May 02, 2016

Wittman, Kaine, Warner, And Forbes Encourage Administration To Reconsider Decision Not To Extend Support To Communities Impacted By February Tornadoes

WASHINGTON – Representative Rob Wittman, joined by Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and Representative Randy Forbes, sent a letter to President Obama Friday supporting Governor Terry McAuliffe’s appeal of the administration’s decision not to issue a major disaster declaration after severe storms and tornadoes hit Virginia on February 24th. The deadly storms caused significant damage throughout the Commonwealth, especially in Sussex, Appomattox, and Essex Counties, stretching local and state resources.

“We write to express our bipartisan support for Governor Terence R. McAuliffe’s appeal of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s denial of Individual Assistance for Sussex, Appomattox, and Essex Counties resulting from February’s severe storm and tornadoes,” the members wrote. “We commend the Commonwealth … and localities for their coordinated response to this emergency, which has tested both state, local, and volunteer response and resources. The effects of the tornadoes have caused these counties and the Commonwealth to shoulder a great burden and prepare for a challenging recovery. This will prove enormously difficult without your assistance." 

A full copy of the letter is available below:

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20472

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia, we write to express our bipartisan support for Governor Terence R. McAuliffe’s appeal of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s denial of Individual Assistance for Sussex, Appomattox, and Essex Counties resulting from February’s severe storm and tornadoes.

On February 24, 2016, Virginia experienced its deadliest tornado event in more than 50 years. A severe storm resulted in the formation of eight tornadoes, which tore paths of destruction across 12 localities. The storms caused extensive damage to public and private property in each of those localities. Tragically, five Virginians lost their lives, and at least 45 more were injured. Statewide, the eight tornadoes destroyed or damaged over 400 homes.

The tornadoes were especially destructive to three localities: Sussex, Appomattox, and Essex Counties. In these three rural counties, more than 80 homes were destroyed or nearly destroyed, and at least 160 other homes were damaged. The members of at least 84 households are in need of temporary housing as they rebuild and repair their homes. The three counties suffered more than $2.19 million in damage to local businesses and nonprofits. These rural, close-knit communities suffered severe trauma from the February storms and face a challenging recovery.

We urge you to consider Sussex, Appomattox, and Essex Counties’ high rank on the social vulnerability index when considering Governor McAuliffe’s appeal. Unemployment rates in each of these counties are higher than Virginia’s overall unemployment rate. Sussex, Appomattox and Essex’s free and reduced lunch eligibility are 78 percent, 4 percent, and 63 percent, respectively. Additionally, both Appomattox and Essex have a higher than average percentage of residents over the age of 65 and all three counties have a higher than average percentage of residents under the age of 65 who suffer from a disability. These economic constrains will dramatically limit the localities’ ability to support affected families and to rebuild destroyed infrastructure.

We commend the Commonwealth, Sussex, Appomattox and Essex counties and other localities for their coordinated response to this emergency, which has tested both state, local and volunteer response and resources. The effects of the tornadoes have caused these counties and the Commonwealth to shoulder a great burden and prepare for a challenging recovery. This will prove enormously difficult without your assistance.

Pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, we request that you give serious consideration to Virginia’s appeal and giant supplemental federal assistance for these communities. Thank you for your expeditious consideration of this request 

Sincerely, 

Robert J. Wittman
Tim Kaine
Mark R. Warner
J. Randy Forbes

A copy of the letter supporting the Governor’s original request for federal assistance can be found here.

Congressman Rob Wittman represents the 1st District of Virginia. He serves on the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Armed Services Committee, where he is Chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee.

# # #