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State Quake Recovery Help

July 18, 1994

Your editorial of July 1, "It's a Long, Long Way to Sacramento," restates the mistaken interpretation of the earthquake recovery process that has characterized your commentary for several months.

All Californians, of course, appreciate the financial commitment of the federal government to the Northridge recovery. But the reality of the process is far different from the view that The Times persists in perpetuating. Your editorials give the impression that only the federal government has been responsive, while state government has been negligent and slow to react. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In the first weeks after the earthquake, the state suggested to the Small Business Administration and to the Federal Emergency Management Agency that there was going to be a special problem of "ghost towns." Requests to consider new approaches fell on deaf ears and thousands of applications were denied. Isn't it ironic that The Times is now giving credit to SBA for finally agreeing to review over 25,000 applications?

School reconstruction has been slowed mainly because of FEMA reviewers denying portions of claims submitted on behalf of the Los Angeles Unified School District. These denials contradict the public expressions of policies that FEMA has been so eager to make.

Passage of the bond measures on the June ballot would not have accelerated the pace of recovery. Federal dollars always are provided in the beginning of the process; state and local funds are applied as projects are completed and final inspections made. Many delays in the pace of recovery are related to narrow interpretations by FEMA and SBA in applying their own policies, rather than any failure to act by state agencies.

A closer examination by The Times of the recovery process would demonstrate that most changes to accelerate the recovery--how to fast-track housing assistance checks, procedures for handling claims of public agencies, expedited appeals processes, strategies for early use of hazard mitigation funds--have come from proposals and pressures placed on federal agencies by state disaster officials. Without these efforts, it is questionable whether federal agencies would have taken the course they are now so loudly proclaiming.

From the outset, Gov. Wilson indicated that the state will pay the entire non-federal share for public recovery projects. That commitment remains. The issue is not, as The Times suggests, which method is adopted for providing state moneys. It is, rather, how quickly and intelligently federal agencies can implement their programs so that California's share is needed.

RICHARD ANDREWS, Director

Governor's Office of Emergency Services

Sacramento

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