While state and local governments and citizens begin the enormous task of assessing the damage left in Hurricane Sandy's wake, many are thankful the federal government and FEMA are there to help them with the process. Romney once questioned funding FEMA.
Images showing the magnitude of the devastation have left some in disbelief. Entire towns appear to have been wiped out overnight. William Akers, mayor of New Jersey's Seaside Heights, told CNN's Anderson Cooper he is overwhelmed by the destruction, saying: "If you don't see it, you just can't fully understand it."
On Tuesday, outspoken New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told numerous media outlets how much he appreciated President Obama and FEMA. Appearing on the MSNBC Morning Joe show, Christie stated:
“The president has been all over this, and he deserves great credit. He gave me his number at the White House and told me to call him if I needed anything, and he absolutely means it. It’s been very good working with the president and his administration. It’s been wonderful. He asked me what I needed. I said if he could expedite the Major Disaster Declaration without all the normal FEMA mumbo-jumbo. He got right on it. I got a call from FEMA at 2 a.m…and then this morning I understand he signed the Major Disaster Declaration for New Jersey.”
He told Fox and Friends that he believed the President has done a great job for New Jersey, saying:
"He has been very attentive and anything that I've asked for he's gotten to me, so I thank the president publicly. He has done, as far as I'm concerned, a great job for New Jersey."
During and interview on Good Morning America, Christie said:
"I have to say, the administration, the president, himself and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate have been outstanding with us so far. We have a great partnership with them."
On Friday, New York, Rep. Nan Hayworth (R) sent a letter to the President stating:
"Due to the anticipated magnitude of Hurricane Sandy, state and local governments in her Hudson Valley district would not be able to respond to Hurricane Sandy without federal assistance. A strong partnership between the local, state and federal governments before a disaster will allow our communities to effectively prepare for the storm and reduce the potential threat of damage."FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, came into existence in 1979. The agency has responded to a wide variety of disasters ranging from the contamination of Love Canal, the Three Mile Island nuclear incident, the Loma Prieta Earthquake, and numerous hurricanes such as Andrew and Katrina.
The agency has been praised for its leadership and response to disasters, as well as being widely criticized during Hurricane Katrina. Some believe that the agency provides much needed guidance and assistance to, not only state and local governments, but to everyday citizens trying to recover from devastating events. Others believe the agency should be abolished in favor of allowing state and local governments, or even the private sector, to handle such disasters.
During a June 2011 Republican Presidential Debate, the topic of FEMA and the idea of states taking on the roles FEMA is currently responsible for was presented to Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Romney responded by saying:
"Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better.
Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut -- we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we're doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we're doing that we don't have to do? And those things we've got to stop doing, because we're borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we're taking in."
When asked if he believed disaster relief should be included, Romney stated:
"We cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we'll all be dead and gone before it's paid off. It makes no sense at all."
On Tuesday, the Romney campaign denied Romney suggested eliminating FEMA in favor of sending disaster response responsibilities back to the states.
Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan has also proposed budget cuts to federal aid programs, which includes FEMA.
The New York Times asked the question:
"Does Mr. Romney really believe that financially strapped states would do a better job than a properly functioning federal agency? Who would make decisions about where to send federal aid? Or perhaps there would be no federal aid, and every state would bear the burden of billions of dollars in damages."
When the Huffington Post contacted the Romney campaign to reaffirm or clarify Romney's position on FEMA, a campaign spokesperson did not deny Romney believed FEMA should be abolished and that responsibility for disaster response should fall to state and local governments and the private sector. Instead, the campaign responded with an email which simply stated:
"Gov. Romney wants to ensure states, who are the first responders and are in the best position to aid impacted individuals and communities, have the resources and assistance they need to cope with natural disasters,"
According to the Washington Post, reporters asked Romney about his position on federal funding for FEMA several times during a campaign event for storm victims in Ohio on Tuesday. One reporter asked Romney “Governor, you've been asked 14 times. Why are you refusing to answer the question?” Romney continued to ignore the reporters’ questions.