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Committee Leaders Question FEMA After Approvals for Disaster Survivor Aid Program Falls to All-Time Low

T&I leaders to FEMA Administrator: “Given FEMA’s role as the lead federal agency for coordinating disaster response and recovery, the Agency’s communications and processes must be clearer and more accessible for survivors”

Washington, D.C., May 17, 2021 | Justin Harclerode (202) 225-9446 | comments
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Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Ranking Member of the Committee Sam Graves (R-MO), Chair of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Dina Titus (D-NV), and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee Daniel Webster (R-FL) are pressing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for answers after approvals for assistance under the Individuals and Households Program, or IHP, fell to 13 percent so far this year. By comparison, in 2010, the approval rate was 63 percent. The IHP provides financial and direct services to eligible individuals and households impacted by disasters.

In their letter to FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, the Members highlighted the need for the agency to follow the findings outlined in a 2020 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which recommended that FEMA make several changes to its processes, forms, and staff trainings to make IHP assistance more accessible to eligible disaster survivors.

“As you know all too well, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornadoes, and other disasters can devastate communities and regions of all sizes. Each disaster impacts individuals, their homes, and their families,” the Members wrote to Administrator Criswell. “Previously-rare extreme weather phenomena are happening with greater frequency and across a wider range of geographical areas, making FEMA IHP assistance—for temporary housing, repair of homes, and funds for other uninsured or under-insured disaster-caused expenses—all the more vital for disaster survivors.”

The Members continued: “Interacting with FEMA and its officials is one of the only personal interactions that many Americans have with the federal government, a lifeline that—depending on the frequency of disasters—hundreds of thousands depend upon each year during their moments of greatest need. Given FEMA’s role as the lead federal agency for coordinating disaster response and recovery, the Agency’s communications and processes must be clearer and more accessible for survivors.”

The Members requested FEMA answer several questions to better understand how Congress can address these problems and ultimately ensure that FEMA is doing all it can to meet its mission statement of “helping people before, during, and after disasters.”

The full letter text can be found here.

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