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Disaster declaration greenlights aid for Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community

A powerful storm in July destroyed homes and left thousands in a tribal community east of Scottsdale in the dark for up to five days. This month, the federal government responded to the tribe’s request for aid by approving federal disaster assistance.

Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s emergency manager Chuck Kmet said a lot of time and paperwork goes into securing federal disaster assistance.

"Other than COVID," Kmet said, "this is the first declaration that the community has asked for and received."

Businesses and individuals can apply for help through the Federal Emergency Management Agency following President Joe Biden’s Sept. 2 disaster declaration.

"Our understanding from FEMA is that this is only the second time throughout the country, in Indian country, that it’s happened where a tribe received that individual assistance designation," Kmet said.

Tribal officials would not provide specific data, but did cite damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure that programs they plan to initiate will soon address.

The tribe’s emergency coordinator Joe Urrea said community members affected by the storm are encouraged to apply for federal relief.

Kirsten Dorman is a field correspondent at KJZZ. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dorman fell in love with audio storytelling as a freshman at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2019.