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U.S Sen. John Boozman raises concerns about natural disaster response times

During a hearing for the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations, U.S Senator John Boozman, R-Arkansas, shares concerns local officials have with the process to get aid for natural disasters. Boozman has introduced legislation, which he believes would address this issue.
United States Senate Committee on Appropriations
During a hearing for the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations, U.S Senator John Boozman, R-Arkansas, shares concerns local officials have with the process to get aid for natural disasters. Boozman has introduced legislation, which he believes would address this issue.

During a hearing of the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations , U.S Senator John Boozman, R-Arkansas, raised concerns about the federal government’s response times to natural disasters.

Boozman said he has been hearing from local officials that the process to get resources in the aftermath of disaster can be a challenge.

“Arkansas has had a series of tornadoes in the last several years that have caused significant damage, we’re seeing the same thing in Tennessee. One of the main frustrations I have heard from state and community leaders is how long the process is,” Boozman said.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), there were 39 tornadoes in Arkansas in 2022. The NWS has not released figures for 2023.

In March of 2023, there was a tornado in Arkansas that caused five deaths and left 75,000 residents without power, according to the Arkansas Encyclopedia.

At the hearing, Boozman said the issue with providing resources to communities isn’t a funding issue.

“In some cases, we’re talking about spending more money, but so much of this is being more efficient and making the process work,” he said. “I’m the ranking member on Agriculture and we see this with the relief programs there. It’s difficult to go through the process and you wait 2 years before you get any relief. By that time, it’s more than difficult.”

According to Boozman’s office, Boozman introduced legislation, which had bipartisan support, that would have created an office within the Economic Development Administration to respond to requests for aid, in the aftermath of natural disasters. Boozman said this would help expedite the process and get resources to communities faster.

Ran Reinhard, director of operation with the South Carolina Office of Resilience, said this type of office would be helpful to responding to natural disasters.

“It would be really nice to go to one place and be able to meet all your needs and work all the programs,” he said in response to Boozman’s question about his proposed legislation. “When a disaster occurs, you have multiple agencies pouring into the site, all with the best intent, but it quickly overwhelms.”

As of December 8, 2023, there have been 25 natural disasters that have each exceeded $1 billion in damage in the United States, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.

Ronak Patel is a reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.