Lankford Wants to Simplify Application Process for Federal Disaster Recovery Assistance

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) joined Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) to introduce a bill that would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish a universal application across federal agencies for disaster survivors who are seeking federal assistance to recover from hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and more. Currently, individuals that require federal aid to recover from a disaster must fill out separate and detailed applications depending on what agency they need help from—a process that can take weeks or even months. This bill would streamline this process to reduce the burden on disaster survivors.

“Oklahomans are familiar with disasters and the hoops people have to jump through to get federal disaster assistance,” said Lankford. “I’ve consistently heard from disaster victims about how difficult and disjointed the grant application process was in an already burdensome situation. Our bill creates one application on to use across federal agencies to ensure disaster victims can easily apply for assistance while they continue to clean up. This is a government customer service issue we can solve to make it easier for Americans to access the help they need. ”

“Michiganders and people across the nation who are trying to piece their lives and livelihoods back together after disasters and emergencies should not have to go through overwhelming, duplicative application processes when asking for help from the federal government,” said Peters. “By requiring a universal application for federal disaster recovery assistance, this bipartisan bill will reduce the burden on families and individuals to who are seeking federal assistance to rebuild and recover from disasters.

“In Oklahoma, we know disasters are going to occur. The more synchronization that can be established to help our residents engage with multiple federal entities after a disaster, the higher the chance for a successful recovery with less confusion during an already stressful situation,” said Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Director Mark Gower. “Creating a single application portal and updating data sharing standards will create a ‘no wrong door policy’ benefiting disaster victims and delivering much needed aid to communities.”

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

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