FEMA's Disaster Declaration Process: A Primer
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act referred to as the Stafford Act - 42 U.S.C. 5721 et seq. authorizes the President to issue major disaster or emergency declarations before or after catastrophes occur. Emergency declarations trigger aid that protects property, public health, and safety and lessens or averts the threat of an incident becoming a catastrophic event. A major disaster declaration, issued after catastrophes occur, constitutes broader authority for federal agencies to provide supplemental assistance to help state and local governments, families and individuals, and certain nonprofit organizations recover from the incident. The disaster declaration procedure is foremost a process that preserves the discretion of the governor to request assistance and the President to decide to grant, or not to grant, supplemental help. The process employs some measurable criteria in two broad areas Individual Assistance that aids families and individuals and Public Assistance that is mainly for repairs to infrastructure. The criteria, however, also considers many other factors, in each category of assistance, that help decision makers assess the impact of an event on communities and states. Under current law, the decision to issue a declaration rests solely with the President. Congress has no formal role, but has taken actions to adjust the terms of the process. For example, P.L. 109-295 established an advocate to help small states with the declaration process. More recently, Congress introduced legislation, H.R. 3377, that would direct FEMA to update some of its criteria for considering Individual Assistance declarations.
- Government and Political Science
- Civil Defense