WASHINGTON, District of Columbia-  Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) says between the Joplin tornadoes in 2011, the floods in 2013, and again in 2015, Missourians have faced some difficult circumstances. While FEMA has been there to help with the recovery, some were left in the dark when it came to important matters such as the status of their applications and grants, what was being done to help, and which agency or person they should speak with at any given time.

My office heard about this lack of communication and general frustration with FEMA. There was great inconsistency among various survey teams, which came into communities asking the same questions and requesting to see the same project specifications even though a previous team had already surveyed the damage. There was lack of communication and no consistent guidance for completing the job. This led to paperwork being lost or misplaced – adding more time and frustration.

I recently introduced legislation, H.R. 1117, the FEMA Relief Improvement Act, to foster more open communications between FEMA’s disaster response operations and those communities struggling with the aftermath of a major disaster by providing more transparency, increased consistency, and ultimately, better assistance during the recovery phase.

This bill takes the lessons we learned from those recoveries, and requires that FEMA implement processes to provide consistent guidance for disaster relief, maintain accurate and appropriate records of recovery efforts, and use the technology available to best disseminate information to those affected. This bill will make sure that not only Missourians, but all Americans going through an emergency, will know what is going on and be confident that relief is on its way.

My legislation requires FEMA to create a plan that will provide consistent guidance and accurate information following a disaster.  Specifically, it requires FEMA to create an action plan to improve field transition by:

  • Providing consistent guidance to applicants on FEMA disaster funding procedures during the response to an emergency or disaster.
  • Conducting appropriate record maintenance and transfer of documents to new teams during staff transitions
  • Providing accurate assistance to applicants and grantees to ease the administrative burden throughout the process of obtaining and monitoring assistance
  • Implementing  operating procedures and documenting retention requirements to ensure the maintenance of appropriate records throughout the lifecycle of the disaster
  • Identifying new technologies that further aid the disaster workforce in partnering with State, local, and tribal governments and private nonprofits in the wake of a disaster to educate, assist, and inform applicants on the status of their disaster assistance applications

Families and communities need to know that relief is there following a disaster. They need it to be as efficient and pain-free as possible. That’s what the FEMA Relief Improvement Act does. It requires FEMA to refocus their efforts on the core of their mission – helping people recover from grave loss in the aftermath of a natural disaster.