H. R. 1859
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
May 7, 2013
Mr. Schiff (for himself and Ms. Chu) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
To revise the process by which the Federal Emergency Management Agency evaluates a request for major disaster assistance, and for other purposes.
This Act may be cited as the
Disaster Declaration Improvement Act of
Congress finds the following:
The process that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) uses to determine whether major disaster assistance should be recommended to the President is badly flawed.
The Government Accountability Office’s 2012
report on the FEMA disaster assistance process stated that according
FEMA and state emergency management officials, FEMA has primarily relied on a
single indicator, the statewide per capita damage indicator, to determine
whether to recommend that a jurisdiction receive [Public Assistance]
The Government Accountability Office’s 2012 report on the FEMA disaster assistance process also stated that 244 of 246 approved disaster declarations during fiscal years 2008 through 2011 had damage estimates that met or exceeded the Public Assistance per capita indicator.
Federal regulations do not prioritize the factors to be considered in recommending a major disaster declaration, but FEMA clearly does, as 99 percent of disasters in fiscal years 2008 through 2011 that satisfied FEMA’s statewide per capita damage threshold received a disaster declaration.
FEMA should give, in its future evaluation of Governor-submitted requests for major disaster assistance, equal consideration to all of the factors described in section 206.48(a) of title 44, Code of Federal Regulations, so that the process for recommending major disaster assistance will work as originally intended.
Another flaw in FEMA’s process, that communities within large States and counties are unfairly disadvantaged, must also be addressed.
Evaluation of Governor-submitted requests for major disaster assistance on the basis of a statewide per capita damage threshold, and occasionally a countywide per capita damage threshold, establishes a higher threshold for States and counties with large populations to receive major disaster assistance, even though there is no indication that they have a greater fiscal capacity to respond to disasters.
The inequity described in paragraphs (6) and (7) means that communities can suffer high levels of disaster-related damage but not receive the assistance they need to quickly recover from the disaster.
FEMA should consider more than just the statewide and countywide per capita damage thresholds in evaluating a request for major disaster assistance, so that communities in large population counties in large population States do not face an unreasonably high barrier to receiving assistance following a disaster.
Consideration of major disaster assistance requests
Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency shall issue regulations to ensure that—
in any review of a request for major disaster assistance conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the factor described in section 206.48(a)(1) of title 44, Code of Federal Regulations (relating to the estimated cost of assistance), is provided consideration that is equal to the consideration provided to each of the other factors described in section 206.48(a) of such title; and
a request for major disaster assistance by a State is considered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for recommendation to the President, without regard to any per capita damage threshold (other than a threshold described in this paragraph), in any case in which a disaster occurs with respect to a city or unincorporated jurisdiction—
with a population of less than 250,000;
located in a county with a population of more than 1,000,000 and a State with a population of more than 5,000,000; and
with respect to which the financial damage relating to the disaster exceeds—
in the case of a city, 10 percent of the city’s general fund; or
in the case of an unincorporated jurisdiction, $100 per capita.