Navigating the Disaster Assistance Process

Date Published: 
Monday, April 10, 2017
Publication/Report Type: 
Inspections & Evaluations
Report Number: 
2016-OE-0002S
Program Area(s): 
Chief Administration Officer, Community Development Block Grant, Community Planning and Development, Disaster, Office of Disaster Management and National Security, Office of Field Policy and Management
State: 
District of Columbia
Summary: 

This report is for informational purposes only and does not represent an OIG perspective or position. The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act was designed to bring an orderly and systematic means of Federal disaster assistance for State and local governments to carry out their responsibilities to aid citizens.  Although, State and local governments may carry out their responsibilities in an orderly and systematic fashion, the path for citizens is not always seen as “orderly and systematic” for a variety of reasons.

Response activities take place immediately before, during, and in the first few days after a disaster.  Recovery efforts are longer term and help the community get back on its feet and focus on how best to restore, redevelop, and revitalize the health, social, economic, natural, and
environmental fabric of the community.  Volunteer agencies as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA), under the National Response Framework, offer initial recovery assistance. Frequently, Federal and State Web sites provide the major access points for a citizen seeking disaster assistance.

For each presidentially declared disaster, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) collaborates with Federal and State agencies to implement disaster recovery assistance and provide disaster resources.  Several of HUD’s program offices also provide coordination, training, and disaster resources.

Citizens may encounter a variety of challenges throughout the disaster navigation process.
These challenges may include the following:

• Lengthy delays from the initial application process through the closing of their cases,
• Potential duplication of benefits,
• Delays in funding, and
• Challenges faced after the process.

For citizens, who have experienced a disaster, recovery is not measured in months, but years.  The disaster assistance process is an indirect path that is not always seen as orderly and systematic for citizens to navigate and often includes a variety of challenges and barriers for citizens trying to access assistance after their lives and livelihoods are thrown into turmoil by a disaster.  HUD may want to make efforts to ensure consistent communication, coordination, and collaboration among non-profits, volunteer, federal, and state agencies with disaster-related roles now to avoid future inconsistencies during the next disaster.  Furthermore, HUD may consider systematically documenting challenges citizens’ encounter during the disaster assistance process to decrease the likelihood of similar challenges occurring during future disasters.

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