This article, How Government Can Help the Economy Recover From Sandy, raises some good points. Even before FEMA was created (1979), some people have argued for a greater role for the Commerce Dept. and economic developement, but it never has happened. Here is a new try, from Bloomberg News, Nov. 5.
If natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy are becoming more frequent, and their aftermaths more expensive, then the federal response needs to become more dynamic. Especially in fostering economic recovery, there’s more the U.S. government can do.
Some steps are small and obvious, yet still valuable. Barack Obama’s administration, to its credit, has made progress in cutting disaster-relief red tape, for example. Still, the patchwork of application requirements and eligibility criteria businesses must sort through to receive aid can be further streamlined and made more consistent across agencies.
It may also make sense to designate one federal agency as responsible for economic disaster relief. Whatever agency takes the lead (a report from the International Economic Development Council recommends the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration) should have a consistent, dedicated level of money on hand to respond to disasters. The IEDC suggests $100 million. This would free up cash quickly and help insulate economic disaster relief from political manipulation.
VERY USEFUL REPORT: The direct line to the IEDC report is here; it’s titled ” An Improved Federal Resonse to Post-Disaster Economic Recovery” ,(Jan. 2010)