Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Sam Graves (6th District of Missouri)
This week, the House passed my bill, the bipartisan Preventing Disaster Revictimization Act, to hold the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) accountable for their mistakes and stop the agency from going after disaster victims that apply in good faith for relief funds.
Last year, when communities across North Missouri were hit by record flooding, it took what felt like an eternity for FEMA to assess the situation and finally get aid to families who lost their homes to flooding. When the money finally did come, many used that money right away, whether it was for home repairs, relocation costs, or replacing what they lost. What they weren’t expecting was for FEMA to go back on their word and decide they didn’t really qualify for disaster aid. In one case of an individual from Craig, Missouri, FEMA demanded more than $12,000 back from a flood victim they had awarded relief funds. It wasn’t because of fraud or deceit on the part of the person who received it; it was because FEMA made a mistake.
Now $12,000 might be a drop in the bucket to FEMA and the federal government, but that’s a huge deal for a family trying to rebuild their lives after a disaster. When FEMA does this, it doesn’t just impact one individual or only the cases where FEMA makes a mistake, but every individual that receives FEMA assistance. It makes folks a whole lot more hesitant to spend disaster relief funds to rebuild their lives if they’re afraid FEMA is going to come knock down their door and demand those funds back.
My bill is simple. It stops FEMA from clawing back funds awarded to disaster victims as long as no fraud is committed in the application process. When a federal agency messes up, they need to own up to it and they need to pay the price, not the folks who are just trying to get back on their feet after a disaster has destroyed their home and their lives. If disaster victims have applied honestly and in good faith, they shouldn’t be penalized for FEMA’s mistake. It also holds FEMA accountable, by requiring the agency to report to Congress on mistakenly awarded funds and making sure these mistakes are limited in the future.
This bill will finally put a stop to the revictimization of disaster victims by FEMA and ensures the agency does what it was meant to do: take care of disaster victims, not harass them, harangue them, and make their lives more difficult.