Feds to help small businesses affected by oil spill

Tuesday - 5/18/2010, 1:37pm EDT

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will set up an interagency working group to coordinate the federal response for small businesses and other social services because of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

In a memo to agency executives, the Office of Management and Budget wants FEMA to set up the task force by May 27 and begin developing a Social Service and Small Business Coordination Plan.

The plan will focus on communications, roles and responsibilities, deployment strategies and contingency plans.

"The plan is not intended to disrupt ongoing, day-to-day communications between operational agencies and their State, local and tribal partners. Rather, it will be a critical and timely resource to these partners to help provide a rapid Federal response to the evolving situation and to reinforce the cooperation of the responsible parties," OMB states in the memo. "This effort to ensure more seamless delivery of claims and benefits to individuals and small businesses is an important step of the administration's response to the oil spill. Further steps include anticipating and preparing for the post-incident recovery needs of the Gulf Coast."

The plan will cover four specific areas, including how the government is working with state and local counterparts to avoid duplication, enable rapid decision-making and manage the flow of data. It also will provide agencies with strategy to deploy resources to the state and local governments especially as their needs change.

The strategy also will develop the "operational concept of 'no wrong door' that will enable individuals, families and small businesses to easily navigate and apply for the benefits and resources they may need."

OMB wants each agency to name a senior official to act as the primary point of contact to advise FEMA on the plan's development as part of a steering committee. And that person should identify second and third tier contacts to participate in the working group and potentially provide additional employee resources if the need arises.

"The unprecedented nature of this oil spill requires a rapid and comprehensive approach to supporting individuals, families and small businesses even while they pursue claims against the responsible parties," OMB states. "Each agency will be responsible for complying with FEMA's requests for assistance and for developing contingency plans to provide adequate staff resources in the event of increased demand. In the near term, we expect federal agencies to work within existing budgetary resources to contribute to a small on-site contingent in the Gulf region, with back-up expertise available in the headquarters and regional offices."

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