Florida Gov. Rick Scott's Request for Federal Emergency Declaration is Unprecedented After a Mass Shooting

In his letter to Obama, Scott quoted phrases from the president’s Sunday afternoon speech in which he offered condolences to those impacted.

by Tia Mitchell, The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville / June 14, 2016
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, center, addresses reporters during a news conference after a shooting involving multiple fatalities at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. AP/Phelan M. Ebenhack

(TNS) - Gov. Rick Scott on Monday took the unprecedented step of asking President Obama to make a federal emergency declaration in Florida in the aftermath of the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub.

In his letter to Obama, Scott quoted phrases from the president’s Sunday afternoon speech in which he offered condolences to those impacted.

“I urge you to declare an emergency under the Stafford Act so that ‘the full resources of the federal government’ can be made available for the individuals, families and communities impacted by this ‘horrific massacre,’” Scott wrote.

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act gives the president sole authority to determine when and where to declare an emergency, which provides the affected areas with supplemental federal dollars up to $5 million. Congress can also approve additional funding.

Such declarations are usually reserved for places ravaged by natural disasters such as floods, storms and fires.

In January, Obama signed an emergency declaration in Michigan due to the Flint water crisis. The next month he declared an emergency after flooding in Louisiana.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said emergency declarations were not requested by governors in affected states after mass shootings occurred in San Bernardino, Calif., Blacksburg, Va., and Newton, Conn. A search of FEMA records did not reveal any evidence that an emergency declaration has ever been granted after such an event.

The Obama administration has not yet told Scott whether his request will be approved.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said he supports the federal emergency declaration request to go along with the state-based emergency declaration that Scott has already approved to assist Orlando health and law enforcement agencies.

“If there were to be a declaration of an emergency at a federal level it would allow the state to recoup some of its costs as a result of the scale of this terrorist act,” Putnam said.
 
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