N.M. Lawmakers: Disaster Declaration For Navajo Nation Makes FEMA Funds Available In Wake Of Severe Freeze

Washington, D.C. – New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Representative Ben Ray Luján confirmed today that President Obama has signed a disaster declaration making the Navajo Nation eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds.

In December and January, a cold spell resulted in damage to more than 3,300 water lines, leaving thousands of members of the Navajo Nation without access to water as subfreezing temperatures caused pipes to freeze and break.  The damage also included gushing water once the pipes thawed.

As a result of the declaration, the Navajo Nation is eligible for FEMA assistance that includes funding to offset some of the costs of emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities, as well as assistance for actions taken to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural hazards.

“This declaration is vital to helping the Navajo Nation restore water to homes, schools and businesses and I am glad the President responded quickly to our request for support,” said Senator Udall.  “Following our successful effort to change federal law last year, tribes now have the authority to seek these designations directly from the president, meaning less red tape for them and the ability to receive more timely assistance when disasters strike.”

“I’m pleased that the people of the Navajo Nation will receive this much-needed assistance to help the community recover from and rebuild after the widespread damage caused by prolonged subfreezing temperatures last year,” Senator Heinrich said.

“This important disaster declaration will make critical funds available in support of the Navajo Nation’s efforts during what has been a difficult time for the thousands of people who were left without water for many weeks,” Representative Luján said.

In a letter to President Obama, the members of the delegation supported the Navajo Nation’s request for a disaster declaration allowing FEMA to assist in the recovery effort.

Last year, Udall, Heinrich and Luján sponsored legislation to give tribal governments the authority to request disaster declarations directly from the president's administration. Their legislation was adopted into law in January as part of the supplement appropriations bill following Hurricane Sandy.