Obama administration denies Yarnell Fire victims assistance

yarnell fireFEMA notified the State of Arizona on Friday that it has rejected Arizona’s appeal for federal assistance in response to the Yarnell Hill Fire.

In an effort to draw attention away from her failure to win over President Obama after she fought for Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, Governor Jan Brewer released a statement saying that while she was “tremendously disappointed with the decision of President Obama’s administration to again deny Arizona’s request for a federal disaster declaration,” she appreciated the Small Business Administration (SBA) support through the issuance of loans.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) said it would offer low-interest disaster loans to affected areas of Yavapai and neighboring counties. Loans of up to $200,000 will be available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters will be eligible for up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property.

A damage assessment concluded that 109 homes were destroyed, two homes sustained major damage and 21 homes had minor damage. Governor Brewer is requesting the President issue a Major Disaster Declaration for the affected area and couple this with access to the Individual Assistance Program. A Declaration for Individual Assistance would have aided local residents impacted by the fire by making available funds for housing assistance and “necessary expenses and serious needs” not covered by insurance.

Federal disaster designations are assessed based upon summary estimates of local damages.

Approval of the request would have brought to Yavapai County long-term federal recovery programs designed to help survivors and businesses recover uninsured losses.

Simultaneous to the request for a Major Disaster Declaration, Brewer sought a Physical Disaster Declaration from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Members of Arizona’s congressional delegation weighed in on FEMA’s decision. Congressman Paul Gosar, who represents the people in the Yarnell area said, “I remain puzzled by what appears to be an arbitrary and capricious decision to deny FEMA aid. It’s beyond disappointing that once the TV cameras have left, the administration would turn its back on Yarnell and Peeple’s Valley. The President made a promise to provide the support these communities justifiably deserve but has now done an about-face. Despite the administration’s decision, our community will rebuild and endure.”

Congressman Matt Salmon said: “After the historical losses suffered by the people of Yarnell and Peeple’s Valley in life and property, I am deeply disappointed that the Obama Administration would chose to deny these families their promised support. Despite the reticence of the Obama Administration to offer federal assistance, the people of Arizona will band together in order to rebuild these communities.”

Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01) said: “After the Yarnell tragedy, we promised the folks in this region that we would do all we could to provide resources and support. I am disappointed that the administration has not done the same.”

Congressman Ron Barber (AZ-02) said: “This tragedy that took the lives of 19 brave Arizona men is clearly a disaster – regardless of how it is labeled by FEMA. I am disappointed in FEMA’s decision to deny Gov. Brewer’s appeal, forcing the people of Yarnell to rebuild and recover without the assistance of their federal government.”

In August, Brewer expressed “surprise” that “President Obama broke the promise he made that he would be there for us” shortly after the tragic deaths of the 19 firefighters in the Yarnell Hill Fire after FEMA initially rejected Arizona’s request for fire recovery assistance.

Brewer told the Phoenix area radio listening audience of News/Talk 92.3 KTAR’s Mac & Gaydos, “You promised me you would be there for us when you called me before the memorial services were held, and I felt confident that we would get the benefit of our federal government stepping up to help us.”

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