Aug 3 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by Senator Thom Tillis to simplify the application process for federal disaster recovery assistance recently passed the Senate.

The legislation would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to establish a universal application across federal agencies for disaster survivors who are seeking federal assistance to recover from hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and more. Currently, individuals that seek federal aid to recover from a disaster must fill out separate and detailed applications depending on what agency they need help from – a process that can take weeks or even months. The senators’ legislation would significantly streamline this process to reduce the burden on disaster survivors. 

“North Carolinians know how unnecessarily complicated it is to apply for aid following a disaster, and it’s clear that reforms are needed to cut through the red tape and simplify the process,” said Senator Tillis. “I applaud the Senate for passing this bipartisan legislation to create a universal application to get federal assistance sooner to the families and small businesses that need to be made whole again.”

After a disaster, there are various types of federal disaster assistance that may become available to disaster survivors. For example, FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program can provide financial or direct assistance for housing and other needs and SBA’s Real Property Disaster Loans and Personal Property Loans are available to eligible homeowners and renters who have incurred uninsured or underinsured damage to their home or personal property located in a declared disaster area. However, a recent analysis found that more than 50 percent of the questions on the application forms for both of these programs are duplicative. These burdensome applications can overwhelm some survivors, causing many to simply give up trying to access desperately needed assistance and pushing survivors beyond their breaking point.

The Disaster Assistance Simplification Act amends the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to require FEMA to establish a universal disaster application across federal agencies for disaster survivors who are seeking federal recovery aid. The bill would allow FEMA to share information on disaster survivors with other federal agencies to simplify recovery efforts and reduce the burden on survivors after a disaster. The legislation would make FEMA the lead agency in implementing the universal disaster assistance application for disaster victims. Finally, the bill requires all information sharing practices to meet federal data security standards.