached via e-mail at rowers@kaibabllc.com or www.kaibabllc.com.  He can also be found on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/rogerowers/.


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