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

TIDALBASINGROUP.COM associated with the Public Assistance Program, so that really alleviates federal audit findings that some states are overly burdened by. We are required to perform an audit on any dollars that come out of this state emergency fund, so when we have any of our applicants selected to proceed through a federal audit, then our state audit staff who are already there work hand-in-glove with the OIG (Office of Inspector General) auditors.

Craig: That’s really a best practice, if you will, that other states can and should look at if they’re going to do state-managed disasters or even if they don’t do state- managed disasters, you know, the cost match and the funding that comes out in association with disaster programs.

Smith-Reeve: I think the accountability to the taxpayer is huge and there are times where the sub-grantees also benefit. If they’re not using or utilizing certain items that are available to them under the program, it’s a win for them because it’s more money back in their pocket. They might be shortchanging themselves unknowingly, and if our audit team is able to help them identify an opportunity for additional funding that they’ve missed, sometimes their total eligible reimbursement amounts increase. It’s not always a punitive action.

Craig: Let me touch back on not receiving extra funds to manage the disaster yourself and the cost effectiveness and the cost efficiencies you bring to the federal government. Is there a solution you would propose, or would it be a good idea for FEMA to share a percentage of the cost savings they get or an extra percentage if you managed yourself? Especially knowing that the current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) legislation proposals to increase state-managed costs reimbursement —would that even be enough to handle state-managed disasters?

Smith-Reeve: I think it gets close and we have to ask ourselves, “Where’s the balance?”You have to look at it from a nationwide perspective. If I say that...

“The direct benefit, not only to FEMA but also to the taxpayer, is the cost difference. The cost for the state to administer the program versus the cost associated with FEMA bringing in a large footprint with JFO and staff, the savings is considerable.”