WASHINGTON, DC – Legislation authored by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) to prevent the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from taking back assistance it has provided to victims of disaster due to an error made by the agency has advanced in the Senate. The bill was unanimously approved by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee where Peters serves as Chairman and Portman serves as Ranking Member.
“The last thing Michiganders and Americans who have been hit by a disaster need to worry about is whether federal assistance they received from the government might be taken away due to no fault of their own,” said Chairman Peters. “This bipartisan bill helps ensure disaster victims do not face unnecessary hardships at a time when they are most vulnerable, and I look forward to its swift passage in the Senate.”
“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,” said Ranking Member Portman. “I applaud the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for passing the Preventing Disaster Revictimization Act, which will bring 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 in the Senate to support this commonsense legislation to safeguard hardworking Americans who have already faced a life-altering disaster.”
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. 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.