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Getting It Right for Indian Country

The Federal Government is consulting with tribal leaders and stakeholders to improve the federal disaster assistance process.

Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the FEMA Blog

When you're tackling a new and challenging topic, starting from a solid foundation is crucial to success. Right now, there is an opportunity to change how the federal government provides disaster assistance and we’re looking for tribal leaders to help set a solid foundation for those changes.

When President Obama signed into law the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013, he amended the Stafford Act to recognize the sovereignty of tribal governments, and this was a big step in the right direction to better meet the unique needs of Indian Country after disasters. However, there's still work to be done to shape disaster assistance programs and processes most effectively. That's where we are now -- we are consulting with tribal governments, tribal leaders, and tribal stakeholders to consider changes to a range of federal disaster assistance processes and topics:

  • Input on the major disaster declaration process,
  • Criteria to declare a major disaster,
  • Program delivery, and
  • The unique aspects of Indian culture that might not be currently considered by the rules.

I encourage our tribal partners to join us in developing rules through consultation. You’re invited to join a series of upcoming tribal consultation calls, provide ideas to FEMA’s online collaboration community, or send an e-mail to Now is a great time to make sure the unique needs of Indian Country are considered throughout the federal disaster assistance process.

Why are we looking for input from the community? Up to this point, FEMA has established rules around the disaster declaration process, assistance programs, and other aspects of federal assistance to meet the needs of state governments and individuals in those states. Now, with the recent amendment to the Stafford Act, we have an opportunity to change those rules with regards to the sovereignty of tribal nations.

In a little more than two months since the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act became law, the President has already signed two disaster declarations directly for Indian Country. The new changes have already resulted in federal disaster assistance going directly to tribal communities.

But there’s still much to be done. That's why we're having these consultation calls, gathering feedback online, and asking for e-mails. Once the consultation concludes, FEMA will draft proposed rules. Learn more about how to join this discussion by visiting FEMA’s online collaboration community, or send us an e-mail at

Craig Fugate is the Administrator of FEMA.