The U.S. Senate passed the FEMA Relief Improvement Act (H.R. 1117), sponsored by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO.), to increase the reliability of FEMA’s services during disasters. Hartzler’s bill ensures disaster victims receive better guidance, more accurate information and greater certainty from FEMA during emergencies. The legislation now heads to the president’s desk.
“A family who has experienced the devastation of a flood or a tornado needs peace of mind — not bureaucratic roadblocks and red tape,” said Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, who saw the issue firsthand when she toured Pulaski County and spoke with victims of flooding that devastated the area. “This bill requires FEMA to focus efforts on its core mission: helping people recover from disasters.”
“In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, ensuring the effectiveness of the Federal Emergency Management Agency has become more important than ever,” Hartzler added.
In the past, there have been repeated incidents of lost and misplaced paperwork, poor communication between state and federal agencies, and a general lack of information from FEMA officials, hindering disaster response and relief. In Missouri, there are still cases pending from floods that occurred in 2013.
H.R. 1117, which has overwhelming bipartisan support, would require FEMA to improve accountability by devising a plan to provide consistent guidance during disaster responses.
Specifically, the legislation requires FEMA to create an action plan to improve field transition by:
- Providing consistent guidance to applicants on FEMA disaster funding procedures during the response to an emergency or disaster;
- Conducting appropriate record maintenance and transfer of documents to new teams during staff transitions;
- Providing accurate assistance to applicants and grantees to ease the administrative burden throughout the process of obtaining and monitoring assistance;
- Implementing operating procedures and documenting retention requirements to ensure the maintenance of appropriate records throughout the lifecycle of the disaster; and
- Identifying new technologies that further aid the disaster workforce in partnering with state, local, and tribal governments and private nonprofits in the wake of a disaster to educate, assist, and inform applicants on the status of their disaster assistance applications.