Critique of FEMA’s Handling of Recovery

From the NY Times, this analysis of disaster recovery in U.S.: As Storms Keep Coming, FEMA Spends Billions in ‘Cycle’ of Damage and Repair. Here is an excerpt:

FEMA’s public assistance program has provided at least $81 billion in this manner to state, territorial and local governments in response to disasters declared since 1992, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data. But an examination of projects across the country’s ever-expanding flood zones reveals that decisions to rebuild in place, often made seemingly in defiance of climate change, have at times left structures just as defenseless against the next storm.

 

Federal Disaster Rebuilding Spending

From the Wharton School: Federal Disaster Rebuilding Spending: A Look at the Numbers.

Last year set records for natural disaster damages in the United States. NOAA estimates total damages from the 2017 events were over $300 billion. The U.S. experienced not one, not two, but three land falling hurricanes. Hurricane Harvey set a record for rainfall. The wildfires in California were some of the costliest the state has ever seen.

In response to these events, Congress passed two supplemental spending bills in September and October appropriating $34.5 billion in post-disaster funds and forgiving $16 billion of debt for the National Flood Insurance Program. A couple weeks ago, Congress approved a two-year budget that included an additional $90 billion for disaster rebuilding. This puts the total spending in response to the 2017 events at over $130 billion—another record.

FEMA Wants States to Pay More

FEMA’s Plan to Make States Pay More for Disasters. It’s one of the many ideas and practices that Craig Fugate, the agency’s outgoing leader, hopes the Trump administration will adopt. Among the others: rescuing pets.”   [Thanks to Ed Thomas for this citation.]

This concept is not new. The Diva recalls writing about the need for more state investment in preparedness for disasters back in 1993, when the topic was included in the milestone report Coping with Catastrophe, issued by the National Academy of Public Administration

Update: another take, this one from Bloomberg News, on the same topic.

New GAO Report on the Cost of Disaster Assistance

This the second important report to be issued on Sept. 22. See: Federal Disaster Assistance: Federal Departments and Agencies Obligated at Least $277.6 Billion during Fiscal Years 2005 through 2014

There is a one-page of Highlights, and the full report is 185 pages long.

NOTE: The Diva has not yet read through the full report. She welcomes comments from readers.

New CRS Report on the Disaster Relief Fund

New report from the Congressional Research Service is titled Disaster Relief Fund; Overview and Selected Issues. May 2014.

This report not only provides basic information about federal payment for disasters but also makes some proposals for better management of the disaster declaration process (see pp. 15-23). A good basic document to add to your personal library.

Thanks to Bill Cumming for the citation.

Are There Too Many Federal Directives and Guidance Documents?

Based on the recent question I posed about what documents readers are/are not interested in, and fueled by several conversations with federal officials and contractors dealing with the aftermath of H. Sandy, I wonder whether the U.S. emergency management system at the federal level has become excessively demanding.  And are the directives and requirements excessive with regard to current state and local capabilities and budgets?

My personal view is that President Policy Directive #8 (PPD8), issued in march 2011, and the various documents and requirement flowing from it, was the tipping point. It seems to me that the directives get more abstract, difficult, and lengthy, yet the the staff and budgets at various agencies, organizations –and particularly state and local government–are sloping downward.  Added to those problems, federal grants are down significantly and many federally-supported educational efforts have been cut.

Even with all domains of society involved in disaster response and recovery, the likelihood of achieving the lofty goals and objectives  of the above-mentioned directives and frameworks with current resources is not promising.

Now, what is your view about this topic?  I am curious if I am alone in climbing out this branch of the tree!

NOTE: Be sure to read the comments. They make the point better than I did.