Tuesday, May 06, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Disaster aid is bipartisan

Arkansas’ bipartisan congressional delegation on Monday applauded FEMA’s decision adding Pulaski, Randolph and White counties to its list of disaster areas, joining Faulkner County, which made the list days after the April 27 tornado devastated much of Vilonia.

The declaration will make Arkansas eligible for low-interest loans and perhaps for additional funding from Washington. With two major tornadoes in three years, we need all the help we can get to rebuild hundreds of destroyed homes and build more badly needed tornado shelters..

FEMA has given Arkansas $1 million since the tornado, but much more is needed. Let’s hope President Obama will promise us more assistance when he lands at Little Rock Air Force Base today. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) invited the President to tour the hard-hit areas to the north of us.

The spirit of bipartisanship is reminiscent of Obama’s visit to storm-damaged New Jersey in 2012 with Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican. They got on well and may have helped each other’s chances when they ran for re-election that year. As we recall, millions of federal aid poured into New Jersey, which is still reaping the benefits of federal aid.

We could use more of the same. Pryor, the lone Democrat in the Arkansas delegation, was joined by Sen. John Boozman, as well as Reps. Tim Griffin, Rick Crawford, Tom Cotton and Steve Womack as they seek more aid for the state. Perhaps they were as surprised as we were that Obama accepted Pryor’s invitation since the President’s approval rating in Arkansas is among the lowest in the nation.

But there’s nothing like a natural disaster to bring us together. Even Rep. Cotton, who is running against Pryor and has been critical of FEMA, joined the bipartisan bandwagon and said, “I am grateful for the continued swift action by FEMA to support Arkansas and will work with my colleagues to ensure that support is easily accessible for those who need it most.”

It took courage for Pryor to invite the unpopular Obama to Arkansas, but the President’s tour should lead to more emergency aid to help pay for the long recovery.