STAFF EDITORIAL: Govt. assistance still needed in disaster relief situations

With the debate over health care overhaul still raging across the nation, a growing number of Americans have made it clear that they have no desire to see the government become more involved in the health care system.

However, with hurricane season in full swing, several Americans will likely be reminded that heavy government involvement still remains a necessity in some areas.

No one realizes this more than residents living along the Gulf Coast, where Hurricane Katrina struck Aug. 29, 2005, causing more than 1,600 deaths in Louisiana and Mississippi. The storm also destroyed $40 billion in property and displaced an estimated 1 million people.

New Orleans, which had the most property damage and deaths as a result of catastrophic flooding, is still in recovery mode four years after the hurricane.

The initial responses from the federal government, then under the administration of President George W. Bush, were perceived by many as slow and inadequate.

This raised questions about how effective the federal government could be in handling crises of that magnitude and how a large a role it should play.

With the passing of Katrina’s fourth anniversary and Hurricane Ike still fresh on the minds of some Houstonians, these questions are again being raised.

Some political analysts have even suggested that Congress amend the Stafford Act, a federal law that authorizes FEMA, while leaving states with the main responsibility of handling disaster response efforts.

Action by the federal government is typically provided at the discretion of the president, but these analysts suggest that Washington should be obligated to coordinate and fund response efforts and that a position should be created for someone to head the efforts.

The federal government doesn’t get everything correct, but this is one area where its assistance remains vital.

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