Davis, Bustos Bill to Bring Fairness to Disaster Declarations Passes House, Heads to Senate
U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, today announced their bill, H.R. 1665, Disaster Declaration Improvement Act, to bring fairness to the disaster declaration process passed the House with unanimous support (425-0) and is now headed to the Senate for consideration.
“Recent severe weather in Illinois and across the Midwest reminds us that it is imperative we change the way FEMA determines the need for disaster relief,” said Davis. “Right now, the amount Illinois has to reach to receive federal public assistance after a major disaster is 18 million dollars – nearly double that of any of our neighboring states. Time and time again rural communities in Illinois have been denied assistance and unfairly punished by this formula. Illinois taxpayers pay into the Disaster Relief Fund and it should be there when they need it. H.R. 1665 simply requires FEMA to take a greater look at the localized impact of a disaster, rather than just an arbitrary per-capita formula. I appreciate the support shown by my colleagues in the House today and I hope the Senate follows suit.”
“Hardworking families from places like Pekin and East Peoria don’t want a handout, but they do want a fair opportunity to get back on their feet after natural disasters strike,” said Bustos. “Right now, FEMA’s formulas unfairly disadvantage these kinds of communities when they are trying to recover from a flood, tornado or other natural disasters. This is wrong. That's why I am proud to have helped lead the effort to pass this bipartisan bill that will level the playing field for communities across the heartland. We got the language in this bill passed in the last Congress, but the Senate failed to act. I strongly urge the Senate to bring this important bill up for a vote so we stop leaving small towns and rural communities behind.”
H.R. 1665 requires FEMA to give greater weight and consideration to the localized impact of a disaster when determining the need for federal assistance. Additionally, this bill requires FEMA to take into consideration the cumulative impact of multiple storms in an area. H.R. 1665 is similar to the bill passed by the House last Congress but was never considered by the Senate.
Other members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation who are cosponsors of the bill include U.S. Reps. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), Darin LaHood (R-Ill.), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), and John Shimkus (R-Ill.).
Currently, FEMA uses a per-capita formula to determine the need for public assistance. They multiply the state’s population with $1.39 then use this number as a threshold for determining the state’s need for public assistance. Illinois compared to surrounding states:
Illinois $18 million
Indiana $9.1 million
Missouri $8.4 million
Wisconsin $8 million
Kentucky $6.1 million
Iowa $4.3 million
FEMA can also take into account damage done in a specific county but whether they take this into account and how much this will impact their decision is highly subjective. The formula used to determine this is $3.50 per capita in infrastructure damage in a county.
Illinois sustained $15 million in flood damage in 2015/2016. Governor Rauner requested public assistance for 16 counties. In one county, they assessed damages at $4 million, which was $486 per capita for that county. Illinois was still denied public assistance.
Davis has been working to bring fairness within in the disaster declaration process since his first term. Related: