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article imagePart of Texas gets declared a ‘major disaster’ by Obama

By Lynn Herrmann     Jul 5, 2011 in Politics
Washington - After months of political posturing between President Barack Obama and Texas Governor Rick Perry over the state’s massive wildfires this season, the White House late last week declared parts of the state a “major disaster.”
A “major disaster” declaration on Friday was finally delivered to the state by the Obama administration, opening the doors for federal aid to the state leading the nation in acres of land scorched by numerous and massive fires, more than 3 million acres thus far since the wildfire season began in November.
The simmering dispute between state GOP leaders and the White House was partially quenched last week when “major disaster” status was given to 45 Texas counties, half of the 90 which the state sought, and only applying to wildfires which started between April 6 and May 3.
Although Obama’s declaration was welcome news for the state, Perry’s office, along with fellow Republican leaders, say they will continue pressure to receive more aid. Regarding the president’s delayed decision, Senator John Cornyn said he was “disappointed that he took so long,” the Dallas Morning News reports.
Perry’s initial request for federal assistance was denied May 3, but the governor appealed on May 26. The declaration of disaster now shifts up to 75 percent of the cost to battle the wildfires to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
In a written statement on Friday, Perry said, “President Obama's decision to finally approve a portion of our disaster designation request is good for Texas and some of the communities impacted by this season's wildfires. We will continue to work with FEMA to ensure all affected jurisdictions and entities receive the support they deserve after battling these massive fires since December.”
The declaration covers only a fraction of the 11,940 wildfires since December 2010. In his initial request, Perry wanted 252 of the state’s 254 counties declared a disaster, including Bexar, Dallas and Harris counties. The initial request, filed April 15 and denied by Obama, led to an almost instant barrage of tirades by Perry and fellow state Republicans.
“I am dismayed that this administration has denied Texans the much needed assistance they deserve,” Perry said in a May statement. “It is not only the obligation of the federal government, but its responsibility under law to help its citizens in times of emergency.”
The appeal request drew specifics on 90 counties that “were directly affected (by the fires) and surpassed their county thresholds, as established by FEMA, for receiving the assistance I have requested,” the San Antonio Express News reports.
The Houston Chronicle notes the economic impact of this season’s wildfires could be as high as $500 million. The wildfires have led to the deaths of four people so far, including three firemen.
More about Posturing, Wildfire, Major, More than, Federal
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