Peters and Portman Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Prevent Clawbacks of Assistance to Disaster Victims

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced legislation that prevents the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from taking back assistance it has provided to disaster victims if the error was made by the agency. Weeks, months, and sometimes years after victims have used federal assistance to recover from a disaster, FEMA has sought to reclaim funds, even when the agency was at fault and funds were used appropriately. 

“Families in Michigan and across America who are trying to recover from a disaster shouldn’t have to worry that the assistance they receive from the federal government might be taken away for reasons that are not their fault,” said Senator Peters. “This commonsense legislation will help protect vulnerable folks who have endured a disaster – and ensure they won’t face additional unnecessary burdens at a time when they are working to restore their lives.”

“When victims of a disaster apply for assistance in good faith and begin rebuilding their lives, they should not fear that FEMA might claw back the money due to bureaucratic mistakes,” Senator Portman. “The Preventing Disaster Revictimization Act brings peace of mind and stability to victims by ensuring bureaucratic mistakes do not bring more trauma to those recovering from devastating disasters. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this commonsense legislation to safeguard hardworking Americans who have already faced a life-altering disaster.”

The Preventing Disaster Revictimization Act would require FEMA to waive the debt of disaster relief recipients in cases where the agency later determined it mistakenly granted assistance, but no fraud was committed. The bill would also require FEMA to report on the number of these mistakes made in individual assistance awards and efforts the agency takes to minimize such errors.