To the editor of THE EAGLE:
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is inept at providing what is needed for Americans caught up in natural disasters. For a recent example, look no further than the devastation caused by Katrina and more recently Hurricane Sandy (thank Heaven for the Red Cross.) The first word in FEMA -- federal -- tells us the whole story, for once again we saw how bureaucratic red tape affected this government agency after a natural disaster.
The people who work in the field for FEMA are not the problem. They are dedicated and should be congratulated for the work they accomplish, but they can only work as directed by those in management at the home office and with what our government gives them.
Since 1980, natural disasters -- hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, blizzards, earthquakes, firestorms and drought/heat waves -- have caused $725 billion in damages. The only real relief the federal government offers those affected are low interest rate loan, which take forever to process. These are taxpaying Americans, many of whom have lost everything they own, and in some cases loved ones, and our government should be helping them rebuild with at the least, loans without interest.
It's time for a change, and one way to help would be by the formation of a National Emergency Relief Fund (NERF) set up and run as a nonprofit agency, watch-dogged by an independent account firm, neither of which is regulated or controlled by the government. Funds would be appropriated by taking $5 a week from the federal taxes already collected from a person's paycheck, which from 87 million working Americans, would yield $22.6 billion annually (the above-mentioned $725 billion in damages breaks down to almost $22 billion a year.) This way, funds are immediately available and not caught up in Washington's red tape and politics. Those in government might cry and say that the money is not there, but it is there by just taking away 4.5 percent of the pork budget called national defense, reducing it to $477 billion from $500 billion a year. I think we could get by with a few less bombs, tanks and missiles.
Any interest earned in the high-yield NERF account could be deposited into a State Emergency Relief Fund (SERF) for state emergencies that don't qualify as national emergencies.
The above is just an idea, but no matter what, we need to find a better way. Government is broken, with too much debating and bickering. The indecision and inaction by our government when a national disaster strikes is heartbreaking for those who are affected and need immediate help and for those who live through it and must begin rebuilding their lives.
SCOTT R. THERRIEN