Order Code RL31359
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Federal Emergency Management Agency Funding
for Homeland Security and Other Activities
April 9, 2002
Specialist, American National Government
Government and Finance Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Federal Emergency Management Agency Funding for
Homeland Security and Other Activities
In response to the terrorist attacks in the fall of 2001, the Bush Administration
requested funds in the FY2003 budget for the Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA) that emphasize the agency’s homeland security mission. The
Administration has requested a total of $6.6 billion for the agency. Of perhaps
greatest significance, more than half of the funds requested for the agency ($3.5
billion) would be used for the First Responders Initiative. The Initiative would
provide grants to state and local police, fire, and other emergency personnel for
equipment purchases, improvement of communications capabilities, and training.
FEMA has a workforce of approximately 2,600 full-time employees, in addition
to a corps of roughly 2,400 persons on reserve and paid, as needed, to administer
disaster relief assistance. In past years over half of the agency’s funding has generally
been used for disaster relief, with the remaining portion appropriated for agency
salaries and expenses, services provided by nonprofit organizations to aid the
homeless, and grants to state and local governments for emergency preparedness
assistance and hazard mitigation activities.
In addition to funding homeland security activities, the Bush Administration’s
FY2003 budget proposal would modify FEMA’s activities. Emergency food and
shelter funds would be transferred to the Department of Housing and Urban
Development. Mitigation funding to reduce the costs of future disasters or to prevent
disasters from occurring would no longer be tied to the receipt of disaster assistance,
but would primarily derive from competitive grants. Likely issues of debate for the
107th Congress include the advantages and disadvantages of transferring preparedness
and equipment funding from the Department of Justice to the First Responder
Initiative in FEMA, consolidating hazard mitigation funding, and options for funding
Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Funding Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Appropriated Funds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
FY2002 Request and Appropriations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
FY2003 Request . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Revolving Funds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Trust Funds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Loan Accounts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Reimbursable Funds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Other FEMA Funds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Summary of Funding Levels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Disaster Relief Appropriations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Issues of Debate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Disaster Assistance Funding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Emergency Designations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Budget Priorities for Homeland Security . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Emergency Preparedness Grants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
FY2003 Proposal: The First Responder Initiative . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Mitigation Funding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Section 404 Hazard Mitigation Grants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
FY2003 Proposal: Pre-Disaster Mitigation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
List of Tables
Table 1. FEMA Funding by Account, FY2001-FY2003 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Table 2. Total Agency and Disaster Relief Appropriations for FEMA,
FY1984-FY2002 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Table 3. Disaster Relief Fund, FY1974-FY2003 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Table 4. Allocation of EMPG Funds, FY2002, by State . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Table 5. Projected Allocation of First Responder Initiative Funds, FY2003 . . .
Table 6. Hazard Mitigation Grant Program Obligations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
List of Figures
Figure 1. Requests and Appropriations for FEMA, FY2001 to FY2003 . . . . . 11
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Funding for Homeland Security
and Other Activities
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is an independent agency
established in 1979 to coordinate federal disaster and emergency assistance policies
and to administer programs that provide assistance before and after disaster strikes.
Among other activities, the agency funds state and local preparedness and planning
activities, disaster relief for communities and individuals, a national dam safety
program, grants to soup kitchens and shelters that aid the homeless, fire prevention
and suppression assistance, and support for hazard mitigation projects intended to
reduce future disaster losses.1 FEMA also administers programs relevant to the
terrorist threats in the United States.
Prior to FY2002, the total annual budget for the agency ranged from $2.5 billion
to almost $6 billion. Disaster relief assistance, generally financed through
supplemental appropriations, constituted 75% to 90% of the agency’s budget in most
The Bush Administration has proposed a change in budget priorities for FEMA.
In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, the Administration has proposed
new funding priorities for the agency. The FY2003 budget request is $6.4 billion,
roughly three times the request for FY2002, but less than the $7.5 billion appropriated
(thus far) since the terrorist attacks.2 The increase primarily stems from the proposal
that the agency take responsibility for coordination of federal emergency preparedness
activities within the First Responder Initiative. First Responder grant funds would be
provided to improve the equipment and readiness of state and local law enforcement,
firefighting, rescue, and other emergency personnel for future terrorist attacks.
Specific types of assistance to be provided include enhancing communications
equipment, funding mutual aid compacts, and providing training opportunities.
For the most part, FEMA would continue to administer functions not directly
related to the threat of terrorist attack, including disaster assistance. One function
For an overview of FEMA authorities and statutory references, see CRS Report RL31285,
FEMA’s Mission: Policy Directives for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, by
On March 14, 2002, the Administration submitted to Congress a supplemental FY2002
funding request that includes an additional $3.1 billion for FEMA for disaster relief, grants
to state and local governments, the Citizen Corps, and other activities. See the following:
[http://w3.access.gpo.gov/usbudget/fy2003/pdf/5usattack.pdf], visited April 2, 2002.
that FEMA has historically administered, the grants to organizations that provide
emergency food and shelter to the homeless, however, would be transferred to the
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Funding Summary. FEMA’s budget includes the following six funding
Details on each of these funding mechanisms are provided below.
Appropriations—the source of the largest portion of the FEMA budget—fund
agency operations, grants to state and local governments and disaster victims,
reimbursements to federal agencies for disaster related costs, and other activities.
Most appropriations expire at the end of each fiscal year, requiring new
congressional action for the approval of funds for the next year. However, money
appropriated to the disaster relief fund (DRF), which historically constitutes
approximately three-fourths of the FEMA budget, remains available until expended.
Such funds are referred to as “no-year appropriations.”3 Most of the funds in the
DRF are classified as “emergency requirements,” so they are not scored against
discretionary caps established in the annual budget resolutions. (For more information
on emergency requirements, see “Supplemental Appropriations and Emergency
Requirements,” on page 22 of this report.)
FY2002 Request and Appropriations. Months before the terrorist
attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush Administration initiated a reorganization of
FEMA to enhance the agency’s counterterrorism mission. On May 8 of that year,
President Bush drew attention to FEMA’s role in dealing with the results of terrorist
activity when he directed creation of an Office of National Preparedness (ONP) to
coordinate “all federal programs dealing with weapons of mass destruction
consequence management.” In his announcement, he also charged ONP to work
“closely with state and local governments to ensure their planning, training, and
equipment needs are addressed.”4 On June 5, 2001, FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh
announced a functional realignment of FEMA that combined offices administering
For information on no-year funds and other federal budget process terms, see the glossary
and terminology section in the CRS Guide to the Legislative and Budget Process at:
[http://www.crs.gov/products/guides/glossary/a.shtml], visited Dec. 4, 2000.
U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, “President Bush on Domestic Preparedness
Against Weapons of Mass Destruction,” [http://www.fema.gov/nwz01/nwz01_33.htm],
visited Nov. 13, 2001.
disaster preparedness, relief, and mitigation programs and created ONP. In addition,
national security and information security functions within FEMA were transferred
to ONP from other FEMA offices.5
As a result of the September attacks, Congress and the Administration agreed
to emphasize agency activities related to homeland security in the FY2002 budget
under consideration at the time. Funding approved by the 107th Congress for FY2002
in P.L. 107-73, and in supplemental appropriations legislation (P.L. 107-38, P.L. 107117), supports the range of FEMA’s emergency management activities, with emphasis
given to the terrorist threat. FY2002 funding for activities directly related to terrorist
threats include the following:
! $360 million for grants to fire departments and fire service organizations, $150
million appropriated in P.L. 107-73 and $210 million in P.L. 107-117 ($7
million of which has been transferred to FEMA’s salaries and expenses account
for administrative costs);
! an unspecified amount to prepare plans for the relocation of FEMA
headquarters to enhance security and accomplish other objectives;6
! authority to transfer $2.9 million from the disaster relief fund to the
consolidated emergency management performance grant (EMPG) program in
the emergency management and planning assistance account, resulting in a
total of $116 million available for grants, $16 million of which has been
allocated for terrorism-related activities.7
In addition, in its budget justification for FY2003 FEMA identified activities expected
to be undertaken in FY2002 that specifically reference terrorist-related actions. These
activities include the following:
! “Develop and exercise terrorism-specific plans and procedures, and coordinate
FEMA’s counter-terrorism/anti-terrorism programs that address the threat of
chemical, biological or radiological weapons of mass destruction;”8
U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Memorandum on Functional Realignment,”
by Director Joseph Allbaugh, June 5, 2001.
Approximately $22 million was requested in FY2001 for the relocation of FEMA
headquarters from the southwest quadrant of Washington, D.C. The total relocation cost has
been estimated at $32.5 million. According to FEMA, FY2002 salaries and expenses funds
are being used to “continue working with GSA on plans to move the Agency’s headquarters
to a more secure location.” Ibid., p. SE-5.
Communication received from FEMA, Oct. 2, 2001.
U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, Justification of Estimates Fiscal Year 2003,
(Washington: 2002), p. SE-4.
! Sponsor six Integrated Emergency Management Courses (IEMC) “with
terrorism scenarios which bring together senior officials of local jurisdictions
to simulate and critique their response;”9
! “Assess the feasibility of consolidating disparate corrective action processes
into a single all-hazards lessons-learned tracking system” designed for multiple
hazards, including those involving weapons of mass destruction (WMD);10
! Continue to ensure implementation of the Federal Response Plan for
consequence management after terrorist incidents, develop a supplement to the
plan for the National Capital area, and help regional offices integrate terrorism
planning into regional supplements of the plan;11
! Improve management of the Terrorism Consequence Management
Preparedness Assistance (TCMPA) program by updating planning guidance
and developing new material for state and local governments;12
! Revise the “Emergency Response to Terrorism” curriculum and enhance
capability of fire departments to respond to terrorist attacks;13
! Through external affairs activities, involve Members of Congress and nonfederal officials in programs “related to responding to terrorist acts;14 and,
! Continue to provide security at FEMA disaster sites and other locations.15
Requests Not Approved. While Congress and the Administration reached
agreement on the FY2002 budget concerning terrorist-related disasters, some
proposals pertinent to other emergency management issues were not approved.
Budget proposals submitted by President George W. Bush for FY2002 and not
approved by the 107th Congress included the following:
! Requirement that state and local governments purchase insurance for public
buildings. A three-year phase-in period would have been provided under this
proposal, with a total expected savings of $83 million.16
Ibid., p. EM-13.
Ibid., p. EM-15.
Ibid., p. EM-17.
Ibid., p. EM-34.
Ibid., p. EM-78.
Ibid., p. DR-32.
Certain federal aid for uninsured public buildings already is prohibited for facilities in a
“special flood hazard area.” See: P.L. 106-390, 114 Stat. 1564, 42 U.S.C. 5172(c).
! Reduction of the federal share for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program
(HMGP), also referred to as the Section 404 program, from 75% of eligible
costs to 50%.17
! Modification of the statute authorizing the National Flood Insurance Program
(NFIP) to provide the owners of repeatedly flooded property only one
additional opportunity to submit an insurance claim, as well as to phase out the
subsidized premium rates for non-primary residences.18
In addition to these proposals not enacted by the 107th Congress, the proposal
to consolidate administrative counterterrorism grant assistance in the ONP remains
unresolved and is the focus of debate on the FY2003 request (see the “Issues of
Debate” section of this report). At present, considerable funding for equipment and
planning associated with terrorist attacks is concentrated in the Department of Justice
(DoJ). Supplemental appropriations enacted after the attacks (P.L. 107-117)
increased DoJ funding for state and local governments in FY2002 by $400 million,
bringing the total current estimate for counterterrorism programs to $857 million.19
Questions have been raised by Members of Congress about the role of the ONP,
particularly in light of the current responsibility of the DoJ. The conference report to
accompany P.L. 107-117 did not include funding for the ONP and noted: “The
conferees will entertain such funding in the future when it has had an opportunity to
evaluate a comprehensive plan outlining FEMA’s role in dealing with terrorism and
its consequences.”20 Refer to the “Issues of Debate” section of this report for further
information on the proposed role of the ONP.
FY2003 Request. The President’s FY2003 request reflects the Bush
Administration’s new priorities for FEMA. Historically, most of FEMA’s annual
budget activity has been used for disaster relief and recovery.21 Table 2 of this report
shows the proportion of agency funds dedicated to disaster assistance. The budget
proposal would shift the emphasis in FEMA funding toward preparedness and
consequence management activities related to terrorist attacks. In addition, it would
transfer the agency’s responsibility for emergency food and shelter for the homeless
P.L. 103-181, 107 Stat. 2054. When first authorized in 1988, the federal share was set at
a maximum of 50% (“The President may contribute up to 50 percent of the cost ....”). After
the Midwest floods of 1993, Congress increased the cap to allow payments of up to 75%.
For information on repetitive loss properties in flood prone areas, see National Wildlife
Federation, Higher Ground, A Report on Voluntary Property Buyouts in the Nation’s
Floodplains (Washington: 1998), p. 184.
U.S. Executive Office of the President, Fiscal Year 2003 Appendix, Budget of the United
States Government (Washington: 2002), p. 645.
U.S. Congress, Conference Committees, 2001, Departments of Veterans Affairs and
Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 2002,
conference report to accompany H.R. 2620, 107th Cong., 1st sess., H.Rept. 107-272
(Washington: GPO, 2001), p. H7828.
Appropriations for disaster relief vary each year, ranging (in 1996 constant dollars) from
0 to over 90% of appropriations for the agency. The two years in which appropriations
exceeded 90% were FY1994 (Northridge earthquake) and FY1997 (flooding in the Dakotas).
to HUD; and it would recast hazard mitigation funding related to natural disasters by
funding the pre-disaster mitigation program at the $300 million level and terminating
grants for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program derived from the disaster relief fund
Other elements of the FY2003 request relate to terrorism and homeland
security. President Bush has proposed that FEMA coordinate the Citizen Corps,
which will “enable Americans to volunteer to participate directly in homeland security
efforts in their own communities.”22 Funds for the Citizen Corps would be derived
from the $3.5 billion requested for the First Responder program.23 Appropriations
for the First Responder Initiative are proposed to be provided for in the Emergency
Management Planning and Assistance account (see Table 1, below).
Other FY2003 requests associated with counterterrorism and homeland
! Increase funding by $20 million in salaries and expenses “to work with states
and localities on terrorism preparedness and administer the new First
Responder grant program”;24
! “Deliver four Integrated Emergency Management Courses (IEMCs) with bioterrorism scenarios, which bring senior officials of local jurisdictions together
to simulate and critique their response, and conduct terrorism-related training
addressing topics such as the increased risk in our nation’s schools and the
Incident Command System ($350,000)”;25
! “Conduct interagency and intergovernmental activities to coordinate, finalize,
and initiate implementation of a WMD [weapons of mass destruction] Incident
Support Team concept for effective integration of federal consequence
management response assets into incident command at the scene of a terrorist
! “Continue to refine the WMD time-phased force packages ($120,000)”;27
! Continue interagency planning efforts from FY2002 concerning Federal
Response Plan enhancements for the National Capital area and sponsor
terrorism meetings and symposia nationwide ($875,000);28
For information, see the CRS Electronic Briefing Book on Terrorism, “Citizen Corps,” at:
[http://www.congress.gov/brbk/html/ebter198.html], visited Feb. 15, 2002.
Justification of Estimates Fiscal Year 2003, p. EM-73.
Ibid., p. SE-7.
Ibid., p. EM-21.
Ibid., p. EM-24.
! “Develop policies and procedures for using CHER-CAP [Comprehensive
Hazard Materials (HAZMAT) Emergency Response - Capability Assessment
Program]” to disseminate the terrorism domestic preparedness program
nationwide and convert material to electronic format ($92,000);29
! Transfer $155 million from the emergency management planning and assistance
and the salaries and expenses accounts to the national preparedness account
for the First Responder grants;30
! “Conduct comprehensive terrorism preparedness and outreach efforts in state
and local communities ($149,000)”;31
! Fund the Office of National Preparedness (ONP), which “will coordinate all
preparedness and consequence management federal programs dealing with
weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The ONP will take the lead within the
federal government for the coordination, integration, and implementation of
preparedness and consequence management programs and activities focused
on developing, building and maintaining the national capability for dealing with
WMD terrorism incidents and other threats” ($3.5 billion);32
! “Continue to engage Members of Congress and state and local officials in the
agency’s disaster programs, especially those related to responding to terrorist
! Provide resources to ensure a secure environment for FEMA and related
! Revise and update material and courses related to WMD courses, support
priorities for improved use of systems in WMD incidents, and provide technical
Significant proposals for FY2003 not directly related to terrorist threats include
replacement of the existing authority for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program with
competitive grants (discussed in the “Issues of Debate” section of this report),
increased funding for the emergency food and shelter program and its transfer to
HUD, and $300 million for flood map modernization.
Ibid., p. EM-26.
Ibid., p. EM-37.
Ibid., p. EM-69.
Ibid., p. EM-71.
Ibid., p. EM-81.
Ibid., p. DR-38.
Ibid., p. R-10.
Insurance premiums paid by participants of the National Flood Insurance
Program (NFIP) remain in the National Flood Insurance Fund (NFIF) until expended.
Should insufficient premiums be collected from policyholders, the Federal Insurance
Administrator (FIA) within FEMA may borrow up to $1.5 billion from the U.S.
According to the information provided by FEMA, the FIA borrowed $3.4
billion from the U.S. Treasury through FY2000. Of that amount, more than $3 billion
has been repaid through appropriations received prior to FY1986 and through
premiums and other income derived from the program since FY1994. As of late in
calendar year 2000, roughly $345 million in cumulative debt remained to be repaid.36
Table 1, below, presents total insurance expenses identified by the agency for each
Gifts and bequests provide some assistance to disaster victims. Such
assistance derives from funds provided by a bequest made by “the late Cora C. Brown
of Kansas City, Missouri, who left a portion of her estate to the United States for
helping victims of natural disasters and other disasters not caused by or attributable
to war.”38 In FY1999, FEMA obligated $17,242 from the Cora Brown Fund.39
The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Relief Act, the
principal federal disaster assistance statute, requires that states meet specified cost
sharing provisions for disaster relief grants.40 In general, the statute provides that
states must provide 25% of the costs eligible for federal assistance, with some
exceptions allowed for catastrophes that require higher levels of federal assistance.
Data provided by staff of the Flood Insurance Administration in an interview held with CRS
on Nov. 30, 2000.
FEMA also administers the Working Capital Fund, through which federal agencies pay for
assistance provided at the Mt. Weather Emergency Assistance Center. This report does not
discuss this fund due to the relatively small amount of funds involved. Also, in the past, the
agency administered another revolving fund, the National Insurance Development Fund, which
provided crime insurance and riot reinsurance in urban areas. Funds have not been authorized
for these purposes since 1983 (riot reinsurance) and 1995 (crime insurance).
44 C.F.R. 206.181(a).
U.S. Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget, 2000 Catalog
of Federal Domestic Assistance, (Washington: June 2000), p. 813.
42 U.S.C. Subchapter N, Sec. 5170-5174.
Section 319 of the Act authorizes loans or advances to be made to states or other
eligible applicants if cost sharing requirements cannot be met.41
Section 417 of the Stafford Act also authorizes loans to be provided to local
governments that lose a substantial portion of their tax and revenue base as a result
of declared major disasters, subject to a limitation of $5 million.42 As amended by the
Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000, communities that do not repay the Section 417 loans
are not eligible for additional loans.43 Since FY2002 FEMA has approved over $383
million in Section 319 and Section 417 loans.44
Other federal agencies reimburse FEMA for costs associated with assistance
provided to certain communities. The principal reimbursable funding program is the
Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP). Communities
surrounding Army stockpiles of chemical agents receive emergency preparedness
assistance funding from the Department of Defense, through FEMA. In FY1999,
FEMA obligated $56.8 million for this purpose.45
Other FEMA Funds
Three other accounts administered by FEMA receive fees from sources other
than appropriations. First, the National Flood Mitigation Fund, to which $20 million
is transferred each year from the NFIF, supports mitigation activities in flood prone
areas, including the relocation of substantially destroyed properties or buildings
subject to repeated flooding.46 Second, the Flood Map Modernization Fund,
established in FY2000 with a $5 million appropriation, enables FEMA to improve
flood plain maps. More precise maps will be composed through this program,
facilitating ready access to flood hazard information in electronic format. FEMA has
estimated that roughly a billion dollars will be required through FY2006 to complete
the map modernization process. Third, the Radiological Emergency Preparedness
(REP) Fund helps state and local governments develop emergency preparedness and
evacuation plans. Commercial nuclear facilities pay user fees to the REP.
42 U.S.C. 5162. This is referred to as the Advance of Non-federal Share or StateShare/Cost-Share loan program.
42 U.S.C. 5184. This is referred to as the Community Disaster Loan program.
P.L. 106-390, 114 Stat. 1571.
U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, Justification of Estimates FY2003,
(Washington: 2002), p. DL-3.
Ibid., p. 821.
For more information on the flood mitigation fund and other mitigation programs, see
[http://www.fema.gov/mit/], visited Feb. 11, 2000.
Summary of Funding Levels
Figure 1, below, illustrates the shift that would occur in FEMA’s budget
priorities should Congress approve the President’s FY2003 request. Figure 1
excludes data on the Office of Inspector General and the disaster loan subsidy account
because they are relatively small accounts. In addition, Figure 1 does not reflect data
on supplemental appropriations for disaster relief for FY2002 reportedly under
Data from Table 1, below, were used to create Figure 1. Table 1 identifies
budget requests, authority, and outlays for FEMA for FY2001-FY2003 for most of
the six funding mechanisms discussed above. Table 1 does not include data for trust
and reimbursable funds, nor does it include all data for loan costs.
Table 2 provides historical data on the proportion of agency funds dedicated
to disaster assistance.
Figure 1. Requests and Appropriations for FEMA, FY2001 to FY2003
F Y 2 0 0 1 R eq.
E m e rg en c y f o o d & s h e l t e r
E m e rg en c y m a n a g e m e n t & p l a n n i n g
F Y 2 0 0 2 R eq.
F Y 2 0 0 3 R eq.
Salaries & expenses
D isaster relief fund
Graph excludes budget data for the Office of Inspector General and for disaster loan subsidies. Data for FY2001 and FY2002 include supplemental appropriations; data for FY2003
does not. Emergency food and shelter program proposed to be transferred to HUD in FY2003.
Table 1. FEMA Funding by Account, FY2001-FY2003
(millions of dollars)
Flood map modernizationJ
Flood mitigation fundK
Salaries & expenses
Emergency management &
Office of Inspector GeneralF
Disaster Relief FundD
Emergency food & shelter
Disaster loan subsidyH
Flood insurance (total program
Cerro Grande fire
Sources: U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, Budget in Brief, Fiscal Year 2001-2003 (Washington: 2002).
Note: Outlays may exceed appropriations in any fiscal year because some funds remain available until expended or because some funds were transferred among accounts.
See next page for further notes.
Request as originally submitted by the Administration.
Budget authority, generally appropriations. Includes supplemental appropriations, transfers, and certain receipts.
Current estimates from President’s budget.
Includes contingency funds, except for FY2002 request, which includes only requested appropriations. Of the funds appropriated to the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) for FY2002,
conferees (H.Rept. 107-272) directed that $74.5 million be transferred from the DRF, as follows: $2.9 million to Emergency Management & Planning for the consolidated Emergency
Management Performance Grant (EMPG) program and $25 million for pre-disaster mitigation grants, $25 million be provided for flood map modernization, and $21.6 million to
the Office of Inspector General for audits and investigations.
The 106th Congress earmarked $25 million in FY2001 funding for pre-disaster mitigation activities authorized by the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-390). FY2001 data
also include $100 million appropriated in P.L. 106-554 for fire grant program. Conferees for FY2002 (H.Rept. 107-272) required that $25 million be transferred from the DRF to
Emergency Management & Planning for pre-disaster mitigation grants, which is not reflected in the FY2003 Budget in Brief (p. 15). Conferees also provided that up to 5% of the
$150 million appropriated for fire grants was to be transferred to the Salaries & Expenses account. See also data presented in row labeled “Pre-disaster mitigation.”
In addition to the $10 million appropriated for the Office of Inspector General (OIG), Congress authorized the transfer of $21.6 million from the Disaster Relief Fund for audits
and investigations in FY2001 and FY2002. The FY2003 request includes a similar transfer to the OIG for FY2003.
Funding for emergency food and shelter program is proposed to be transferred to the Department of Housing and Urban Development in FY2003.
Represents outlays from discretionary balances. For background on the community disaster loan program and information on loans made, see: U.S. Congress, House Committee
on Appropriations, Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations for 1998, hearing, 105th Cong., 1st sess., Mar.
6, 1997 (Washington: GPO, 1997), pp. 91-94.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is intended to be self-supporting, based on receipts from insurance premium receipts and other payments deposited in the National
Flood Insurance Fund (NFIF). Instead of appropriations, the data in Table 1 of this report reflect actual and estimated total program expenses. See: U.S. Federal Emergency
Management Agency, Justification of Estimates Fiscal Year 2003 (Washington: Feb. 2002), p. FI-6.
For FY2001, $17.7 million was transferred from the flood insurance fund. For FY2002, conferees authorized the transfer of $25 million from the DRF for map modernization, and
$7 million has been transferred from the flood insurance fund.
The National Flood Mitigation program is funded through annual transfers of $20 million from the NFIF. For FY2001, the Administration proposed an additional transfer of up
to $50 million per year from the DRF for the purchase of repetitively flooded property. The House supported this proposal, but conferees rejected it because P.L. 106-246 authorized
the reallocation of $50 million for property buyouts. The FY2001 appropriations act, P.L. 106-377, authorized FEMA to obligate up to $15 million from the DRF for flood map
modernization activities after a disaster declaration has been issued by the President. Conferees for FY2002 authorized the $20 million transfer from the NFIF for mitigation.
Subdivision C, P.L. 106-246 (114 Stat. 590) appropriated $455 million for the payment of claims and $45 million for administrative costs associated with the Cerro Grande fire
in New Mexico.
In the FY2001 request, the Clinton Administration sought appropriations for a new pre-disaster mitigation account. Congress instead agreed to set aside $25 million in the
emergency management and planning assistance account for FEMA’s Project Impact mitigation (disaster loss reduction) program in FY1999 and FY2000. For FY2001, the
Administration requested $30 million for Project Impact. Instead, the 106th Congress enacted the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-390), that authorizes funding for a predisaster mitigation program. For FY 2001 and FY2002, funding was provided through a $25 million appropriation administered through the EMPA account. In FY2003, the Bush
Administration proposes elimination of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (42 U.S.C. 5170c) and increased funding for the new pre-disaster mitigation program.
Totals do not include revolving fund or public enterprise fund data or reimbursable accounts. Totals reflect rounding of subtotals.
Table 2. Total Agency and Disaster Relief Appropriations
for FEMA, FY1984-FY2002
(millions of nominal and constant dollars)
Disaster relief fundA
2001 $ (% of constant $)
Sources: U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, Justification of Estimates, various years.
Excludes unobligated balances carried forward, procurement savings, emergency contingency fund
releases, and transfers. Includes supplemental appropriations.
Current estimate based on Congressional Budget Office projection of the increase in the overall
Gross Domestic Product price index for calendar 2002 of 1.4%.
Disaster Relief Appropriations
FEMA uses funds appropriated to the DRF to provide assistance authorized
by the Stafford Act.47 Stafford Act aid is available after the President issues a
declaration that federal assistance is needed to supplement the resources of
overwhelmed states and localities.
The Stafford Act authorizes the President to issue five types of declarations.
FEMA has summarized each as follows:48
! Major disaster. The President can declare a major disaster upon the request
of the governor of the affected state.49 A declaration authorizes FEMA to
administer various federal disaster assistance programs for victims of declared
disasters. Each declaration specifies the type of incident covered, the time
period covered, the types of disaster assistance available, the counties affected
by the declaration, and also identifies the Federal Coordinating Officer.
! Emergency. The declaration process for emergencies is the same as for major
disasters; however, an emergency declaration authorizes only emergency
response activities, debris removal, and disaster housing programs. Disaster
Relief Fund expenditures for an emergency are limited to $5 million per
declaration, unless Congress is notified otherwise.
! Fire suppression. The FEMA Director is authorized to provide fire
suppression assistance to supplement the resources of communities when fires
threaten such destruction as would warrant a major disaster declaration.
! Defense emergency. Upon request from the governor of an affected state, the
President may authorize the Department of Defense (DoD) to carry out
emergency work for a period not to exceed 10 days. DoD emergency work
is limited to work essential for the preservation of life and property.
! Pre-declaration activities. When a situation threatens human health and
safety, and a disaster is imminent but not yet declared, the Director of FEMA
may place agency employees on alert. FEMA monitors the status of the
situation, communicates with state emergency officials on potential assistance
requirements, and deploys FEMA teams and resources to maximize the speed
and effectiveness of the anticipated federal response and, when necessary,
performs preparedness and preliminary damage assessment activities.
The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. 5121 et
Text taken from: U.S. Congress, Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on VA,
HUD, and Independent Agencies, Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban
Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations for 2001, hearing, 106th Cong., 2nd
sess., Feb. 29, 2000 (Washington: GPO, 2000), p. 702.
For criteria considered in the declaration of a major disaster, see: 44 CFR 206.48.
A major disaster declaration makes available the full range of federal disaster
relief assistance to stricken counties and cities. Some types of assistance available
under a major disaster declaration include the repair, replacement, or reconstruction
of public and nonprofit facilities, cash grants for personal needs of victims, temporary
housing vouchers or replacement accommodations, and unemployment assistance
related to the disaster.50 By comparison, an emergency declaration authorizes less
assistance, as noted above.51
After a governor requests an emergency or a major disaster declaration,
FEMA officials in the regional office meet with state and local officials to review the
extent of the losses and the commitment of resources by state and local governments.
The regional office then makes a recommendation to the Director of FEMA on
whether a major disaster or an emergency declaration should be issued. The FEMA
Director subsequently recommends a decision to the President, who has final authority
to decline the request or to issue a declaration. Regulations for the Stafford Act set
out limited appeal procedures.52 Members of Congress have no formal role in the
For some Members of Congress, the primary issue of contention involving the
FEMA budget concerns the rising costs of federal disaster assistance. As noted in
Table 3, over $50 billion (in constant dollars) has been appropriated to the DRF since
1974, mostly through supplemental appropriations enacted after catastrophic disasters
have occurred. The terrorist attacks of September 11 have focused increased attention
on this matter, as the costs of relief and recovery are projected by FEMA to
“eventually approach $9.5 billion.”53
Some Members of Congress and other observers argue that federal costs
continue to rise because the original intent of the Stafford Act has been disregarded.
The statute authorizes the President to issue a major disaster declaration after the
governor of the affected state certifies “that the disaster is of such severity and
magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and the
affected local governments and the Federal assistance is necessary.”54 Some
gubernatorial requests for declarations, critics contend, do not meet this standard.
Instead of waiting for state resources to be overwhelmed, say critics, some governors
are requesting Stafford Act assistance in order to obtain federal aid almost as a matter
of course. As possible indicators of this practice, in FY1996 and FY1998, major
disasters were declared at least twice as often as the annual average (34) from 1976
For more information on the assistance available under the Stafford Act, see
[http://www.fema.gov/r-n-r/], visited Feb. 14, 2000.
For a comparison of the types of assistance authorized for major disasters, see Title IV of
the Stafford Act, 42 U.S.C. 401-422, and for emergencies, see Title V of the Stafford Act, 42
44 CFR 206.46.
U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, Justification of Estimates Fiscal Year 2003,
(Washington: 2002), p. DR-5.
Sec. 401 of the Stafford Act, 42 U.S.C. 5170.
through 2001.55 Some argue that the threshold for federal involvement in disaster
relief has declined in recent years to include tornadoes, storms, fires, or other disasters
that consume, but do not overwhelm, nonfederal resources.56
On the other hand, available information indicates that gubernatorial requests
for assistance appear to reflect a need for federal assistance. For example, relatively
few significant disasters occurred in FY2000, resulting in fewer requests for
assistance, fewer major disaster declarations, lower disaster relief costs, and no
supplemental funding request.57 As summarized by one source:
With only two tropical storms and no hurricanes making land in the United
States last year, FEMA awarded only $552 million in disaster grants as of
Nov. 30 —the first time since 1991 that annual disaster costs came to
less than $1 billion.58
Those opposed to the contention that states unnecessarily turn to the federal
government for disaster assistance refer to the urgent needs of victims, the multiple
demands on state and local resources, and the thousands of disasters managed each
year without any federal assistance. While comprehensive information on disasters
is not generally available, available data indicate that many disasters throughout the
United States do not involve federal assistance. The National Emergency
Management Association (NEMA) has collected information on state assistance
provided for the “vast majority of state-declared emergencies [that] never receive
presidential declarations.”59 These disasters include transportation crashes, major
fires, storms, and other catastrophes that result in lives lost and property damaged.
Also, non-federal assistance is available through interstate cooperative agreements.
A majority of the states have signed on to the Emergency Management Assistance
See statistics on declared disasters at [http://www.fema.gov/library/dis_graph.htm], visited
Dec. 19, 2000.
The declaration process has been the subject of congressional queries and other studies and
investigations. For further information, see: U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency,
Disaster Declaration Decisions: Staff Support by FEMA. Inspection Report I-02-93
(Washington: May 1994), p. 11, and Review of Governors’ Disaster Requests Inspection
Report I-02-99 (Washington: March 1999), p. 13; U.S. Congress, House Committee on
Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, The
Federal Cost of Disaster Assistance, hearing, 105th Cong., 2nd sess., March 26, 1998
(Washington: GPO, 1998), p. 170; Jeff A. Taylor, “How Fast Can We Shovel Money?”
Commerce Business Daily, Apr. 10, 1996, pp. A1, A2; John Solomon, “Flirting with
Disaster,” The Washington Monthly, vol. 28, Oct. 1996, pp. 9-11; James Bovard, “FEMA
Money! Come & Get It!” The American Spectator, Sept. 1996, pp. 25-31.
See the FEMA summary of disasters and catastrophic incidents for the year at
[http://www.fema.gov/nwz00/yrend2000.htm], visited Dec. 28, 2000.
“Growth of Project Impact, Stafford Act Passage among Highlights for FEMA,” Emergency
Preparedness News, vol. 25, Jan. 2, 2001, p. 5.
National Emergency Management Association, State Assistance Programs for Non-Federal
Disasters (Lexington, KY: Oct. 1999).
Compact, an interstate mutual aid agreement that channels non-federal resources
within signatory states.60
Congress has a limited role in controlling disaster relief costs. An emergency
or major disaster declaration issued by the President identifies the states and political
subdivisions (generally counties or the equivalent entities) in which aid will be
provided. The presidential declaration process includes consideration of state findings
of needs as well as the certification by state officials that state and local governments
will comply with cost sharing and other requirements. Neither the Stafford Act nor
implementing regulations provide for a congressional role in this process.61
Since 1950, formal congressional control over disaster costs has been limited
to votes on appropriations measures that make funds available for existing relief
programs. Such appropriations legislation, particularly supplemental appropriations
legislation considered in the aftermath of huge catastrophes that receive considerable
media attention, are more likely to be approved by Congress than more controversial
legislation. Recently, however, Congress has stepped in to exert some control over
spending decisions. The Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-390) includes a
provision that requires the President to notify Congress before awarding a public
assistance grant of over $20 million pursuant to Section 406 of the Stafford Act.62
Table 3 of this report lists appropriations made to the Disaster Relief Fund
(DRF) since 1974, the first year in which the current span of federal assistance was
provided by the federal government. The data lend themselves to generalizations.
For example, prior to FY1989, supplemental appropriations made to the DRF were
approved infrequently and generally exceeded the amount originally appropriated in
each fiscal year by roughly $100 or $200 million.63 By comparison, since FY1989,
appropriations have exceeded $1 billion in each fiscal year and supplemental
appropriations have been approved in all but two of the fiscal years (FY1991 and
The last two columns of Table 3 show that a similar growth pattern has
developed for outlays from the DRF. Prior to FY1989, outlays from the DRF
averaged $568 million, and on only two occasions (Hurricane Frederic in FY1978 and
the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in FY1980) exceeded $1 billion. Since 1989, however,
average annual outlays have exceeded $2 billion, with significant hurricanes (Hugo
in FY1989, Andrew in FY1992, Floyd in FY1999), earthquakes (Loma Prieta in
FY1990, Northridge in FY1994) and floods (Midwest floods of 1993, Red River
floods of 1995) and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, resulting in billions
of dollars of federal expenditures.
For information on the compact, see [http://www.nemaweb.org/emac/index.cfm], visited
Dec. 19, 2000.
For regulations on the request and declaration process, see 44 CFR 206.35-206.39.
P.L. 106-390, Sec. 205(a).
An exception occurred in FY1980 after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.
Table 3. Disaster Relief Fund, FY1974-FY2003
(millions of nominal or constant dollars)
Supp. Nominal Constant ’01
Nominal Constant ’01
Sources: U.S. President annual budget documents; appropriations legislation; U.S. Federal
Emergency Management Agency budget justifications. Constant dollar calculations based on state
and local government chain-type price index prepared by Bureau of Economic Analysis, Department
of Commerce, found at: [http://www.bea.doc.gov/bea/dn/nipaweb/SelectTable.asp?Selected=N#S7],
visited March 1, 2002.
Notes continue on following page.
Data in the request column generally represent the first budget request submitted by the
Administration each year and do not include amended or supplemental requests. However,
note additional detail in this column.
In February 1987, a total of $57,475,000 was rescinded and transferred from the DRF to the
Emergency Food and Shelter Program account (P.L. 100-6). That amount was returned to
the fund the same year in supplemental appropriations legislation enacted in July 1987
P.L. 100-202, the Continuing Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1988, appropriated $120 million
for disaster relief. According to FEMA, the original appropriation for that fiscal year was
$125 million, but $5 million was transferred to the Department of Labor for “low income
Supplemental funds were included in P.L. 101-100, continuing appropriations legislation enacted
after Hurricane Hugo struck in September 1989. According to FEMA, this amount was
“referred to as a supplemental but was an increase in the original appropriation during a
P.L. 101-130, enacted after the Loma Prieta earthquake, appropriated $1.1 billion in supplemental
funding for FY1990. In addition, $50 million was appropriated in P.L. 101-302, dire
emergency supplemental appropriations legislation. Table 2 does not reflect a $2.5 million
transfer from the President’s unanticipated needs fund.
FY1992 request does not include the budget amendment of $90 million submitted by the
Appropriations for FY1992 included a $943 million dire emergency supplemental in P.L. 102-229,
enacted in the fall of 1991 after Hurricane Bob; $300 million after the Los Angeles riots
and flooding in Chicago (spring of 1992) in P.L. 102-302; and $2.893 billion in P.L. 102368 after Hurricanes Andrew and Iniki, Typhoon Omar, and other disasters.
Total for FY1993 includes the $2 billion supplemental approved after the Midwest floods of 1993
The original FY1994 budget request was $292 million. On July 29, 1993, a supplemental request
of $862 million was sent by President Clinton to Congress.
Supplemental appropriations for FY1994 enacted after the Northridge earthquake struck Los
Angeles (P.L. 103-211).
Additional supplemental appropriation approved for Northridge earthquake costs (P.L. 104-19) for
FY1995, with the same amount ($3.275 billion) reserved for a contingency fund for
FY1996. However, $1 billion of the contingency fund was rescinded in FY1996 omnibus
appropriations, P.L. 104-134. In the same legislation, another $7 million was also
appropriated to other FEMA accounts for costs associated with the bombing of the Alfred
P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City.
The FY1998 budget appendix (p. 1047) noted a transfer of $104 million from the disaster relief
fund in FY1996. In the FY1997 appropriations act (P.L. 104-204), $1 billion that had been
rescinded in FY1996 (P.L. 104-134) was restored, and $320 million in new funds were
appropriated. Supplemental appropriations of $3.3 billion were approved in P.L. 105-18
after flooding in the Dakotas and Minnesota, and after storms in other states were declared
major disasters. The legislation specified, however, that of the total, $2.3 billion was to be
available in FY1998 only when FEMA submitted a cost control report to Congress. This
requirement was met, and the funding was made available in FY1998.
The FY1998 request consisted of a $320 million base amount plus $2.388 billion “to address
actual and projected requirements from 1997 and prior year declarations.” (Budget
Appendix FY1998, p. 1047).
Supplemental appropriations legislation (P.L. 105-174) for FY1998 approved for flooding
associated with El Niño and other disasters.
The FY1999 request consisted of $307,745,000 for the DRF and an additional $2,258,485,000 in
contingency funding to be available when designated as an emergency requirement under
the Balanced Budget Act of 1985, as amended.
The FY1999 omnibus appropriations act (P.L. 105-277) included funds for costs associated with
Hurricane Georges, flooding associated with El Niño, and other disasters.
Emergency supplemental appropriations for FY1999 (P.L. 106-31) included $900 million for
tornado damages as well as $230 million for unmet needs, subject to allocation directions
in the conference report (H.Rept. 106-143).
FY2000 appropriations act (P.L. 106-74) included disaster relief funding as follows: $300 million
in regular appropriations and $2.5 billion designated as emergency spending for costs
associated with Hurricane Floyd and other disasters. In addition, the Consolidated
Appropriations Act (P.L. 106-113) authorized the Director of FEMA to use up to $215
million in disaster relief funds appropriated in P.L. 106-74 for the purchase of residences
flooded by Hurricane Floyd, under specified conditions.
The initial FY2001 request included an FY2000 supplemental appropriations request for 10
departments, seven independent agencies, and other entities, but not FEMA. Supplemental
appropriations legislation (P.L. 106-246) authorized that an additional $77 million from
the DRF to be used for buyout and relocation assistance for victims of Hurricane Floyd. The
Act also appropriated $500 million in a separate account for claim compensation and
administrative costs associated with the Cerro Grande fire that destroyed much of Los
Alamos, New Mexico.
P.L. 107-38 appropriated $40 billion in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Pursuant to the statute, these funds for FY2001 were allocated by the Office of Management
Budget, and funds for FY2002 were allocated through another statute, P.L. 107-117.
Issues of Debate
Compared to the high level of debate that has occurred on appropriations
legislation for other federal agencies in recent years, congressional consideration of
the FEMA budget has been relatively free of contention. Concerns with homeland
security, along with issues raised in past years and not yet resolved, may, however,
result in discussion of the agency’s funding during the second session of the 107th
At least three issues may be the focus of congressional debate. First, for
several years, some Members of Congress have expressed concern about the rising
cost of federal disaster assistance. In light of the high costs of the response to and
recovery from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the cost of the terrorism
conflict, and other pressing needs of the nation, this issue may be revisited. Second,
some Members of Congress have questioned aspects of the Administration’s proposal
to consolidate homeland security funding for emergency preparedness in FEMA.
Third, the proposal to terminate Hazard Mitigation Grant Program assistance after
disasters and replace it with a competitive grant program may raise concerns. These
issues are discussed below.
Disaster Assistance Funding
Emergency Designations. Money appropriated to the DRF for Stafford
Act assistance remains available until expended. It is referred to as “no-year” money
or appropriations. As needed, FEMA obligates money in the DRF to reimburse state
and local governments for construction projects needed to repair past damages,
provide grants to individual victims, or make available other authorized assistance.
With little or no warning, however, billions may suddenly be needed when a terrorist
attack, catastrophic earthquake, or Category IV or V hurricane occurs. For this
reason, many Members of Congress generally consider supplemental appropriations
to be a necessary part of the appropriations cycle.
Reliance on supplemental appropriations, however, may confound efforts to
enforce budgetary discipline. Congress has debated the pros and cons associated with
budgeting for events that most observers agree are likely to occur, but at a time
unknown. The issue is not whether a disaster will occur, but when it will happen in
the budget cycle and how much it will cost. For example, Hurricane Floyd struck 10
states in September 1999, just prior to the beginning of FY2000.64 As a result,
Congress did not enact a supplemental, but included an additional $2.5 billion in the
VA-HUD annual appropriations legislation (P.L. 106-74) for costs anticipated from
During the years of federal budget deficits, Congress and Administration
officials instituted mechanisms such as expenditure limits to control deficit spending.
Supplemental appropriations for disaster relief, however, caused discretionary
For information on the effects of Hurricane Floyd, see John R. Maiolo and others, Facing
Our Future: Hurricane Floyd and Recovery in the Coastal Plain, (Greenville, NC: Coastal
Carolina Press, 2001).
spending caps established in the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 (BEA) to be
exceeded.65 By designating such supplementals as “emergency requirements,” the
sequestration process (across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending) was
All supplemental appropriations to the DRF enacted since December 12, 1991,
have been designated “emergency requirements.”67 In the annual budget requests
submitted to Congress for FY1999-2001, the Clinton Administration sought to
change the practice of relying on supplemental appropriations legislation by requesting
contingency funds for the DRF. In similar fashion, the first budget submitted by
President George W. Bush to the 107th Congress (FY2002) proposed that an
“Emergency Reserve Fund” be established for four disaster relief accounts: the
Disaster Relief Fund, the Departments of Agriculture and Interior fire fighting
programs, and the Small Business Administration disaster loan program.68 The House
Budget Committee supported the Administration’s proposal. However, as approved
by the 107th Congress, the concurrent resolution (H.Con.Res. 83) on the FY2002
budget did not include provisions for such a reserve fund.
The BEA does not define the term “emergency requirement.”69 Congress, as
well as Presidents George H.W. Bush and William Clinton, have used the term for a
range of purposes. From FY1991 through FY1998, spending for domestic matters,
national security, and international peacekeeping needs, as well as disaster relief, was
designated an “emergency requirement” in 38 appropriations acts.70 In testimony, the
Deputy Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) summarized “three types
of emergencies that have been recognized by the Congress in the past”—small-scale
For an overview of discretionary spending caps, see CRS Report RS20008, Discretionary
Spending Limits, by Bill Heniff, Jr.
2 U.S.C. 902(e). For more information on the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990, see CRS
Report 98-721 GOV, Introduction to the Federal Budget Process, by Robert Keith.
This practice was codified as permanent law in P.L. 102-229, 105 Stat. 1711. “That
hereafter, beginning in FY1993, and in each year thereafter, notwithstanding any other
provision of law, all amounts appropriated for disaster assistance payments under the Robert
T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5121 et seq.) that are
in excess of either the historical annual average obligation of $320,000,000, or the amount
submitted in the President’s initial budget request, whichever is lower, shall be considered as
“emergency requirements” pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(D) of the Balanced Budget and
Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985, and such amounts shall hereafter be so designated.”
U.S. Office of Management and Budget, A Blueprint for New Beginnings (Washington,
GPO: 2001), p. 173.
The statute does, however, specify that the term does not include “direct spending
provisions to cover agricultural crop disaster assistance.” See 2 U.S.C. 902(e).
U.S. Congressional Budget Office, Emergency Spending under the Budget Enforcement Act
(Washington: 1998), p. 1. See also the discussion of emergency designations in U.S.
Congressional Budget Office, Supplemental Appropriations in the 1990s,
[http://www.cbo.gov/showdoc.cfm?index=2768&sequence=0&from=7], visited Apr. 11,
wars, economic downturns, and disasters.71 Another CBO description of the practice
of using the emergency designation noted that in the absence of a statutory definition,
an “emergency requirement” appears to be defined by the immediate and
unpredictable funding needs facing the President and Congress.72
During the George H. W. Bush Administration (1989-1993), the executive
branch adopted criteria to be applied in the identification of items to be designated
“emergency requirements.” Pursuant to a congressional mandate,73 the Office of
Management and Budget (OMB) issued a report in 1992 that incorporated the criteria
used by President Bush to determine whether to apply the designation to specific
spending provisions. The five criteria used for designating a funding request as an
emergency requirement, as set forth in the report, include the following:
necessary expenditure—an essential or vital expenditure, not one that is
merely useful or beneficial; sudden—quickly coming into being, not building
up over time; urgent—pressing and compelling need requiring immediate
action; unforeseen—not predictable or seen beforehand as a coming need (an
emergency that is part of an aggregate level of anticipated emergencies,
particularly when normally estimated in advance, would not be
“unforeseen”); and not permanent—the need is temporary in nature.74
Definition of Emergency Spending. Some Members of Congress have
urged that Congress should bring more certainty to funding disaster assistance and
more precisely define the meaning of the term “emergency.” Others disagree,
pointing out that administration officials and the Congress need flexibility to use the
emergency requirement designation authority of the BEA.
Options to control fluctuations in supplemental appropriations legislation for
disaster assistance have been considered by Congress for years. In the 103rd
Congress, the House Bipartisan Task Force on Disasters completed a report that
contained a range of recommendations on sharing and reducing disaster costs.75 The
Senate published a report that reviewed funding options and provided relatively
comprehensive historical information on federal disaster expenditures for FY1977FY1993.76 Both the House and Senate reports established baseline information and
listed possible alternatives, but neither the 103rd nor the 104th Congresses acted on this
U.S. Congress, House Committee on the Budget, Task Force on Budget Process, Budgetary
Treatment of Emergencies, 105th Cong., 2nd sess., June 23, 1998 (Washington: GPO, 1998),
U.S. Congressional Budget Office, Emergency Spending under the Budget Enforcement
Act, p. 27.
P.L. 102-55, Chapter III, 105 Stat. 293.
U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Report on the Costs of Domestic and International
Emergencies and on the Threats Posed by the Kuwaiti Oil Fires (Washington: 1991), p. ii.
U.S. Congress, House Bipartisan Task Force on Disasters, Report (Washington: Dec. 14,
1994), p. 23.
U.S. Congress, Senate Bipartisan Task Force on Funding Disaster Relief, Federal Disaster
Assistance, S.Doc. 104-4, 104th Cong., 1st sess. (Washington: GPO, 1995), pp. 5-15.
matter. In the 105th Congress, the House Budget Committee convened a Task Force
on Budget Process Reform to modify federal budgetary treatment of emergency
funding needs.77 Legislation (H.R. 457) considered, but not reported, by the Budget
Committee would have established a reserve fund for emergencies.
Bills were introduced during the 106th Congress (S. 360 and H.R. 537) to
amend the federal budget process to enable Congress to stabilize disaster spending,
but were not enacted. However, in the concurrent resolution on the FY2001 budget
(H.Con.Res. 290), the 106th Congress agreed to amend the Senate rules to require
consideration of the five criteria noted above in determining whether a proposed
expenditure or tax change constitute an emergency requirement. As noted above, the
107th Congress considered but did not approve the FY2002 budget proposal
submitted by President Bush to establish an Emergency Reserve Fund.
Budget Priorities for Homeland Security
The terrorist attacks of 2001 have refocused congressional attention on federal
policies and resources that can help communities manage the consequences of
terrorist attacks. Preparedness measures that receive federal funding include
equipment purchases, training and education programs, simulation drills, and technical
assistance, among others, that are part of FEMA’s mission.78
For years, FEMA has provided preparedness and consequence management
assistance for fire fighters and emergency management personnel. The agency has
awarded grants to states for emergency operating centers and staff, provided training
through the National Emergency Training Center, and made technical assistance
available through ongoing contacts among FEMA regional offices and state and local
The FY2003 budget proposal submitted by President Bush would expand
FEMA’s role, principally by placing administrative responsibility for the First
Responder Initiative in the agency. The initiative would be funded through a $3.5
billion appropriation that would fund grants for equipment purchases, training,
exercises, and other preparedness activities.
Emergency Preparedness Grants. At present FEMA administers a
number of directives that set out the agency’s emergency preparedness
responsibilities. Two have the most significant budgetary implications. One is the
Fire Investment and Response Enhancement (FIRE) grant program, and the other is
the Emergency Management and Performance Grant (EMPG) program. In FY2003
the Administration proposes to consolidate funding for both of these programs, and
others, into the First Responder Initiative.
U.S. Congress, Budgetary Treatment of Emergencies, p. 162.
For background and discussion see CRS Report RL31285 FEMA’s Mission: Policy
Directives for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, by Keith Bea.
FIRE Grants. The FIRE grant program, funded at $360 million in 2002,
provides financial assistance to firefighters and fire departments “that lack the basic
tools and resources necessary to protect the health and safety of the public and their
firefighting personnel.”79 FIRE grant funds may be used to hire or train personnel,
acquire vehicles and other equipment, modify facilities, and educate the public, among
other purposes. In FY2001, the first year of the program’s operation, FEMA
awarded 1,886 grants worth $96,586,668 to fire departments and fire service
organizations.80 Details on the activities funded with these grants and recipient
organizations are available on the FEMA website.81
Emergency Management Performance Grants. Perhaps the broadest
emergency preparedness authority is set out in Title VI of the Stafford Act, which
authorizes the Director of FEMA to undertake the following:82
! coordinate federal and state emergency preparedness plans (including interstate
! provide support for emergency communications and civilian warning systems;
! conduct training programs;
! acquire necessary property (including monitoring agents for weapons of mass
! provide grants to the states for emergency preparedness purposes, including
“shelters and other protective facilities,” but not for the procurement of land
or the purchase of “personal equipment for state or local emergency
preparedness workers;” and,
! arrange for the sale of material or facilities not considered needed for
For information on the FIRE grant program and the application process, see U.S. Federal
Emergency Management Agency, “2002 Program Guidance for the Assistance to Firefighters
Grant Program,” at [http://www.usfa.fema.gov/grants/02prgguide.doc], visited March 7,
2002. The program was authorized by 2001 amendments to the Federal Fire Prevention and
Control Act of 1974 (15 U.S.C. 2229). Rules for the FY2002 FIRE grant program were
published by FEMA on March 1, 2002. See: U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency,
“Complete Application Package for Fire Grant Program Now Available,” at
[http://www.usfa.fema.gov/about/press/02-016.htm], visited March 7, 2002.
For information on FY2001 grants, see U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency,
“Report on the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program for Fiscal Year 2001,” at
[http://www.usfa.fema.gov/grants/fy01/01report-affgp.htm], visited March 7, 2002.
For information, see U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Assistance to
Firefighters Grant Program Fiscal Year 2001 Recipients,” at
[http://www.usfa.fema.gov/grants/fy01/01awards.htm], visited March 7, 2002.
Section 611 of the Stafford Act, 42 U.S.C. 5196.
Since FY2000, FEMA has allocated emergency preparedness funds to the states
through the Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) program. EMPG
funds have been categorized by FEMA as being used for terrorism as well as nonterrorism purposes. Table 4, below, provides information on the allocation of EMPG
funds in these categories, by state, for FY2002.
Table 4. Allocation of EMPG Funds, FY2002, by State
(thousands of dollars)
Type of grant
Type of grant
Type of grant
Northern Mariana Islands
District of Columbia
U.S. Virgin Islands
Source: U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, Office of General Counsel, communication
with the author, Oct. 2, 2001.
EMPG funds may be used by the states for activities that improve emergency
response capabilities, including the identification of risks, enhancement of services to
potential victims, and the addition of communications mechanisms. These activities
are oriented not only to terrorist threats but also to other causes.83
FY2003 Proposal: The First Responder Initiative. The Bush
Administration has proposed an expansion of FEMA’s emergency preparedness
responsibilities by transferring authority for administering grants for law enforcement
officials, firefighters, and other emergency services personnel from the Department
of Justice. Titled the “First Responder Initiative,” this program would reportedly
increase federal emergency preparedness spending ten-fold.84 Funds would be use for
four purposes: planning, equipment purchase, training, and exercises. The Office of
National Preparedness (ONP) in FEMA would administer the initiative.85
Some information is available on the Administration’s plans for the initiative.
According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), “it is anticipated that
more than one-third of the funds will be used to improve communications [and] it is
assumed that an additional one-third will be used to equip state and local first
responders and that the remainder will be used for training, planning, technical
assistance and administration.”86 According to one report, the Director of the Office
of Homeland Security has specified that at least 75% of the First Responder funds will
For brief information on the program, see the FEMA website at:
[http://www.usfa.fema.gov/fedguide/ch1-92.htm], visited March 6, 2002.
For information on the First Responder Initiative, see:
[http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/01/20020124-2.html], visited March 7,
See “Federal Emergency Management Agency,” at:
[http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2003/bud26.html], visited March 7, 2002.
be passed on to localities by the states.87 Also, the Administration has indicated that
funding for communications equipment to ensure interoperability will be a priority use
of the funds. Table 5, below, provides information on projected uses of the $3.5
Table 5. Projected Allocation of
First Responder Initiative Funds, FY2003
(millions of dollars)
Equip first responder team
Improve command and control
Fund intergovernmental compacts
Train first responders
Provide technical assistance
Source: U.S. President (Bush), Securing the Homeland, Strengthening the Nation (Washington:
2002), p. 31, available at [http://www.whitehouse.gov/homeland/homeland_security_book.html],
visited March 7, 2002.
Options for Congress. In general, administrators, elected officials, and
emergency response professionals agree that many police, fire, and other response
crews lack sufficient training and equipment to effectively and safely respond to
terrorist attacks. For example, the National Governors Association reports that as
much as $3 billion is needed by the states to undertake bioterrorism preparedness and
emergency communication initiatives.88 There is, however, less unanimity over the
administrative mechanism to be used to provide the funding. For some, an important
priority is to remove the confusion and duplication associated with obtaining federal
Keith J. Costa, “Ridge: Bulk of First Responder Money Will Go to Local Communities,”
Inside the Pentagon, vol. 18, March 7, 2002, p. 2.
“Homeland Security: The Cost to States for Ensuring Public Health and Safety,” at
March 11, 2002.
assistance from FEMA, DoJ, and the Department of Health and Human Services.89
The President’s proposal to consolidate all federal assistance for first responders
within the Office of National Preparedness (ONP) within FEMA meets these concerns
about the lack of coordination among similar federal programs.
Others might contend, however, that is appropriate for several federal
agencies to be involved in emergency preparedness funding. Program administrators,
they might argue, should have established relationships with grantees and should be
familiar with the specific issues involving their constituent agencies. Rather than
creating a new administrative structure in the midst of armed conflict, it might be
argued that existing channels should be used to ensure that funds are delivered
expeditiously to grantees, and that federal program administrators monitor the use of
Further, it might be argued that FEMA lacks the authority to allocate First
Responder funds for the full range of activities identified above in Table 5, above,
notably the purchase of equipment by law enforcement agencies. The FIRE grant
program authority, which authorizes the use of funds for equipment, including
vehicles, is restricted to “firefighting personnel.”90 Title VI of the Stafford Act, which
authorizes funding for most of the emergency preparedness activities identified in
Table 5, above, excludes funding “for the purchase of personal equipment for state
or local emergency preparedness workers.”91
In order for the Administration’s proposal to be implemented, it may be
necessary for the Congress to take legislative action to authorize FEMA to provide
grants to law enforcement agencies or to other public safety entities not included
within the purview of existing authorities. Two legislative proposals that might
provide the necessary authority to FEMA have been submitted for congressional
consideration. One proposal, submitted by the Administration as an amendment to
the FY2003 request, would transfer DoJ authority to FEMA.92 Another option is
presented in S. 2061, which would authorize the Director of FEMA to provide grants
and technical assistance, and to coordinate funding, “to ensure that localities, fire
departments, hospitals, and other appropriate entities, as determined by the Director”
For example, see: U.S. General Accounting Office, Homeland Security: Challenges and
Strategies in Addressing Short- and Long-Term National Needs, GAO report 02-160T
(Washington: Nov. 7, 2001), Chapt. 5.
15 U.S.C. 2229.
42 U.S.C. 5196(j)(2).
“Provided further, That, the functions authorized under section 819 of the Antiterrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 [P.L. 104-132] and section 1014 of P.L. 107-56, as well
as such unexpended balances of appropriations, full-time equivalent personnel, property, and
records as have been assigned to the Department of Justice, shall be transferred to the Federal
Emergency Management Agency: Provided further, That such transfers are made pursuant
to 31 U.S.C. 1531.” See: U.S. President (Bush), letter to the Speaker of the House, “Estimate
#3--Budget Amendment: Departments of Commerce, Defense, Labor, Transportation, and the
Treasury; the Environmental Protection Agency; Federal Emergency Management Agency;
and Legislative Branch--3/14/02 Washington, March 14, 2002, at:
[http://w3.access.gpo.gov/usbudget/fy2003/amndsup.html], visited April 3, 2002.
have the ability and resources to respond to terrorist attacks.93 While S. 2061, if
enacted, would authorize that the technical assistance grants be funded through the
Disaster Relief Fund, Congress might elect to amend the legislation to authorize the
Director to use the First Responder Initiative funds for these grants.
Federal mitigation assistance is available to states in which major disasters
have been declared,94 for structures insured under the National Flood Insurance
Program,95 and for activities related to specific potential disasters.96 In addition,
Congress has funded discretionary grants awarded under Project Impact to help states
fund pre-disaster mitigation activities.97
The Bush Administration has expressed support for federal mitigation
assistance. The current FEMA Director, Joe Allbaugh, testified before the House on
the FY2002 budget proposal as follows:
I do not believe we do enough in predisaster mitigation, quite frankly. This
is becoming fast and furious for me a higher and higher priority as the day
In 2000, Congress authorized a new grant-in-aid program to increase federal
contributions to and support of mitigation activities. The Disaster Mitigation Act
authorizes the President to provide financial and technical assistance to states or local
governments that have identified “natural disaster hazards ... and have demonstrated
the ability to form effective public-private natural disaster hazard mitigation
partnerships.”99 Such assistance is authorized to help state and local governments
implement “pre-disaster hazard mitigation measures that are cost-effective and are
designed to reduce injuries, loss of life, and damage and destruction of property,
including damage to critical services and facilities under the jurisdiction of the states
or local governments.”100 The legislation, according to FEMA, “emphasizes the
importance of strong state and local planning processes and comprehensive program
“Title III-Establishment of Coordination Office with the Federal Emergency Management
Agency,” S. 2061, 107th Cong., 2nd sess., introduced March 21, 2002.
The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, authorized at 42 U.S.C. 5170c.
The Flood Mitigation Assistance Program, authorized at 42 U.S.C. 4104c.
Fire Suppression Assistance grants (42 U.S.C. 5187), the Dam Safety State Assistance
program (33 U.S.C. 467), and the Earthquake Hazards Reduction program (42 U.S.C. 7701).
For FY2002, Congress appropriated $25 million for pre-disaster mitigation (114 Stat.
Testimony of Joe Allbaugh, in U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations,
Subcommittee on VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies, Departments of Veterans Affairs and
Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations for 2002,
hearing, 107th Cong., 1st sess., May 17, 2001 (Washington: GPO, 2001), p. 262.
P.L. 106-390, 114 Stat. 1554.
114 Stat. 1554.
management at the state level.”101 FEMA announced the availability of pre-disaster
mitigation grants for FY2002 in March, 2002.102
Proponents of such spending have argued that while short-term costs might
be high, the long-term cost savings would be appreciable. Federal mitigation
assistance has been provided for years, to a limited extent, through the flood insurance
program administered by FEMA, the earthquake prevention program, and other
relatively small initiatives.
Section 404 Hazard Mitigation Grants. In the 1988 amendments to the
Stafford Act, FEMA proposed and Congress approved a new initiative that increased
federal mitigation funding.103 The provision, enacted as Section 404 of the Stafford
Act, and referred to as the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), authorized the
President to provide hazard mitigation funding to each state in which a major disaster
was declared. Money for HMGP derives from the disaster relief fund (DRF), not
from line item appropriations. Section 404 funds have been used to help communities
and property owners improve buildings to withstand earthquake shaking, purchase
hurricane shutters, and relocate buildings from flood-prone areas.
Following the Midwest floods of 1993, Congress amended Section 404 to
increase the ceiling on federal assistance and to authorize the Director of FEMA to
acquire property at risk from future disasters.104 Further amendments were adopted
in the 2000 Act which increased the ceiling on Section 404 grants for states that meet
certain planning requirements, and authorized states to apply to administer their
According to FEMA data, roughly $2.5 billion has been allocated since
FY1989 under the Section 404 program, also referred to as the Hazard Mitigation
Grant (HMGP) program. Table 6 of this report contains data on HMGP funding.
U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Hazard mitigation planning and Hazard
Mitigation Grant Program,” Federal Register, vol. 67, no. 38, Feb. 26, 2002, pp.8843-54.
U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program,” Federal
Register, vol. 67, no. 48, March 12, 2002, pp.11117-11119.
P.L. 100-707, 102 Stat. 4698
P.L. 103-181, 107 Stat. 2054. The 1993 amendments increased federal assistance from
50% of project costs to 75%, and from 10% of total disaster aid provided to 15%.
The President is authorized to provide grants equal to 20 percent of the total disaster
assistance provided as long as certain requirements are met by the state, including the
establishment of eligibility criteria for property acquisition, cost effectiveness measures,
specification of priorities, and assessment processes. See 114 Stat. 1558.
Table 6. Hazard Mitigation Grant Program Obligations
(dollars in thousands)
By year of disaster declaration
By year funds were obligated
Source: U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, Federal Insurance & Mitigation
Administration, personal communication with the author, Feb. 28, 2002.
Note: Due to a change in financial systems in 1996, data on obligations per fiscal year are not
available for previous years.
FY2003 Proposal: Pre-Disaster Mitigation. The Bush Administration
has proposed the termination of funding for HMGP as well as Project Impact in
FY2003. Under the proposal, pre-disaster mitigation grants would be funded at $300
million. The Administration projects that, if approved by Congress, activities funded
by this appropriation would include $270 million for the pre-disaster mitigation
grants, $28 million for technical assistance, and $2 million for other activities.106
Options for Congress. Advocates of the Administration’s proposal to
rely solely on the pre-disaster mitigation grant program might contend that the predisaster mitigation grant program is the more appropriate means of distributing such
U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, Justification of Estimates Fiscal Year 2003
(Washington: 2002), p. PD-3.
assistance because it is available to all states. HMGP funding, by comparison, is only
available to states in which disasters have been declared. In addition, advocates might
claim that the Administration’s approach establishes continuity and stability in
mitigation funding. While HMGP funding is dependent on the occurrence of major
disasters, the pre-disaster program could be the source of regular appropriations. In
response to concerns that federal funding would decrease under the proposal, FEMA
might contend grant recipients would not suffer a loss of mitigation funds, as the
proposed funding level for FY2003 approximates that historically provided through
the HMGP (refer to Table 6).
Opponents of the Administration proposal might argue, in response, that there
is still a need to channel mitigation funding to states stricken by major disasters. By
terminating HMGP and relying solely on competitive grants, it might be argued, states
and communities with proven needs may not receive the funding for which they would
otherwise be eligible. They might also contend that the current method of allocating
money from the disaster relief fund protects mitigation funding. Appropriation
requests for the disaster relief fund historically receive little or no opposition. On the
other hand, the appropriations for a separate account for pre-disaster mitigation
grants might leave the funding vulnerable to appropriations battles, or to rescissions,
even after funds are appropriated. Perhaps of greatest significance to the renewed
focus of the Administration and Congress after September 11, 2001, the pre-disaster
mitigation program appears to place emphasis on funding mitigation projects related
to “natural” disasters, not attacks.107
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, combined with the normal
operations of the agency, have resulted in the appropriation of almost $3 billion for
FEMA in FY2002, $700 million beyond the amount originally requested by the Bush
Administration in February 2001. These funds will be used for disaster relief,
emergency preparedness planning by state and local governments, food and shelter
assistance for the homeless, and other purposes. The President’s FY2003 request
would more than double FEMA’s budget. The proposal, if approved, will shift some
of the agency’s priorities and funding patterns toward homeland security and
preparedness for potential terrorist attacks. Among the more significant issues
Congress might elect to debate are the transfer of emergency preparedness funding
from the Department of Justice to FEMA and the consolidation of hazard mitigation
“Technical and financial assistance provided under this section ... (B) may be used (i) to
support effective public-private natural disaster hazard mitigation partnerships; (ii) to improve
the assessment of a community’s vulnerability to natural hazards; or (iii) to establish hazard
mitigation priorities, and an appropriate hazard mitigation plan, for a community.” 42 U.S.C.
5133(e), 114 Stat. 1554-55.