U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) today announced his bill to bring fairness to the disaster declaration process passed the House as part of the disaster supplemental bill (H.R. 4667) to help after Hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Maria. It is expected to be signed into law before the end of the year. Davis has been working to reform the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster declaration process since 2013.
“This Christmas will be two years since storms caused $15 million in flood damage throughout Central and Southwestern Illinois. In the months following, Missouri would be granted public assistance, while Illinois would be denied,” said Davis. “I firmly believe the federal government should be there when states need help after a disaster and that’s why I’ve voted for every single disaster relief bill, but it’s time rural Illinois starts getting a fair shake as well. Year after year, my constituents have been unfairly punished by FEMA’s process. This is wrong. Taxpayers in my district pay into the Disaster Relief Fund and it should be there for them when they need it. By passing this bill into law, we will help level the playing field. I appreciate Congresswoman Cheri Bustos for helping make this a bipartisan effort.”
H.R. 1665, Disaster Declaration Improvement Act, introduced by Davis and U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), requires Federal Emergency Management Agency (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.
“We’ve seen what happens when unfair FEMA formulas disadvantaged the communities of Pekin and East Peoria and I’m proud to have included the bipartisan bill Rep. Rodney Davis and I introduced to level the playing field for small communities recovering from natural disasters,” Bustos said. “With so much division and partisanship in Congress right now, I’m pleased to have worked across the aisle to advance this commonsense solution for hardworking families across the heartland who have been affected by natural disasters.
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 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.
13th District Example
Illinois sustained $15 million in flood damage in 2015/2016. Governor Rauner requested public assistance for 16 counties. In one county, damages were assessed at $4 million, which was $486.00 per capita for that county. Illinois was still denied public assistance.