Order Code RL31999
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Disaster Relief and Response:
FY2003 Supplemental Appropriations
Updated October 1, 2003
Specialist, American National Government
Government and Finance Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Disaster Relief and Response:
FY2003 Supplemental Appropriations
Federal departments and agencies are authorized to undertake a range of
emergency management activities, including disaster relief and response efforts. The
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has primary responsibility, but other
departments and agencies provide grants and loans to disaster victims and reimburse
state and local governments overwhelmed by costs associated with clearing debris
and rebuilding facilities, among other forms of assistance. FY2003 supplemental
funding for these activities has been the issue of debate.
On September 30, 2003, President Bush signed into law H.R. 2657 (P.L. 10883), the appropriations measure for the legislative branch for FY2004. Title III of the
statute, titled the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2003, appropriates
$938 million for four departments, the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA), and the federal judiciary for FY2003. Roughly half of the
funding is appropriated to DHS for disaster relief; the majority of the other funding
would be appropriated for costs associated with wildfires, flood control, and other
P.L. 108-83 constitutes the third FY2003 supplemental; the others are P.L. 10811 and P.L. 108-69. The first, P.L. 108-11 (H.R. 1559), signed by the President on
April 18, 2003, appropriated $78.5 billion for the war in Iraq, homeland security
grants, and other purposes.
(See CRS Report RL31829, Supplemental
Appropriations FY2003: Iraq Conflict, Afghanistan, Global War on Terrorism, and
Homeland Security, by Amy Belasco and Larry Nowels, for more information on P.L.
108-11.) The second, P.L. 108-69 (H.R. 2859), signed on August 8, 2003,
appropriated $984 million for the disaster relief fund administered by DHS. This
report provides information on both P.L. 108-69 and P.L. 108-83. It will not be
Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Request Components and Congressional Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Issues of Debate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Disaster Relief Fund . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Wildfire Management . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
List of Tables
Table 1. FY2003 Supplemental for Disaster Response and Relief,
Administration Request and Congressional Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Table 2. Disaster Relief Fund, FY1974-FY2004 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Table 3. Wildfire Management Appropriations, FY1999-FY2004 . . . . . . . . . . 11
Disaster Relief and Response:
FY2003 Supplemental Appropriations
On September 30, 2003, President Bush signed into law the appropriations
measure for the legislative branch for FY2004 (P.L. 108-83, H.R. 2657). Title III of
the measure, called the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2003,
appropriates $938 million for the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Homeland
Security, and the Interior, in addition to the federal judiciary and the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration. The funds are intended to meet expenses
associated with the recovery of wreckage from the Space Shuttle Columbia, provide
reimbursement for wildfire costs, and assist communities stricken by natural
To a limited extent, emergency disaster relief needs for the current fiscal year
were previously addressed by Congress and President Bush. On August 8, 2003, the
President signed the Emergency Supplemental Appropriation for Disaster Relief Act
of 2003 (P.L. 108-69, H.R. 2859), approved by the House and Senate in the closing
days of July 2003. P.L. 108-69 provides $983.6 million for the Disaster Relief Fund
(DRF) administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The DRF is
the source of funding for grants and loans to communities devastated by natural
disasters, explosions or fires, or emergencies that, in the President’s determination,
require federal resources.
Legislative action began after President Bush submitted a second FY2003
supplemental request to Congress on July 7, 2003 for $1.9 billion.1 On July 9 the
Senate Appropriations Committee reported its version of the legislative branch
appropriations measure for FY2004 (S. 1383) with the FY2003 supplemental funding
provisions incorporated in Title III. The Senate passed the measure on July 11 and
inserted the text of S. 1383 into the House-passed version of the legislative branch
appropriations measure, H.R. 2657. In addition to the funds requested by the
President, Senators added $100 million for the Corporation for National and
Community Service for operating expenses for AmeriCorps grants and for
educational awards funded from the National Service Trust, $25 million more for
wildfire response and prevention, and $10 million for flood prevention for the Corps
of Engineers. The Senate-approved bill totaled $2.044 billion, 8.2% more than
The text of the Administration’s request is available at [http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/
budget/amendments/supplemental_7_7_03.pdf], visited Sept. 22, 2003. The first FY2003
supplemental request, submitted on March 25, 2003, for the war in Iraq, homeland security
grants, and other needs, resulted in enactment of P.L. 108-11, the Emergency Wartime
Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2003.
requested. The House subsequently considered separate legislation on the President’s
July 7 request.2
In light of warnings that the DRF would be depleted in mid-August when
Congress would be on recess, Members expedited action and initiated a second
legislative track.3 H.R. 2859, introduced in the House on July 24 and passed by that
chamber the next day, consisted solely of a $983.6 million supplemental
appropriation for the DRF. The only amendment that could be considered on the
floor of the House pursuant to the rule (H.Res. 339) would have required a rescission
from discretionary accounts to compensate for the supplemental; the House rejected
that amendment. The Senate approved the House-passed version of H.R. 2859
without amendment on July 31, and the President signed the measure into law (P.L.
108-69) on August 8.
While enactment of P.L. 108-69 resolved the immediate problem regarding the
DRF, other urgent funding needs remained. These needs were addressed through
enactment of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2003, Title III of P.L.
Request Components and Congressional Action. The July 7, 2003
request by President Bush sought additional funding for three departments and one
independent agency as follows:
$1.55 billion for the Department of Homeland Security;
$253 million for the Department of Agriculture;
$36 million for the Department of the Interior; and
$50 million for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The $1.55 billion request for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS),
which represented 82% of the total request, was sought for the DRF. Grants from the
DRF aid state and local governments, certain nonprofit organizations, and individuals
and families victimized by catastrophes that overwhelm state and local resources.
DRF allocations are used to provide temporary housing to families, urgent personal
needs of disaster victims such as funeral expenses, medical payments, and clothing,
and the reconstruction of public and certain nonprofit facilities. Aid provided from
the DRF cannot duplicate that which is available from insurance policies, charities,
or other government accounts.
The combined budget authority requested for the Departments of Agriculture
and the Interior — $289 million (15% of the total request) — was for federal wildfire
suppression activities and the rehabilitation of burned areas, especially in the western
states. The requested $50 million (3% of the total) for the National Aeronautics and
The House Appropriations Committee reported a measure on July 21 to fund the
President’s July 7 request, with an additional $136 million added for wildfire costs, the
federal judiciary, flood control projects, and needs in Michigan and the Midway Atoll. See:
Rep. Harold Rogers, “Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act,
2003,” Congressional Record, vol. 149, July 24, 2003, p. H7648.
Space Administration (NASA) was for additional and unanticipated costs associated
with the recovery, investigation, and analysis of the Space Shuttle Columbia accident.
Table 1 provides summary information on the request and subsequent action by
Congress. The supplemental funding provided for the DRF in P.L. 108-69 is noted
separately from that included in P.L. 108-83. The sum of the two amounts yields a
total appropriation for the DRF of $1.4 billion, slightly less than $1.550 billion
requested by the President on July 7, 2003. The two FY2003 supplemental measures
(P.L. 108-69 and P.L. 108-83) taken together equal $1.992 million, an amount 1.7%
higher than the $1.889 million requested by the President.
Table 1. FY2003 Supplemental for Disaster Response and Relief,
Administration Request and Congressional Action
($ in millions)
burned areas, pest
Dept. of Defense,
Army Corps of
Dept. of the
Source: Administration request: U.S. Office of Management and Budget, “Estimate #12, FY2003
Emergency Supplemental: Departments of Agriculture, Homeland Security, Interior, and National
Aeronautics and Space Administration — 7/7/03,” available on the OMB website at
[http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/amendments/supplemental_7_7_03.pdf], visited July 9,
2003. Congressional action: House unnumbered measure available from the author, H.R. 2657
(H.Rept. 108-279), P.L. 108-69.
A. Reflects provisions of unnumbered bill reported by the House Appropriations Committee on July
B. Reflects provisions of Title III of S. 1383 inserted into H.R. 2657, as passed by the Senate on July
C. The Senate-passed version of H.R. 2657 and the conference report added authority for the
Secretary of Agriculture to use $20 million from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) to
suppress and control a cricket infestation in Nevada, Utah, and Idaho. Also, the House-reported
measure and the conference report directed the Secretary to use $9.7 million in CCC funds to
compensate Michigan tree orchardists. P.L. 108-83 includes these provisions.
Issues of Debate
Historically, little debate has occurred on federal disaster assistance funding
measures. Questions may be asked, however, on the types of activities to be funded
through this request, the addition of funding measures by Members of Congress for
activities not requested by the Administration, and the appropriations history of the
accounts included in the supplemental measure. For example, in addition to meeting
the Administration’s request for funding in these three areas, the Senate voted to add
$100 million to the Corporation for National and Community Service for
AmeriCorps grants, in addition to funds for other emergency activities. An
amendment to provide similar funding was rejected by the House Appropriations
Committee on July 21, 2003.4 The remainder of this report provides background
information on the activities funded under the President’s request of July 7, 2003,
and enacted into law through P.L. 108-69 and P.L. 108-83.
For background on the AmeriCorps grants, see CRS Report RS20420, AmeriCorps and
Other Service Programs: Description and Funding Levels, by Ann Lordeman.
Disaster Relief Fund
The Department of Homeland Security uses funds appropriated to the disaster
relief fund (DRF) to provide assistance authorized by the Stafford Act.5 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.6 Federal
assistance supported by DRF money is used by states, localities, and certain nonprofit organizations to restore damaged or destroyed facilities, clear debris, and aid
individuals and families with uninsured needs, among other activities.
Few disagree about the disaster relief needs facing the nation at present. In
calendar year 2002, President Bush issued 49 major disaster declarations; thus far in
calendar year 2003, 49 such declarations have been issued, including eight for severe
weather associated with Hurricane Isabel.7
Five types of declarations may be issued by the President or the Secretary of
DHS, summarized as follows:8
Major disaster. The President can declare a major disaster upon the
request of the governor of the affected state.9 A declaration
authorizes DHS 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. DRF expenditures for an emergency are limited
to $5 million per declaration, unless Congress is notified otherwise.
The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. 5121
For more information on the Stafford Act and the DRF see CRS Report RL31791,
Emergency Management Funding for the Department of Homeland Security: Information
and Issues for FY2004, by Keith Bea, Rob Buschmann, Ben Canada, Wayne Morrissey, C.
Stephen Redhead, and Shawn Reese.
For a list of major disaster declarations, see U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency,
“Federally Declared Disasters by Calendar Year,” at [http://www.fema.gov/library/
drcys.shtm], visited Oct. 1, 2003.
Summaries adapted from testimony by FEMA in 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.
Fire suppression. The Secretary of DHS 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
Secretary of DHS may place agency employees on alert. DHS
monitors the status of the situation, communicates with state
emergency officials on potential assistance requirements, and
deploys teams and resources to maximize the speed and
effectiveness of the anticipated federal response and, when
necessary, performs preparedness and preliminary damage
The Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296) transferred the authorities
and functions previously carried out by the Federal Emergency Management Agency
(FEMA) to DHS and charged the Secretary of Homeland Security with responsibility
for administering these activities. Some of that authority apparently has been
delegated to the Under Secretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response within
A major disaster declaration, which may be issued only by the President, 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.10 By
comparison, an emergency declaration authorizes less assistance.11 The costs of
major disasters exceed those associated with the other four declarations.
Table 2 of this report lists appropriations made to the DRF since 1974, the first
year in which the current span of federal assistance was provided by the federal
government. Prior to FY1989, supplemental appropriations made to the DRF were
approved infrequently and generally exceeded the amount originally appropriated in
For statutory provisions that authorize the assistance to be provided under the Stafford Act
see Title IV of the Act at [http://www.fema.gov/library/stafact.shtm], visited July 11, 2003.
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 U.S.C. 5191-5193.
each fiscal year by roughly $100 to $200 million.12 By comparison, since FY1989,
appropriations have exceeded $1 billion in each fiscal year and supplemental
appropriations have been approved in all but FY1991 and FY2000. Note that this
table also includes the FY2004 appropriation for the DRF included in the measure
approved by Congress and currently awaiting the President’s signature (H.R. 2555).
The last two columns of Table 2 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, due to significant
hurricanes (Hugo in FY1989, Andrew in FY1992, Floyd in FY1999), earthquakes
(Loma Prieta in FY1990, Northridge in FY1994), floods (Midwest floods of 1993,
Red River floods of 1995), and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. During
FY2002, FEMA distributed almost $4 billion in disaster relief to 32 states (and
territories) in response to 42 major disaster declarations.13 Since 1989, roughly $37
billion in constant dollars has been provided for disaster relief, more than threequarters of the $47 billion provided since 1974.
An exception occurred in FY1980 after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Emergency Preparedness and Response
Justification of Estimates Fiscal Year 2004, (Washington: 2003), p. S-1.
Table 2. Disaster Relief Fund, FY1974-FY2004
(millions of dollars, 2002 constant dollars)
Sources: U.S. President annual budget documents; appropriations legislation; U.S. Federal
Emergency Management Agency budget justifications. Constant dollar calculations: U.S. Dept. of
Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, State and local government chain-type price index, Table
7.11, found at [http://www.bea.doc.gov/bea/dn/nipaweb/SelectTable.asp?Selected=N#S7], visited Feb.
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. 100-71).
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 agriculture
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 continuing resolution.”
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. 102-368 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 aftermath of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in
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
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.
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.
Supplemental appropriations legislation (P.L. 106-246) authorized that $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
from the Emergency Response Fund (ERF). Of the total appropriated in P.L. 107-38 after the
September 11 attacks, $4.4 billion were allocated for FY2001 through P.L. 107-117 (115 Stat. 2338).
Congress appropriated $2.651 billion for FY2002 in P.L. 107-206 to meet additional needs
associated with the terrorist attacks. Funds for FY2002 also include $4.4 billion provided from the
ERF, largely for recovery costs in New York City.
Includes $442 million in P.L. 108-69 and $938 million in P.L. 108-83, to meet needs associated with
tornadoes, winter storms, the recovery of the Space Shuttle Columbia, and other disasters. Funds
appropriated in these measures and in the FY2004 appropriations act for DHS (H.R. 2555) will likely
be used for costs associated with Hurricane Isabel.
Outlay data based on current estimates.
The 2000 and 2002 fire seasons were, by most standards, among the worst in
the past 50 years. Many argue that the threat of severe wildfires has grown because
many forests have unnaturally high fuel loads (e.g., dead trees and dense
undergrowth) and an historically unnatural mix of plant species (e.g., selectively
logged or containing exotic invaders). Fuel treatments have been proposed to reduce
the threats from wildfires, including prescribed burning, commercial logging, and
other treatments (e.g., pre-commercial thinning). Proponents of fuel reduction argue
that needed treatments often are delayed by environmental studies, administrative
appeals, and litigation. However, many project opponents fear that simplifying fuel
reduction projects could enable timber companies to increase logging on federal
lands and that such projects might not receive proper environmental review.14
For more information see CRS Issue Brief IB10076, Public (BLM) Lands and National
Forests, Ross W. Gorte and Carol Hardy Vincent, coordinators and CRS Report RS21544,
Wildfire Protection Funding, by Ross W. Gorte.
In response to the succession of wildfires, Congress has appropriated more
funds for wildfire management in each successive fiscal year since FY1999, as
shown below in Table 3.
Table 3. Wildfire Management Appropriations, FY1999-FY2004
($ in millions)
Bureau of Land Mgt.
Source: CRS Report RS21544, Wildfire Protection Funding by Ross W. Gorte.
Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster
On February 1, 2003, NASA’s Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart while
returning to Earth from a 16-day science mission in orbit. All seven astronauts — six
Americans and one Israeli — were killed. An investigation began immediately after
the disaster occurred and continues. Many hearings have been held on the Columbia
disaster and the future of NASA, and Congress will likely take further action to
address the issue. The Consolidated Appropriations Resolution for FY2003 (P.L.
108-7) included $50 million for the recovery and investigation of the disaster. The
President’s request and H.R. 2657 includes an additional $50 million for those
For more information see CRS Report RS21408, NASA’s Space Shuttle Columbia: Quick
Facts and Issues for Congress, by Marcia S. Smith. CRS Report RL31821, The National
Aeronautics and Space Administration’s FY2004 Budget Request: Description, Analysis,
and Issues for Congress, by Marcia S. Smith, Daniel Morgan, and Wendy Schacht.