AUSTIN, TX – A resolution introduced by Brunswick County Commissioner Frank Williams was adopted at the National Association of Counties (NaCo) annual conference in Travis County, TX on Monday, July 24, 2023. The resolution, which was adopted for the second consecutive year, puts Counties on record as advocating for a more streamlined FEMA individual assistance process. FEMA individual assistance benefits disaster survivors directly to assist those who have uninsured or under-insured necessary expenses and serious needs.
“In the days and weeks following Hurricane Florence, I heard numerous residents share their frustration with the complexity of applying for FEMA individual assistance,” said Williams. “When people have been directly affected by a disaster, the current process unnecessarily adds more complications to their already upended lives.”
At the 2022 NaCo annual conference, and while Commissioner Williams was President of the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, he introduced and passed a resolution putting Counties on record as advocating for a more streamlined FEMA individual assistance process. Because NaCo resolutions must be re-adopted each year, he again presented the resolution to the NaCo Justice & Public Safety committee on Friday, July 21, 2023. The committee unanimously approved the resolution, which was subsequently approved by the board of directors on Sunday, July 23 and at the full NaCo annual business session on Monday, July 24.
The issue description accompanying the resolution reads as follows: Once federal assistance is available, citizens often find themselves having to complete many similar applications collecting the same information that is then sent to various agencies or departments within the same agency. This process is arduous, redundant, and often times confusing. County commissioners are often asked for help supporting a streamlined application for individual assistance so that one universal application can be applied to the various federal programs that are available in the aftermath of a disaster.
The resolution reads as follows: The National Association of Counties (NACo) supports efforts to create a streamlined or universal federal application for individual assistance for federal aid programs that are available in the aftermath of an emergency, which will help accelerate community recovery.
Senate Bill 1528, entitled the “Disaster Assistance Simplification Act,” passed the U.S. Senate on Friday, July 28, 2023. The bill, which was introduced by Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) and whose co-sponsors include Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), would create a universal disaster application.
Williams has personally lobbied members of North Carolina’s federal delegation to simplify the FEMA individual assistance process.
“During the past two National Association of Counties’ legislative conferences, I’ve personally spoken to our Senators and to members of our U.S. House delegation about the importance of simplifying this unnecessarily bureaucratic process,” said Williams. “I’m grateful that Senator Tillis co-sponsored the Disaster Assistance Simplification Act and am excited to see it moving in Congress. Hopefully we will see a simplified disaster assistance application process become reality in the very near future.”
Williams served as President of the N.C. Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) from August 2021 until August 2022. His NCACC Presidential Initiative, 100 Counties Prepared, was borne out of his experience serving as Chair of the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners during Hurricanes Florence, Dorian, and Isaias, through which he observed a lack of emergency preparedness training suitable for elected officials. He appointed a task force, which focused on filling that void by creating an emergency preparedness training tailor-made for elected officials. Sixty-one county officials from across North Carolina completed the inaugural 100 Counties Prepared Emergency Preparedness Training for County Commissioners, which was held in conjunction with the 115th Annual NCACC Conference in Cabarrus County on August 11, 2022. Officials from 25 counties participated in a second training on May 31, 2023, and more training sessions are planned. For more information, click here.