U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) fought to include a provision in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill that asks the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop a plan to implement Davis’ bill (H.R. 1665), which would give greater weight and consideration to the severe local impact of disasters if signed into law. H.R. 3354, the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, passed the House today and now heads to the Senate.
“We’ve seen over the last couple of weeks the importance of a strong federal response when disaster strikes and I believe the same rule should apply to communities in Illinois,” said Davis. “Inclusion of this language further shows the House’s support for reforming the disaster declaration process. I hope this step will encourage our senators to take up the Disaster Declaration Improvement Act, which passed the House unanimously in May.”
The following language regarding FEMA’s disaster declaration process is included in H.R. 3354:
The Committee recognizes the economic stress that can be placed on rural regions of the Nation following a disaster. In particular, many rural communities located in states with large population centers are often disadvantaged by the disaster declaration process. The Disaster Declaration Improvement Act (H.R. 1665), which passed the House unanimously on May 5, 2017, directs the Administrator of FEMA, in making recommendations to the President regarding a major disaster declaration, to give greater weight and consideration to severe local impact of disasters. FEMA shall brief the Committee not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of this Act on how FEMA would implement this directive if enacted in law.
H.R. 1665, the Disaster Declaration Improvement Act, 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.
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: