State-Managed Disasters: An Interview with Arizona's Director of Emergency Management

DISASTERRECOVERYTODAY.COM overview of the state-managed disaster initiative?

Smith-Reeve: The initiative at the federal level began back in 2000 and at that time it was a pilot program. Arizona was one of the first three states to pilot that initiative and we were the only state to continue to repeat and ensure that we were managing on behalf of FEMA, the Public Assistance Program for all subsequent major disaster declarations. In these subsequent (~18) years, other states have come on to adopt that process; however, Arizona has been the only state that has maintained it from that pilot initiative forward. Essentially what we’re doing is we are accepting the responsibility for the administration of the Public Assistance Program on behalf of FEMA and of course, always representing the state’s interest and the sub-grantee’s interest in restoring infrastructure damaged — and then also mitigating against any future similar events.

Craig: So, it’s very similar to a lot of other federal programs which are managed at the state level. Funding and policies come from the federal level, but many other programs are managed at the state level — EPA programs along with so many others. Is it similar to that concept? Smith-Reeve: Yes. I’m not as familiar with those programs, but the unique difference, from my understanding, is the management and administrative responsibilities with the Public Assistance program. The state is basically replicating FEMA’s model in that we’re working hands- on with the sub-grantees and not just handing it to the sub-grantees saying this is what you need to provide if you want to take advantage of this opportunity in front of you, (i.e., a minimum of 75 cents on every dollar the jurisdiction spends to restore eligible infrastructure). Instead, it’s a customer service-based program in that we’re offering assistance and it’s a joint partnership effort with the sub-grantees throughout the entire process. In my opinion, that’s the unique difference with this program.

Craig: You guys have been doing this since 2000, from my knowledge you are one of the only states, if not the only state that has continuously done state- managed disasters since you’ve started this process. From your perspective, what are the key benefits to not just you the state, to FEMA, but also to your sub- grantees?

Smith-Reeve: I think the greatest benefit is customer service. I fully embrace quality customer service and that is an expectation that we continue to manage...

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