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FEMA possibly changing the way states get federal disaster aid

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Changes to the way Oklahoma receives federal disaster aid could be in the works.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is looking at upping the threshold that states, counties and cities have to meet before getting that money.

Those proposed changes include tougher standards that could require states to take more preventative measures before applying for assistance.

“It could raise three to four times of what that threshold is now, and that would be devastating to some local governments and counties,” said Cleveland County commissioner Darry Stacy.

Right now, a disaster in Cleveland County has to cause at least $913,045 in damages to qualify for federal assistance.

If that amount is tripled or quadrupled, a disaster would have to cause almost $3 million to $4 million for a community to get that money.

In a sparsely populated area, that could be a problem.

“If it hits downtown Norman, you could meet that almost immediately. If it occurs out in the east part of the county, it may take a while to meet that threshold,” Stacy said.

Stacy is part of a committee advising FEMA on the proposed changes.

FEMA is also talking about credits that would be similar to an insurance deductible.

If a community takes preventative measures before a disaster, like enhancing building codes or removing fire hazards like cedar trees, it could lower the threshold it has to meet.

That could prove difficult for our state right now, Stacy said.

“We’re at a point right now economically where the state of Oklahoma does not have the extra money to go in and do these to buy down the risk,” Stacy said.

Stacy wants to make sure Oklahoma doesn’t get left behind and that we’re still protected after a disaster.

FEMA has stressed they want this to be a transparent effort to determine how and if these new rules should be adopted.

Stacy is hopeful that FEMA will take commissioners’ concerns into consideration when making its decision.