Legislation Would Create Universal Application for Disaster Survivors
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) to simplify the application process for federal disaster recovery assistance has advanced in the Senate. The legislation would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to establish a universal application across federal agencies for disaster survivors who are seeking federal assistance to recover from hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and more. Currently, individuals that seek federal aid to recover from a disaster must fill out separate and detailed applications depending on what agency they need help from – a process that can take weeks or even months. Peters’ legislation would significantly streamline this process to reduce the burden on disaster survivors. The bill was advanced by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where Peters serves as Chair. It now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
“Disaster survivors should have a straightforward process to access the federal assistance they need to rebuild their lives after extreme weather events,” said Chairman Peters. “This commonsense, bipartisan legislation will make sure that people in Michigan and across the country only need to fill in one universal application to get federal help to recover from natural disasters.”
After a disaster, there are various types of federal disaster assistance that may become available to disaster survivors. For example, FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program can provide financial or direct assistance for housing and other needs, and the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Real Property Disaster Loans and Personal Property Loans are available to eligible homeowners and renters who have incurred damage to their home or personal property. However, a recent analysis found that more than 50 percent of the questions on the application forms for both of these programs are duplicative. These burdensome applications can overwhelm some survivors, causing many to simply give up trying to access desperately needed assistance and pushing survivors beyond their breaking point.
The Disaster Assistance Simplification Act amends the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to require FEMA to establish a universal disaster application across federal agencies for disaster survivors who are seeking federal recovery aid. The bill would allow FEMA to share information on disaster survivors with other federal agencies to simplify recovery efforts and reduce the burden on survivors after a disaster. Finally, the bill requires all information sharing practices to meet federal data security standards.
As Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters has led several efforts to strengthen our federal disaster preparedness and response. Peters secured $500 million in funding as part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill for a program he created to help states establish revolving loan programs for local governments to carry out mitigation projects that reduce the risk of shoreline erosion, extreme flooding, and other natural disasters. Peters’ bipartisan legislation to protect FEMA Reservists from losing their full-time employment when they are called up to assist communities with disaster response was also signed into law. Finally, Peters’ bill to help protect pets and other animals during and in the aftermath of natural disasters and emergencies was also signed into law.