Report text available as:

(PDF provides a complete and accurate display of this text.) Tip?


115th Congress    }                                      {      Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session      }                                      {      115-99

======================================================================



 
                  DISASTER DECLARATION IMPROVEMENT ACT

                                _______
                                

 April 28, 2017.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the 
              State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

 Mr. Shuster, from the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 1665]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, to whom 
was referred the bill (H.R. 1665) to ensure that Administrator 
of the Federal Emergency Management Agency considers severe 
local impact in making a recommendation to the President for a 
major disaster declaration, having considered the same, report 
favorably thereon with an amendment and recommend that the bill 
as amended do pass.

                                CONTENTS

                                                                   Page
Purpose of Legislation...........................................     2
Background and Need for Legislation..............................     2
Hearings.........................................................     4
Legislative History and Consideration............................     5
Committee Votes..................................................     5
Committee Oversight Findings.....................................     5
New Budget Authority and Tax Expenditures........................     5
Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate........................     6
Performance Goals and Objectives.................................     6
Advisory of Earmarks.............................................     7
Duplication of Federal Programs..................................     7
Disclosure of Directed Rule Makings..............................     7
Federal Mandate Statement........................................     7
Preemption Clarification.........................................     7
Advisory Committee Statement.....................................     7
Applicability of Legislative Branch..............................     7
Section-by-Section Analysis of Legislation.......................     7
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported............     8

    The amendment is as follows:
  Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the 
following:

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

  This Act may be cited as the ``Disaster Declaration Improvement 
Act''.

SEC. 2. LOCAL IMPACT.

  In making recommendations to the President regarding a major disaster 
declaration, the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management 
Agency shall give greater weight and consideration to severe local 
impact or recent multiple disasters. Further, the Administrator shall 
make corresponding adjustments to the Agency's policies and regulations 
regarding such consideration. Not later than 1 year after the date of 
enactment of this section, the Administrator shall report to the 
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of 
Representatives and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental 
Affairs of the Senate on the changes made to regulations and policies 
and the number of declarations that have been declared based on the new 
criteria.

                         PURPOSE OF LEGISLATION

    H.R. 1665, as amended, ensures the Administrator of the 
Federal Emergency Management Agency considers severe local 
impact in making a recommendation to the President for a major 
disaster declaration.

                  BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION

Federal Emergency Management Agency: History

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was 
established in 1979 by Executive Order 12148 by President Jimmy 
Carter in response to a number of massive disasters in the 
1960s and 1970s. As a result of states trying to manage these 
disasters, the National Governors Association and others made a 
proposal to streamline and cut the number of agencies states 
were required to work with following a disaster. Prior to the 
creation of FEMA, the federal government's emergency response 
mechanisms were scattered among many agencies throughout 
government. The creation of FEMA helped to centralize these 
authorities and the coordination of the federal government's 
response to a disaster. The Disaster Relief Act of 1974 (P.L. 
93-288), which constituted the statutory authority for most 
federal disaster response activities, especially of FEMA, was 
later amended by the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and 
Emergency Assistance Act, also known as the Stafford Act (P.L. 
100-707).
    Following more than two decades as an independent agency, 
the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296) created the 
Department of Homeland Security (DHS), placed FEMA within DHS, 
and FEMA's functions were dispersed among various offices and 
directorates within DHS. In 2006, following Hurricanes Katrina 
and Rita and the intensive Congressional investigations and 
oversight, Congress enacted the Post-Katrina Emergency 
Management Reform Act of 2006 (PKEMRA, P.L. 109-295), which 
addresses key response roles and authorities and put FEMA back 
together again within DHS. PKEMRA authorized the National 
Preparedness System and FEMA for the first time in legislation. 
Most recently, Congress enacted the Sandy Recovery Improvement 
Act (SRIA, P.L. 113-2), on January 29, 2013, in the wake of 
Hurricane Sandy's impact to the East Coast. SRIA provided 
additional authorities to expedite and streamline Hurricane 
Sandy recovery efforts, reduce costs, and improve the 
effectiveness of several disaster assistance programs 
authorized by the Stafford Act.

The declaration process

    All emergency and major disaster declarations are made 
solely at the discretion of the President of the United States. 
Section 401 of the Stafford Act, states in part that: ``All 
requests for a declaration by the President that a major 
disaster exists shall be made by the Governor of the affected 
State.'' As a result of SRIA, federally recognized Indian 
tribal governments now have the option of pursuing a 
declaration directly from the President.
    Federal disaster law restricts the use of arithmetical 
formulas or other objective standards as the sole basis for 
determining the need for federal supplemental aid. As a result, 
FEMA assesses a number of factors to determine the severity, 
magnitude, and impact of a disaster event. Primary factors 
considered include:
           Amount and type of damage (number of homes 
        destroyed or with major damage);
           Impact on the infrastructure of the affected 
        areas or critical facilities;
           Imminent threats to public health and 
        safety;
           Impacts to essential government services and 
        functions;
           Unique capability of Federal government;
           Dispersion or concentration of damage;
           Level of insurance coverage in place for 
        homeowners and public facilities;
           Assistance available from other sources 
        (federal, State, local, voluntary organizations);
           State and local resource commitments from 
        previous, undeclared events; and
           Frequency of disaster events over recent 
        period of time.
    Based on the Governor's request, the President may declare 
that a major disaster or emergency exists, thus activating an 
array of federal programs to assist in the response and 
recovery effort.
    When the President declares a major disaster or emergency, 
the official declaration triggers certain federal response 
authorities and financial disaster assistance. In particular, 
when a declaration is made, the President is authorized to 
direct any federal agency, with or without reimbursement, to 
assist state and local governments and protect life and 
property. FEMA isresponsible for coordinating federal agency 
response and ensuring the necessary federal capabilities are deployed 
at the appropriate place and time in support of state and local 
response efforts. In addition, FEMA provides direct support and 
financial assistance to states and local governments and individuals as 
authorized under the Stafford Act.

Few disasters account for most costs

    The Congressional Research Service (CRS) analyzed data from 
over 1,300 major disasters since 1989, and adjusting for 
inflation, found that FEMA obligated more than $178 billion for 
these disasters.\1\ However, CRS also found that 25 percent of 
all disasters account for over 92 percent of disaster costs.\2\ 
Therefore, the remaining 75 percent of smaller disasters 
constitute less than eight percent of FEMA disaster spending.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\CRS Memo Data Analysis for House Transportation and 
Infrastructure Committee, January 14, 2015.
    \2\Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Localized impact and recent multiple disasters

    In recent years, there has been more evidence of devastated 
small and rural communities not receiving disaster assistance 
in a fair and equitable manner compared to other, larger 
communities and neighboring states.
    For example, on November 17, 2013, 15 counties in Illinois 
were hit by the fourth largest November tornado outbreak in the 
history of the United States. The storm system produced 67 
tornadoes throughout the Midwest, 24 of which touched down in 
Illinois, causing widespread destruction throughout the state. 
Six fatalities and at least 180 injuries resulted. The damage 
in neighboring states of Missouri and Kentucky received federal 
disaster assistance, but Illinois did not.
    In another example from the year before, a tornado outbreak 
hit the Midwest on February 28-29, 2012, causing substantial 
damage in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Illinois. The most 
powerful tornado during this outbreak hit Harrisburg, Illinois, 
which was especially devastated after an EF-4 Tornado killed 
eight people and destroyed hundreds of buildings and homes. In 
this case, FEMA declared Indiana and Kentucky federal disaster 
areas, while denying disaster assistance for Ohio and Illinois.
    Further, in the last year, there have been multiple, 
successive disasters in the same region. FEMA, rather than 
looking at these events cumulatively, isolates each disaster, 
and does not recognize the cumulative impacts of these events 
that have occurred in the same area.
    Of the several factors FEMA takes into account when 
determining the recommendation for a major disaster declaration 
to the President, there is currently no standard to determine 
which factor is more important than another. FEMA is prohibited 
by law from using a mathematical formula to determine 
eligibility for a major disaster declaration.
    H.R. 1665, as amended, directs the Administrator to give 
greater weight and consideration to severe localized impact or 
recent multiple disasters in making recommendations to the 
President for public and individual assistance through a major 
disaster declaration.

                                HEARINGS

    The Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, 
and Emergency Management, held no hearings on this topic in the 
115th Congress. However, the following hearings and roundtable 
discussions were held by the Subcommittee on subjects related 
to matters contained in H.R. 1665, as amended, during the 114th 
Congress:
    ``Rebuilding after the Storm: Lessening Impacts and 
Speeding Recovery'' held on January 27, 2015. The purpose of 
the hearing was to launch an assessment of the rising costs of 
disasters, the cost effectiveness of disaster assistance, 
strategies to reduce disaster losses, and the appropriate roles 
of government and the private sector, and to consider reforms 
to save lives through improved alerts and warning systems and 
search and rescue.
    ``What is Driving the Increasing Costs and Rising Losses 
from Disasters?'' held on March 18, 2015. The purpose of the 
roundtable was to examine and discuss data related to disaster 
costs, the trends observed over time, and the projections for 
the future given the policies in place today.
    ``The State of Pennsylvania and FEMA Region III are Leaders 
in Mitigating Disaster Costs and Losses'' held on May 28, 2015. 
The purpose of the roundtable was to examine disaster costs and 
losses, focus on hazards impacting Pennsylvania and the region, 
and identify best practices for mitigating and avoiding 
disaster impacts.
    ``Federal Disaster Assistance: Roles, Programs and 
Coordination'' held on June 17, 2015. The purpose of the 
roundtable was to examine and discuss federal disaster 
assistance programs, the requirements and effectiveness of 
those programs, and coordination among various agencies and 
stakeholders.
    ``Controlling the Rising Cost of Federal Responses to 
Disaster'' held on May 12, 2016. The purpose of the hearing was 
to begin exploring potential solutions and the principles that 
should be driving solutions to lower the overall costs of 
disasters and to help avoid devastating losses.

                 LEGISLATIVE HISTORY AND CONSIDERATION

    On March 22, 2017, Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL) 
introduced H.R. 1665, a bill to ensure that Administrator of 
FEMA considers severe local impact in making a recommendation 
to the President for a major disaster declaration.
    On March 29, 2017, the Committee on Transportation and 
Infrastructure met in open session to consider H.R. 1665. The 
Committee adopted an amendment offered by Congressman Garret 
Graves (R-LA). The Committee ordered the bill, as amended, 
reported favorably to the House by voice vote with a quorum 
present.

                            COMMITTEE VOTES

    Clause 3(b) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives requires each committee report to include the 
total number of votes cast for and against on each record vote 
on a motion to report and on any amendment offered to the 
measure or matter, and the names of those members voting for 
and against. There were no recorded votes taken in connection 
with consideration of H.R. 1665, as amended, or ordering the 
measure reported. A motion to order H.R. 1665, as amended, 
reported favorably to the House was agreed to by voice vote 
with a quorum present.

                      COMMITTEE OVERSIGHT FINDINGS

    With respect to the requirements of clause 3(c)(1) of rule 
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the 
Committee's oversight findings and recommendations are 
reflected in this report.

               NEW BUDGET AUTHORITY AND TAX EXPENDITURES

    Clause 3(c)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives does not apply where a cost estimate and 
comparison prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget 
Office under section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act of 
1974 has been timely submitted prior to the filing of the 
report and is included in the report. Such a cost estimate is 
included in this report.

               CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE COST ESTIMATE

    With respect to the requirement of clause 3(c)(3) of rule 
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and section 
402 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee has 
received the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 1665, as amended, 
from the Director of the Congressional Budget Office:

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               Congressional Budget Office,
                                    Washington, DC, April 13, 2017.
Hon. Bill Shuster,
Chairman, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 1665, the Disaster 
Declaration Improvement Act.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Robert Reese.
            Sincerely,
                                                        Keith Hall.
    Enclosure.

H.R. 1665--Disaster Declaration Improvement Act

    H.R. 1665 would direct the Federal Emergency Management 
Agency (FEMA) to give greater consideration to the local 
effects of disaster events when reviewing state or tribal 
requests for a major disaster declaration. Under current law, 
FEMA considers the extent of both statewide and localized 
damage when determining whether to recommend that the President 
issue such a declaration. Based on an analysis of information 
provided by FEMA, CBO estimates that FEMA would incur no 
additional costs to implement this bill.
    Enacting H.R. 1665 would not affect direct spending or 
revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply. CBO 
estimates that enacting the legislation would not increase net 
direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four 
consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2028.
    H.R. 1665 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and 
would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal governments.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Robert Reese. 
The estimate was approved by H. Samuel Papenfuss, Deputy 
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.

                    PERFORMANCE GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

    With respect to the requirement of clause 3(c)(4) of rule 
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the 
performance goal and objective of this legislation is to ensure 
that Administrator of FEMA considers severe local impact and 
recent multiple disasters in making a recommendation to the 
President for a major disaster declaration.

                          ADVISORY OF EARMARKS

    Pursuant to clause 9 of rule XXI of the Rules of the House 
of Representatives, the Committee is required to include a list 
of congressional earmarks, limited tax benefits, or limited 
tariff benefits as defined in clause 9(e), 9(f), and 9(g) of 
rule XXI of the Rules of the House of Representatives. No 
provision in the bill, as amended, includes an earmark, limited 
tax benefit, or limited tariff benefit under clause 9(e), 9(f), 
or 9(g) of rule XXI.

                    DUPLICATION OF FEDERAL PROGRAMS

    Pursuant to clause 3(c)(5) of rule XIII of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, the Committee finds that no provision 
of H.R. 1665, as amended, establishes or reauthorizes a program 
of the federal government known to be duplicative of another 
federal program, a program that was included in any report from 
the Government Accountability Office to Congress pursuant to 
section 21 of Public Law 111-139, or a program related to a 
program identified in the most recent Catalog of Federal 
Domestic Assistance.

                  DISCLOSURE OF DIRECTED RULE MAKINGS

    Pursuant to section 3(i) of H. Res. 5, 115th Cong. (2017), 
the Committee finds that enacting H.R. 1665, as amended, does 
not direct the completion of a specific rule making within the 
meaning of section 551 of title 5, United States Code.

                       FEDERAL MANDATE STATEMENT

    The Committee adopts as its own the estimate of federal 
mandates prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget 
Office pursuant to section 423 of the Unfunded Mandates Reform 
Act (Public Law 104-4).

                        PREEMPTION CLARIFICATION

    Section 423 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 
requires the report of any Committee on a bill or joint 
resolution to include a statement on the extent to which the 
bill or joint resolution is intended to preempt state, local, 
or tribal law. The Committee states that H.R. 1665, as amended, 
does not preempt any state, local, or tribal law.

                      ADVISORY COMMITTEE STATEMENT

    No advisory committees within the meaning of section 5(b) 
of the Federal Advisory Committee Act are created by this 
legislation.

                  APPLICABILITY OF LEGISLATIVE BRANCH

    The Committee finds that the legislation does not relate to 
the terms and conditions of employment or access to public 
services or accommodations within the meaning of section 
102(b)(3) of the Congressional Accountability Act (Public Law 
104-1).

               SECTION-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS OF LEGISLATION

Section 1: Short title

    Section 1 designates the short title as the ``Disaster 
Declaration Improvement Act''.

Section 2: Local impact

    Section 2 requires that the Administrator of FEMA shall 
give greater weight and consideration to sever local impacts 
and recent multiple disasters when making a recommendation to 
the President for a major disaster declaration.

         CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW MADE BY THE BILL, AS REPORTED

    H.R. 1665, as amended, makes no changes in existing law.

                                  [all]