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Palazzo says will be ?point person? on disaster-relief reform [The Sun Herald]

By Anita Lee, The Sun Herald
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Jan. 08--U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo toured areas of the Jersey Shore and Staten Island to view Sandy hurricane damage Tuesday, after the backlash over his vote against funding for the National Flood Insurance Program last week.

Palazzo said he wanted to reassure colleagues in the House that he supports disaster aid, express sympathy on Mississippi's behalf to those suffering in Sandy's aftermath, share lessons learned here from Hurricane Katrina and continue the discussion on disaster relief reform.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor today encouraged Palazzo to become a "point man on disaster relief reform" as major storms become more frequent and costly, the Mississippi congressman said.

"I feel it's extremely important to have this conversation while it's on the thoughts and minds of most of my colleagues," Palazzo said, "so we don't just shelve it and not come back to it six months from now, or nine months from now.

'Again, the purpose is to look at how we pay for disaster relief, but also to make sure that we are doing the best we can to efficiently and effectively deliver aid to those who need it in the right way."

Palazzo said Sandy's aftermath reminded him of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, in that families and neighbors were helping one another through recovery. He said the needs were similar, too, for essentials such as toiletries and cold-weather gear, for example.

Palazzo said he had only seven minutes to talk. The Sun Herald was unable to arrange more time with his office for an interview he ended after nine to 10 minutes.

He did not offer any specific proposals during that time for changes to the flood insurance program or to disaster response that would save the government money in the future, as he has indicated he wants to do. He did, however, say he will be putting forward some proposals.

"The purpose of having a national discussion," he said, "is not to have it in 24 hours."

He said the colleagues whose districts he toured -- Republicans John Runyan of New Jersey and Michael Grimm of New York -- were appreciative that he came to see the damage. Palazzo said he will support disaster aid for areas affected by Sandy.

"I'm going to advocate for that next week," he said. He said the responsible thing to do will be to find cuts to offset the cost of Sandy relief, but he will support assistance regardless.

"These storms are becoming more and more frequent and more and more costly," he concluded. "We are obligated to make the (flood insurance) program work better."

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