While doing some research on disaster declarations and the federalization/politicization of disasters I read a report from the Congressional Research Service that I found quite disturbing. The report is available here: http://assets.opencrs.com/rpts/R41101_20100309.pdf
Page 14 of this report includes the following disturbing paragraphs:
Section 4501 of P.L. 110-28, the “U.S. Troops Readiness, Veterans Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007,” states in part, the following:
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, including any agreement, the Federal share of assistance, including direct Federal assistance, provided for the States of Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama and Texas in connection with Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma, Dennis and Rita under sections 403, 406, 407, and 408 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 USC 5170b, 5172, 5173, and 5174) shall be 100 percent of the eligible costs under such sections.
(1) IN GENERAL—The federal share provided by subsection (a) shall apply to disaster assistance applied for before the date of enactment of this Act.
(2) LIMITATION—In the case of disaster assistance provided under Section 403, 406 and 407 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, the Federal share provided by subsection (a) shall be limited to assistance provided for projects for which a “request for public assistance form” has been submitted.
The “Limitation” in the legislation was intended to ensure that the projects receiving the waiver were ones already identified by applicants and not newly created projects, or perhaps, projects not necessarily related to the event. The legislation states that a “request for public assistance” submitted prior to enactment of the bill (May 25, 2007) will require no cost-share. Any “requests for public assistance” not submitted prior to the enactment of the bill will be cost-shared at the 90% federal, 10% state and local cost-share for the affected states. This provision appeared to be intended to provide the generous cost-share to those projects already selected by the state rather
than projects that could be developed or submitted based on 100% federal funding.
If the CRS is correct in its interpretation of the statute then FEMA’s implementation of the cost share waiver has been flatly wrong. Substantial amounts of aid have been given at 100% for projects after the enactment of the statute. Additionally, scores of applicants have been added after the enactment also at 100% federal share levels. If FEMA were to adjust to this interpretation state and local government could be on the hook for $100′s of millions of dollars. So any bet the our congressional delegation would move into high gear on that one???
Thought I Should add a bit on who the Congressional Research Service is, I included 3 sources for reference so that readers might attempt to assess the objectivity of its assessments.
According to Wiki:
The Congressional Research Service (CRS), known as “Congress’s think tank”, is the public policy research arm of the United States Congress. As a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, CRS works exclusively and directly for Members of Congress, their Committees and staff on a confidential, nonpartisan basis.
Its staff of approximately 900 employees includes lawyers, economists, reference librarians, and social, natural, and physical scientists. In fiscal year 2007, CRS was appropriated a budget of roughly $100,786,000 by Congress and received additional grants from charitable foundations of approximately $129,000.
CRS is joined by two other congressional support agencies. The Congressional Budget Office provides Congress with budget-related information, reports on fiscal, budgetary, and programmatic issues, and analyses of budget policy options, costs, and effects. The Government Accountability Office assists Congress in reviewing and monitoring the activities of government by conducting independent audits, investigations, and evaluations of federal programs. Collectively, the three agencies employ more than 4,000 people.
CRS reports are highly regarded as in-depth, accurate, objective, and timely, but as a matter of policy they are not made directly available to members of the public. There have been several attempts to pass legislation requiring all reports to be made available online, most recently in 2003, but none have passed. Instead, the public must request individual reports from their Senators and Representatives in Congress, purchase them from private vendors, or search for them in various web archives of previously-released documents.
According to OpenCRS, an agency dedicated to making CRS reports public:
American taxpayers spend nearly $100 million a year to fund the Congressional Research Service, a “think tank” that provides reports to members of Congress on a variety of topics relevant to current political events. Yet, these reports are not made available to the public in a way that they can be easily obtained. A project of the Center for Democracy & Technology, Open CRS provides citizens access to CRS Reports that are already in the public domain and encourages Congress to provide public access to all CRS Reports.
CRS Reports do not become public until a member of Congress releases the report. A number of libraries and non-profit organizations have sought to collect as many of the released reports as possible. Open CRS is a centralized utility that brings together these collections to search.
Unfortunately, there is no systematic way to obtain all CRS reports. Because of this, not all reports appear on the Open CRS web site. CDT believes that it would be far preferable for Congress to make available to the public all CRS Reports. Finally the CRS’s own website:
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) works exclusively for the United States Congress, providing policy and legal analysis to committees and Members of both the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation. As a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, CRS has been a valued and respected resource on Capitol Hill for nearly a century.
CRS is well-known for analysis that is authoritative, confidential, objective and nonpartisan. Its highest priority is to ensure that Congress has 24/7 access to the nation’s best thinking.
This website provides information about our organization, career opportunities and our services to Congress.