Three Significant New Reports on Federal Recovery Systems

Three new reports out this week (April 13) address some of the fundamental problems of  the current federal recovery system:

(1) Heritage Foundation. Federalizing Disasters Weakens FEMA — and Hurts Americans Hit by Catastrophes. Report # 2398 by M. Mayer and M. DeBosier. This report discusses both response and recovery phase issues.

(2) DHS, Office of the Inspector General. Efficacy of DHS Grant Programs. Criticism of the existing grant programs, attributing some blame to the enabling legislation.

(3) GAO. Disaster Recovery; FEMA’s Long -term Assistance Was Helpful to State and Local Governments but Had Some Limitations. GAO-10-404. March 2010. The full report is 43 pages long. Click here for the one-page summary.

Currently, there is no comprehensive operational coordinating structure to guide the many federal, state, and local entities involved in disaster recovery.”

On a related note, on March 9, 2010 the Congressional Research Service issued a report: FEMA Disaster Cost-Shares: Evolution and Analysis, which discusses the match that state and local governments have to provide when they get a Presidential Disaster Declaration. It covers the history and the reasons for the requirement of matching funds.

The language of the Stafford Act defining cost-shares for the repair, restoration,and replacement of damaged facilities provides that the federal share “shall be not less than 75 percent.”  These provisions have been in effect for over 20 years. While the authority to adjust the cost-share is long standing, the history of FEMA’s administrative adjustments and Congress’legislative actions in this area, are of a more recent vintage.