Cash Strapped FEMA Scaling Back Operations In Joplin

Wednesday, August 31st 2011, 5:52 pm
By: News On 6

Dan Bewley, News On 6

JOPLINE, Oklahoma -- FEMA is scaling back operations in Joplin. The agency says it has to redirect money to victims of Hurricane Irene. FEMA says its disaster relief budget is below $1-billion.

Donna Edens lost everything during the May EF-5 tornado. She now lives in a temporary neighborhood provided by FEMA.

5/23/2011 Related Story: A Third Of Joplin Gone After Tornado Ravages City

"So far it's really been good. Everybody seems to be pretty friendly," Edens said.

FEMA's footprint is all over Joplin. More than 500 families have used the temporary housing, the agency helped remove more than a million cubic yards of debris, and it handed out more than $19-million in grant money to city residents.

"I think that they were super that they done a great job," Edens said.

But now the agency is starting to turn its focus to the east coast. It's closing a recovery center September 10th and it will no longer have money for long term rebuilding projects because of damage left by Hurricane Irene

FEMA is quick to point out that it's only freezing money for big, long term projects like roads or buildings damaged in the storm. These temporary neighborhoods will remain open and individuals will still be able to get help.

"People are going to get the priority. Individual storm survivors are getting the priority. So they're going to receive assistance that they're eligible to receive," said FEMA Spokesman John Mills.

Joplin resident Merle Ward says his daughter's home was damaged in the tornado. The family didn't need help from FEMA and Ward has no problem with the agency turning its attention to the east coast.

"That's just part of life, there's going to be people that fall through the crack and everything," Ward said. "Those people need help too, when you get into something like this you've got to have help."

Donna Edens agrees. She says FEMA's done a great job in Joplin and residents will learn to adjust.

"It's just one thing that we have to take and understand and that's the way it is," Eden said.

FEMA says it's still working with city and state officials to help plan those big projects, but until congress gives the agency some more money, it says its hands are tied.