The Newnan Times-Herald

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Lack of FEMA transparency demoralizing to community

  • By Clay Neely
  • |
  • Jul. 06, 2021 - 3:56 PM

It’s been a busy few weeks in Coweta County.

Sandwiched between the feel-good activities of the Alan Jackson concert and Fourth of July celebrations, FEMA laid a massive buzzkill on our community when it declined our appeal for individual federal aid for victims of the EF-4 tornado in March.

According to FEMA, the impact to homes and individuals was not significant enough.

In a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp, Deanne Criswell, the administrator of FEMA, wrote that after a “thorough review of all the information contained in your individual request and appeal, we reaffirm our original findings that the impact to the individuals and households from this event was not of the severity and magnitude to warrant the designation of the Individual Assistance program.”

Even more frustrating is that the federal agency never revealed the benchmarks that the city or the county needed to surpass in order to obtain individual assistance.

After months of consistent reporting on the impact of the tornado, we believe that FEMA’s arbitrary process is damaging.

As a newspaper, we believe transparency is the cornerstone to a healthy democracy, especially in an age when a lack of facts will be replaced by conspiracy theories.

We hate to believe that victims of the Newnan tornado were snubbed due to something like the passage of the Election Integrity Act of 2021.

It seems extremely far fetched, but when the government cannot produce specifics on how a decision is made, theories like this are given more weight than they should.

Over 12,000 residents and 2,000 homes were affected by the EF-4 tornado. As of last week, 57 percent of all homes given a red tag, or homes designated uninhabitable due to damage suffered from the tornado, hadn’t even started work yet, according to Mayor Keith Brady.

Last weekend, many residents watched 4th of July fireworks from properties still uninhabitable or beyond repair.

Yet the Biden administration approved individual assistance to victims of the condo collapse in Miami-Dade county.

Not to marginalize the victims of that horrible event, but it does leave us scratching our heads.

Thankfully, The Coweta Community Foundation has received approximately $530,000 for the purposes of Tornado Disaster Relief and Recovery from individual donors. This does not include amounts received through the June 26 concert, which is expected to raise an additional $2 million.

But local efforts are, at best, a boost to ongoing recovery efforts, which would have been greatly benefitted by individual aid from the federal government.

In short, we’re grateful for ongoing local efforts and to have a philanthropic country superstar respond on behalf of his hometown when our federal government fails to come through for its people.