A group of lawmakers recently introduced legislation seeking to address systemic inequities concerning the federal government’s disaster and assistance distribution response.
The Federal Emergency Management Advancement of Equity Act (FEMA Equity Act) was introduced by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and U.S. Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security. U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) cosponsored the bill.
“For too long, frontline communities have been disproportionately impacted by the devastating effects of natural disasters, and this injustice is exacerbated by the distribution of relief,” Warren said. “We must work towards achieving greater equity in FEMA’s disaster response, and my bill with Chairman Thompson would do just that.”
Disaster assistance programs have been found to boost wealthy homeowners, but lower-income households decline further into poverty.
“Whether you receive assistance after a disaster shouldn’t depend on your zip code or background,” Thompson said. “For decades, we have seen low-income communities and communities of color left behind after a disaster strikes. It’s past time that the Federal government – and particularly the Federal Emergency Management Agency – makes disaster assistance equity a real priority to reduce barriers to recovery. While I am glad that the Biden Administration has made many positive changes to the Federal government’s disaster management programs, we must make these changes permanent and expand on these efforts.”
Bill provisions include enhancing FEMA’s data collection systems to improve the identification of inequities within its programs, directing FEMA to ensure equity is integrated into its programs, and empowering local governments impacted by natural disasters to request an emergency or major disaster declaration when the state does not submit requests.