Oklahoma U.S. Sen. James Lankford is optimistic his bill to improve federal disaster relief is on its way to approval in Congress.
He recently applauded Senate passage of his legislation with Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, to simplify the application process for federal disaster recovery assistance. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives.
“Our families, nonprofits, and churches are the first boots on the ground in a disaster situation, but the federal government does have a unique role in providing timely disaster assistance to families and businesses,” said Lankford.
“I’ve consistently heard from Oklahoma disaster victims about how difficult and disjointed the process was when they were trying to put their life back together. That’s just bad customer service. Our proposal creates one online application portal to use across federal agencies to ensure disaster victims can easily apply for assistance on their phone or tablet while they clean up.”
Sen. Paul explained how Kentucky has been hit with several deadly tornados and flash floods in the past few years and victims complained of challenges in receiving quick assistance and updates from government agencies.
The same kind of complaints were heard by Sen. Peters.
“By creating one universal application to get federal help to recover from natural disasters, this bipartisan legislation will reduce the burden on disaster survivors who seeking help to rebuild their lives.”
After a disaster, there are various types of federal disaster assistance that may become available to disaster survivors. For example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Individuals and Households Program can provide financial or direct assistance for housing and other needs, and the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Real Property Disaster Loans and Personal Property Loans are available to eligible homeowners and renters who have incurred damage to their home or personal property. However, a recent analysis found that more than 50 percent of the questions on the application forms for both of these programs are duplicative. These burdensome applications can overwhelm some survivors, causing many to simply give up trying to access desperately needed assistance and pushing survivors beyond their breaking point.
The Disaster Assistance Simplification Act would require FEMA to establish a universal application across federal agencies for those seeking federal assistance to recover from natural disasters such as severe storms, floods, wildfires, and more. Currently, individuals must fill out separate and detailed applications depending on which agency they need help from—a process that can take weeks or even months. The Senators’ legislation would significantly streamline this process to reduce the burden on disaster survivors.
Source: Lankford release