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No Respect From FEMA

Other Editors Say...

Northwest Ohio was ravaged (last) month by severe storms that spawned deadly tornadoes.

Now, Fulton, Wood, and Ottawa counties have been abandoned by the federal government.

People in our region have been supportive over the years as successive U.S. governments sent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars overseas to aid people affected by natural disasters in far-off places such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Iraq.

These people backed federal relief efforts after domestic disasters such as hurricanes, fires, floods, and oil spills.

They give without hesitation of their time and money to aid fellow Americans in times of need, most recently after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

But in the wake of the June 5 and 6 tornadoes that killed six people, destroyed 45 structures, damaged 119 others, and downed thousands of trees across three counties, the Federal Emergency Management Agency says the pain in this area is not great enough, the destruction not wide enough, to justify federal help.

FEMA’s letter informing Gov. Ted Strickland is coldly officious. It doesn’t explain the evaluation process or how the federal agency arrived at its decision.

The governor has announced that he will appeal.

Did FEMA take into account how hard hit this area has been by the recession?

Did it consider that while other parts of the country may be recovering, unemployment in Wood, Ottawa, and Fulton counties remains well above 10 percent?

Is it aware that the state government it says has the resources to pay for the damage was barely able to balance its own budget this year and could face billions of dollars in deficits by fiscal 2011?

FEMA officials say they had teams on the ground surveying the visible damage and estimating the hidden damage.

But how do they calculate the toll on state and local governments that are already in crisis and charitable organizations that have been stretched thin meeting the needs of the longterm unemployed, as well as people made homeless by historically high foreclosure rates?

Rugged individualism and personal responsibility are all well and good. But when a region’s resources are not sufficient to meet its needs in the face of an unexpected disaster, there is no shame in asking for help.

Northwest Ohioans don’t want a handout, just a hand with taking care of the bills insurance won’t cover.

Once again, this area is treated like Rodney Dangerfi eld and given no respect. It would be humorous if it were not so sad.–Toledo Blade



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