Despite his harsh criticism of the George W. Bush administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2007, President Obama decided not to waive a requirement that state and local governments contribute 25 percent of relief funds devoted to cleaning up after a tornado that swept through Joplin, Mo. in May 2011.
The Stafford Act requires those matching funds in order to collect federal disaster relief money, but that requirement may be modified or even waived at the president’s discretion.
“What’s happening down in New Orleans,” Obama asked in a video of a June 2007 speech at Hampton University obtained by The Daily Caller. “Where’s your dollar? Where’s your Stafford Act money?”
Obama misstated the Stafford Act’s requirements, saying that Hurricane Katrina-ravaged communities — mostly black communities — were expected to contribute ten percent of the rebuilding funds on their own.
The federal government, he complained, hadn’t footed the entire bill for Katrina cleanup as it had in the aftermath of 9/11 and Hurricane Andrew.
But the Obama administration responded the same way to the Joplin tornado as the Bush administration had after Katrina, by declining to cover the entire cost of disaster relief.
Bush, however, waived the Stafford Act at times to provide more support to Katrina’s victims. In May 2007, weeks before Obama’s initial criticism of the Katrina relief effort, the Bush administration provided an additional $6.9 billion to affected areas.
In August of 2011, the Obama administration temporarily cut funds sent to Joplin residents in order to aid other Americans, those affected by Hurricane Irene. That decision left behind destroyed roads, leveled buildings and many homeless Missourians.
Hurricane Irene was the fifth worst Hurricane in U.S. history, causing an estimated $19 billion in damage. While Irene’s rebuilding costs were more than six times those related to Joplin, it also claimed about 100 fewer lives than the tornado.