1 thought on “FEMA Reform Brief – from the Heritage Foundation

  1. The report makes two major recommendations:
    • Award FEMA grants based on the risks mitigated.
    • Amend the Stafford Act so that states receive only 25% (instead of 75%) of the costs associated with a disaster.

    Both parties appear to agree with the first, at least in principle, so really no need to comment on that, except to say I hope Congress and the Administration move forward. But the second – oh, boy. The principle behind it is right – communities and states should take more ownership of their responses to and especially their recoveries from disasters. But implicit in “disaster” is the concept of a disruption exceeding a community’s (or state’s) resources to cope. In this highly-connected world, all of us have an interest in speeding the recovery of any stricken community.

    Rather than imposing a draconian cut of potential federal funds, a close examination of where those funds go might be a better place to start. For example, debris management from Hurricane Katrina accounted for about five per cent of the total funds provided by the federal government to the affected states. However, if regulatory barriers could be overcome (e.g., pre-approval of environmental waivers for disposition of certain types of wastes) then costs would be reduced.

    There may also be some value in at how we finance “disaster.” For example, the Small Business Administration provides loans to businesses. Rather than outright grants, the idea of providing long-term low-interest loans to communities and states should be explored. The British program that allowed certain types of resilience-building projects to use a more favorable discount rate in order to secure project funding should also be considered.

    I hate across the board cuts – they always award the less-efficient, and are loaded with unintended consequences. However, the report does spotlight the need to change the unsustainable status quo.

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