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Entries in Disaster Relief (5)

Friday
Apr062012

Disaster Relief 'Impostor' Insists He's Innocent

Volunteer Medics Worldwide(HENRYVILLE, Ind.) -- Out on bail and under house-arrest, Gerald Flint, the man accused of being an imposter by residents and victims of last month's devastating tornado in Henryville, Ind., told ABC News the claims against him are false, but remained evasive about his medical training and license to practice medical procedures.

In a report that aired on "Nightline" and "World News with Diane Sawyer" on Tuesday, ABC News detailed how Flint allegedly took control of relief efforts by claiming to be with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies. Despite his badges, some residents grew suspicious when he allegedly asked for donations and called the state police, leading to Flint's arrest.

In an email sent to ABC News after the Nightline segment aired, Flint denied charges of theft and impersonating a public servant brought by the Clark County, Indiana prosecutor's office. He insisted he did nothing wrong, and only helped the people of Henryville.

"We stole from nobody," Flint wrote. "I took not a single penny in hand, pocket or vehicle in Henryville, Naab, Marysville or anywhere in the tornado zone."

"I gave my own clean socks, hats, gloves and safety glasses once all we had ran out," he wrote. "We gave inspiration, education, training and encouragement."

Flint added by phone that he "didn't authorize anyone to take money for me or my organization."

Flint said he's been working in the field of disaster relief all over the world for years through his organization Volunteer Medics Worldwide, and brought his skills to Henryville. "We did rescue several folks," he insisted. "We did bring them water, Gatorade and bandages. You don't need to be a brain surgeon to rescue people out of a tornado."

Prior to the "Nightline" broadcast, ABC News had asked Flint about his medical background. Flint said he "can't answer that."

Pressed anew about his medical training and his delinquent California nurse's license, Flint replied, "You don't need to be a Ph.D to give somebody some Tylenol when they have a migraine. Absolutely nothing that I did the entire time I was in Henryville warranted any type of licensure."

Residents and local disaster volunteers in Henryville told ABC News Flint presented himself as medical personnel, a member of the federal Department of Homeland Security and a government official.

Ryan Jefferson, a native of Henryville, said he first met Flint the day after the tornado struck.

"His attire was that of like a first responder from the firehouse or an RN. He had a stethoscope around his neck,' recalled Jefferson. "He just seemed very official."

Volunteer Sherri Schladen and her Boy Scout troops met Flint at a local church where they were volunteering. "He said he was with the first responders," she recounted. "And [he said he was] here to help educate us." She said he also made references to working with FEMA.

In a jail-house interview last week, Flint denied the charges and said he never told people he was with Homeland Security. However, he did tell ABC News he was "climbing the ladder with Homeland Security [and] had to use some protocols with Homeland Security to report the things I saw. That was my duty," a claim authorities said is not true.

ABC News also found that before he was arrested in Indiana, Flint had been hitting disaster areas all over the world for years. Video posted by Flint on his website even shows him conducting medical procedures on a young woman in Africa and children in Vietnam.

Though Flint is a military veteran with medical evacuation background, he does not have a license to distribute prescription drugs. In addition to his Clark County charges, he is also facing charges in nearby Jackson County, Indiana for alleged unlawful possession or use of the prescription drugs doxycycline and ciprofloxacin. He will face a judge in those charges on May 2.

In Clark County court, Flint pled not guilty to theft and impersonating a government agent and told the judge he was retired from the military and has served his country faithfully and honorably. "I would like to clear my name," he said. He is due back in court on May 14.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar042012

Tornado Devastation: How to Help

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A deadly string of tornados that ripped through the South and Midwest turned tightly knit rural communities into apocalyptic war zones, left dozens of people dead in five states and thousands homeless.

Schools were reduced to rubble, businesses were destroyed and families were left homeless by the disaster.

If you want to help, here is a list of organizations that are conducting relief efforts:

AMERICAN RED CROSS:

Make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to their local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

SALVATION ARMY:

Donations can be made online, or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY or by texting the word "STORM" to 80888 to make a $10 donation by phone. Or by mail: The Salvation Army Disaster Relief P.O. Box 100339 Atlanta, Ga. 30384-0339

FEEDING AMERICA:

When you donate to Feeding America, the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity, every dollar helps provide eight meals to families struggling with hunger. Feeding America can be reached at (800) 771-2303 (National Office) or online.

NATIONAL VOAD:

National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) is the primary point of contact for voluntary organization in the National Response Coordination Center at FEMA headquarters. They also provide assistance to disaster victims as well as those looking to help.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep162011

Napolitano on Disaster Relief Fund: 'We Do Not Have Enough Money'

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano expressed frustration Thursday that Congress has not moved swiftly enough to pass a supplemental funding bill for FEMA in this year of wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes.

“The fight we’re in now is to get money for the disaster relief fund.  We do not have enough money -- given the number of disasters we’ve had this year -- to finish the fiscal year, and to do all the things we have to do,” Napolitano said Thursday at the Aspen Institute.

“I had to have a meeting with my FEMA director about things we will have to stop in places around the United States, unless Congress signals that they’re ready to put a supplemental into the Disaster Relief Fund,” Napolitano said.

There are competing packages in the Senate and House about how much extra money should be provided to FEMA and the agency’s Disaster Relief Fund.  The White House has said that Hurricane Irene will cost $1.5 billion through 2012.  The Office of Management and Budget has said there is an additional $5.2 billion needed for non-Hurricane Irene disaster needs.

“It means existing joint field offices in disaster areas around the country, where we’re doing recovery,” Napolitano said of the implications of the budget crunch and what services may cease without the funding.  “It means public assistance for things like rebuilding fire stations and schools that were destroyed in the tornadoes in the spring and the flooding in the spring, and what we’ve seen recently.  It may even mean going back as far as some of the investments that we made to repair Katrina.”

According to DHS officials, the Disaster Relief Fund currently stands at $351 million.  After Hurricane Irene and deadly spring tornadoes and severe flooding in the Dakotas, the fund has been strained.  In recent weeks, the fund has dropped almost $450 million.  DHS officials said that on Aug. 30, the fund stood at just under $800 million.

FEMA had to place funding restrictions on longer-term repair and rebuilding projects from previous and current disasters because the fund had dropped below $1 billion.  FEMA officials say that when the Disaster Relief Fund has been under $1 billion they have used a funding method called “Immediate Needs Funding,” which prioritizes the immediate needs of disaster survivors, states, and communities during disasters, so that FEMA can continue its focus on response and urgent recovery efforts without any interruption."

“The survivors that are eligible for assistance are still getting funds.  Individual assistance programs were not affected by this, nor was any protective measures, or any debris clearance or any project that had already been approved,” said FEMA Director Craig Fugate said at a White House briefing on Aug. 29, 2011 after Irene had passed up the East Coast.

“The only thing that we have postponed is new projects that are permanent work that had not been started when we go into immediate needs funding.  And that is to ensure that we still have funds to do this response, continue to meet the needs of the survivors of the previous disasters, while supporting the initial response to Hurricane Irene,” he said.

Similar funding limitations went into effect in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2010.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep082011

Reid Proposes $6 Billion Stand-Alone Disaster Aid Bill

Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Noting that the natural disasters have come “fast and furious” this summer, causing many Americans to suffer, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced Wednesday that he will propose a free-standing bill that would provide $6 billion in relief funds.

“I don’t see how we -- this great nation we have -- can stand on the sidelines while our people are suffering.  We should get relief to people when they need it,” Reid said, mentioning the damage in Joplin, Missouri, the effects of hurricanes Irene and Lee, and the recent earthquake in Virginia.

The money for the bill would come from the Homeland Security appropriations bill, Reid said.

“We need to get this relief funding to the American people as quickly as we can,” he said.  “And we’re going to do that.”

Reid took a swipe at some of his Republican colleagues, most notably House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, who early on said that any relief funds needed to be offset by cuts to other parts of the federal budget.

“Some of my Republican colleagues are trying to -- I was going to say something that was vulgar, and I’m not going to do that -- are trying to cater to the Tea Party by holding up relief efforts.  For example, Rep. Cantor suggested that we should hold up disaster relief to meet the Tea Party’s demands.  Fortunately, all Republicans don’t agree,” Reid said.

Cantor, who last month insisted that any new money for federal disaster relief be offset by spending cuts, issued a written statement on Wednesday regarding Reid’s stand-alone disaster assistance bill.  Cantor said he’s waiting for a specific request from President Obama and is awaiting details of Reid’s request.

“The House will act on a request for such disaster assistance as soon as it is made by President Obama,” Cantor said.  “Though details remain vague, it is being reported that Majority Leader Reid plans to move an unprecedented stand-alone measure that includes up to $7 billion in FEMA disaster funds for next year in the coming weeks.  I would ask Leader Reid to provide members of the House with the details of his request and a breakdown of what immediate funding is needed for each of the specific disaster areas listed above, so that the House can appropriately act on any legislation passed by the Senate.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug312011

Disaster Relief Funding: Parties Spar Over FEMA Appropriations

Damage from flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene is seen near the Irving gas station at the junction of Route 4 and Route 100 in Killington, Vermont on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011. Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Despite preliminary damage estimates for Hurricane Irene ranking in the billions of dollars, additional funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency could get caught up in the gridlock of partisan budget battles.

A Democratic leadership aide said Wednesday that it is “highly unlikely” Congress will reach an agreement on supplemental appropriations for the agency in the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, the “natural place for additional disaster relief funding.”

Instead, the aide said that any disaster relief funding will likely be attached to the stopgap funding bill that must pass through Congress by the end of September. Unless, that is, by some miracle both houses of Congress pass all of their appropriations bills -- a legislative long shot.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said earlier this week that any additional disaster funding would have to be offset by spending cuts -- a position that could be a tough sell for congressional Democrats.

“Are House Republicans willing to shut down the federal government in order to satisfy their demands for offsets on disaster relief for the victims of Hurricane Irene?” asked the aide, who did not want to be identified.

FEMA announced last weekend that the agency had less than $800 million in its bank account, forcing it to halt long-term projects such as rebuilding roads and schools in order to focus on the immediate needs of Hurricane Irene victims.

“We are going to find the money. We’re just going to need to make sure that there are savings elsewhere to continue to do so,” Cantor said on Fox News Monday.

Cantor’s comments were met with harsh criticism from the White House and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, who noted that emergency supplemental appropriations were “historically the way disaster relief funding has been handled.”

In June the Republican-controlled House passed a bill that would give FEMA an additional $1 billion for this fiscal year and increase the agency’s funds by $700 million for fiscal year 2012. The bill reduces grants for clean-energy vehicles in order to make up for the additional disaster relief funds -- a move the Democrat-controlled Senate does not support and has not passed.

With Republicans’ renewed insistence on balancing any additional FEMA funding with equal spending cuts, there is little chance Congress will reach a compromise and appropriate additional funds before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

Any supplemental disaster funds will then have to be tucked into the next continuing budget resolution, which Congress will have to pass before Oct. 1 to avoid a government shutdown.

Despite this lack of congressional appropriations, federal officials insist FEMA will meet the needs of all disaster victims, including those from Hurricane Irene, those from floods earlier this year along the Mississippi River Valley, and those from tornadoes in Missouri and Alabama.

“We’re going to make sure that we respond as quickly and effectively as possible,” President Obama said Monday. “And we’re going to keep it up as long as hurricane season continues.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio