Legislation would Create Universal Application for Disaster Survivors
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced a bipartisan bill to require the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) 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 require federal aid to recover from a disaster must fill out separate and detailed applications depending on what agency they need help from – a process which can take weeks or even months. Peters’ legislation would significantly streamline this process to reduce the burden on disaster survivors.
“Michiganders and people across the nation who are trying to piece their lives and livelihoods back together after disasters and emergencies should not have to go through overwhelming, duplicative application processes when asking for help from the federal government,” said Senator Peters. “By requiring a universal application for federal disaster recovery assistance, this bipartisan bill will reduce the burden on families and individuals to who are seeking federal assistance to rebuild and recover from 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 SBA’s Real Property Disaster Loans and Personal Property Loans are available to eligible homeowners and renters who have incurred uninsured or underinsured damage to their home or personal property located in a declared disaster area. 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, SBA, HUD, and USDA to establish a universal disaster application across federal agencies for disaster survivors and victims who are seeking federal recovery aid. The bill would allow FEMA, SBA, HUD, and USDA to share information on disaster survivors to simplify recovery efforts and reduce the burden on survivors after a disaster. The legislation would make FEMA the lead in implementing the universal disaster assistance application for disaster victims. 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 also convened a hearing with disaster preparedness and response experts to hear how worsening natural disasters, including flooding, severe storms, and wildfires, continue to threaten lives and livelihoods in Michigan and across the nation. Peters’ bipartisan legislation to protect Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Reservists from losing their full-time employment when they are called up to assist communities with disaster response has passed the Senate.