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White House Sends Disaster Relief To Texas After Bias Accusations

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PERRYHUTCHINSON

WASHINGTON -- In early June, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) bluntly claimed on national TV that the Obama administration was biased against her home state. The evidence: while Texas was suffering from wild fires and a tough-to-control border with Mexico, the president had failed to authorize relief for either of these needs.

"I see a bias in this administration against Texas … yes, I do see it in this administration, absolutely. We didn't get the help in the wildfires that I think any other state would have gotten," said Hutchison. "I think if you look at the things that have not happened in Texas, I think it is pretty clear that there is a bias against Texas. Even in the border issues we are not getting the help we should have from the federal government to secure the 1,200-mile border we have with Mexico. So I do think that a lot of the rhetoric has rubbed the administration wrong, and we have had to fight hard for our fair share."

The assertion, which had been echoed elsewhere by Texas Governor Rick Perry, seemed more than a bit far-fetched. The amount of federal money flowing to the Lone Star state had decreased only slightly since the waning days of the Bush administration. And with respect to the wild fires, administration officials insisted that Hutchinson's facts were just wrong.

"[T]he administration, through FEMA, is in fact giving financial assistance to Texas to help with firefighting efforts, it’s just in the form of what we call fire management assistance grants instead of a federal disaster declaration," one Obama aide emailed The Huffington Post at the time of Hutchinson's claim. "Both fire management assistance grants and federal disaster declarations are types of aid FEMA is authorized to provide under the Stafford Act, and in the case of Texas, the grants we have provided cover the exact same type of assistance Gov. Perry was seeking in his request for the federal disaster declaration."

On Friday, any evidence of a bias diminished further, if not altogether. The Obama administration announced that the president had signed a Texas Disaster Declaration declaring "a major disaster exists in the State of Texas" and ordering "federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area struck by wildfires during the period of April 6 to May 3, 2011."

A FEMA official confirmed to The Huffington Post that the disaster relief was, indeed, for the same bunch of wildfires that had led to Hutchinson's complaint. The reason that the administration had waited until now, the official said, was not because of a prejudice against Texas.

"This declaration was originally denied and appealed," the official explained, saying it was accepted once "the governor submitted additional information based on more damage assessments."

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