12.01.21

Peters Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Transparency of Federal Disaster Relief Spending

Bill Would Require Federal Agencies to Track and Publicly Report on Spending Related to Disasters and Emergencies

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced bipartisan legislation that would direct federal agencies to track all spending and financial damages related to disasters and emergencies – including pandemics, wildfires, and extreme flooding. This information would be reported to Congress and posted online to help make information about how much the federal government is spending on disaster response and recovery more accessible to the public. 

“Michiganders and all Americans have a right to know how much natural disasters – that are worsening due to climate change – and other emergencies are costing taxpayers. This information will also be critical to Congress so we can effectively allocate resources to agencies leading the federal response to these events,” said Senator Peters. “This commonsense, bipartisan bill will not only strengthen our federal disaster response, but also increase accountability and transparency on how the federal government is working to protect American communities from the growing threat of natural disasters and other emergencies.”

“The Senate's bipartisan DISASTER Act is a critical first step by Congress to address long-standing problems in our federal spending data, especially for disasters and emergencies. These data problems make it difficult for the public to understand how emergency funds are used, and prevent Congress from quickly course-correcting during times of national emergency to address communities in need,” said Danielle Brian, Executive Director, Project on Government Oversight. “The DISASTER Act shines a brighter light on disaster and emergency spending to ensure greater accountability for taxpayer money, creating the first-ever comprehensive tracking mechanism for disaster-related federal spending and financial damages. The Project on Government Oversight fully supports the legislation and looks forward to working with Congress to enact it swiftly and with federal agencies to implement the requirements.”

There is not currently a government-wide requirement to track financial damages and all federal spending related to federal disaster response and recovery efforts. While the CARES Act required some federal tracking of how much COVID-19 pandemic relief funds are spent, the law excluded tracking of any disaster-related financial assistance not allocated for pandemic aid. To help prepare for future public health emergencies and extreme weather events, the federal government must have a comprehensive and transparent way to determine how many federal dollars have been spent in response to these events.

The Disclosing All Spending That Ensures Relief Act (DISASTER Act) would require Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of Treasury to provide federal agencies with guidance on tracking all spending related to disaster and emergency relief. OMB and Treasury would also direct all federal agencies to track financial damages from disasters, which will help lawmakers identify potential gaps in federal spending when responding to federal disasters. The bill would require the information and data collected to be published on USAspending.gov. Finally, the legislation would require the Government Accountability Office to study and recommend on how the federal government can work to improve the clarity and quality of data on USAspending.gov. 

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 harm 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 advanced in the Senate.

###