TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Most of Oklahoma's congressional delegation have agreed to sign a letter appealing the Federal Emergency Management Agency's decision to deny individual assistance to victims of last month's ice storm.
Republican Reps. Mary Fallin, Frank Lucas and Tom Cole and Democratic Rep. Dan Boren signed the letter to FEMA Director R. David Paulison requesting the agency reconsider its stance.
Rep. John Sullivan, R-Okla., declined to sign the letter and told the Tulsa World he remains unsure about whether FEMA's ruling should be challenged.
“By law, Gov. (Brad) Henry must make the appeal request,” Sullivan said. “After his appeal is made to FEMA, I look forward to reviewing the damage numbers that are used to present Oklahoma's need for individual assistance.”
Henry was outraged by FEMA's decision and already has announced that he plans to appeal.
The massive storm crippled the state's largest metropolitan areas, contributing to nearly 30 deaths and disrupting electrical service to more than 640,000 homes and businesses for days.
After being contacted by the Tulsa World about the letter, Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe's office said he also would sign the letter, but fellow Republican Sen. Tom Coburn declined to comment.
“The storm was catastrophic for Oklahomans all over the state, especially in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties,” the letter states. “Over 13,000 damage claims were submitted from families and individuals who endured damage to their homes, small businesses and places of work.”
In a separate statement, Fallin said she is convinced that Tulsa and Oklahoma counties should be granted individual assistance on top of the public assistance already provided under previous FEMA actions.
“The destruction in Oklahoma County was both obvious and extensive,” she said.
Last month, Sullivan said he already was convinced that the state had a good case to make for individual assistance. Now, Sullivan stresses the need for accountability in the entire FEMA process and has focused some of his comments on ensuring that only those who need help get it.
“It is important that we scrutinize the criteria FEMA uses to determine eligibility, so that the state can build a stronger case and ensure its allocation of federal resources are based on merit in the future,” he said Friday.
Henry did not comment Friday, but a spokesman said the governor is grateful for the help of the congressional delegation.