In 2013 flooding in 49 Illinois counties broke all-time records. Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States and one of the most expensive.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Mike Bost (R-Ill.), and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) Thursday announced with U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) the reintroduction of the Fairness in Federal Disaster Declarations Act to reform the Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster declaration process and bring fairness to small communities in larger states like Illinois.
According to a report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), FEMA already takes into account several factors when determining the need for Public and Individual Assistance. However, there is no standard to determine which factor is more important than another, which leads to a process that leaves states and communities in limbo for weeks as their application is considered.
The Fairness in Federal Disaster Declarations Act of 2015 will provide more certainty and fairness to states and small communities by giving FEMA a clearer formula when evaluating disaster areas. This bill assigns a specific weight to each of the factors already used by FEMA, and adds other economic factors for the agency to consider when determining whether or not a disaster area should receive federal assistance. Below is the formula breakdown for public assistance specified in the legislation and a description of each factor currently used by FEMA:
- Estimated cost of the assistance (10 percent). Currently, this is the key component to FEMA’s declaration process, calculated at $1.35 times the state population. This legislation will make it less of a factor by weighing it significantly lower than localized impacts.
- Localized impacts (40 percent). The legislation would put greater weight on the damage assessment on a specific area, as opposed to statewide.
- Insurance coverage in force (10 percent). Currently, FEMA deducts the amount of insurance that should be held by a government and nonprofits from the total eligible amount.
- Hazard mitigation (10 percent). If the cost of damage falls short of the cost of assistance threshold due to mitigation measures that lessened the disaster’s impact, FEMA will take this into consideration by doing a cost-benefit analysis.
- Recent multiple disasters (10 percent). FEMA would take any disasters occurring within the previous 12 months into consideration and evaluate the funds that the state has committed and their impact on the state and its residents.
- Programs of other federal assistance (10 percent). FEMA would take into consideration whether or not other agencies will be contributing.
- Other economic circumstances (10 percent). Currently these are factors not considered by FEMA. This legislation would require FEMA to consider the local assessable tax base and local sales tax, the median income in comparison to the state, the poverty rate in comparison to the state, and the unemployment rate of the state in comparison to the national rate.
The formula breakdown for individual assistance would be:
- Concentration of damages - 20 percent;
- Trauma - 20 percent;
- Special populations - 20 percent;
- Voluntary agency assistance - 10 percent;
- Insurance - 20 percent;
- Average amount of individual assistance by state - 5 percent;
- Economic declarations - 5 percent.
The legislation will be retroactive to include all storms occurring since 2012 in which states requested federal assistance but were denied.