Harvey Response Depends on Congressional Action

08.31.17 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Aside from immediate needs for food, shelter, and medical care incurred by Hurricane Harvey, there are important disaster response and recovery tasks that will require prompt attention from Congress, according to an overview from the Congressional Research Service.

These tasks include appropriation of supplemental funds and extension of needed authorities.

“Special attention will be paid to the remaining balance of the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) that pays for most of the immediate response activities supported by the federal government,” CRS said. “Before Hurricane Harvey made landfall the DRF had roughly $3.5 billion in total unobligated resources available. The total projected end-of-fiscal-year balance, as of July 31 (prior to Hurricane Harvey), was $1.45 billion.”

The uneven availability of flood insurance must also be addressed.

“Flood insurance claims made through the NFIP [National Flood Insurance Program] will be an important source of financial assistance to policyholders in the region. However, past data on participation (i.e., penetration) rates suggests that many properties in the special flood hazard area (SFHA) affected by Hurricane Harvey may not have flood insurance.”

In any case, “Key provisions of the NFIP are also set to expire on September 30, 2017…. Expiration of these authorities could have a deleterious effect on the NFIP’s ability to meet needs following Hurricane Harvey,” CRS said. See Congressional Considerations Related to Hurricane Harvey, CRS Insight, August 29, 2017.

Other new or newly-relevant publications from the Congressional Research Service on disaster response include the following.

Hurricane Harvey and Army Corps: Background for Flood Response and Recovery, CRS Insight, August 29, 2017

Oil and Chemical Spills: Federal Emergency Response Framework, August 29, 2017

Introduction to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), July 25, 2017

Federal Disaster Assistance Response and Recovery Programs: Brief Summaries, July 18, 2017

Private Flood Insurance in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), CRS Insight, June 2, 2017

Federal Disaster Assistance: The National Flood Insurance Program and Other Federal Disaster Assistance Programs Available to Individuals and Households After a Flood, April 6, 2017

Major Disaster Assistance from the Disaster Relief Fund: State Profiles, March 29, 2017

Dam Safety: Federal Programs and Authorities, CRS In Focus, February 23, 2017

FEMA Disaster Housing: The Individuals and Households Program–Implementation and Potential Issues for Congress, September 2, 2016

Congressional Primer on Responding to Major Disasters and Emergencies, May 19, 2015

Deployable Federal Assets Supporting Domestic Disaster Response Operations: Summary and Considerations for Congress, May 13, 2015

FEMA’s Disaster Declaration Process: A Primer, November 12, 2014

FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund: Overview and Selected Issues, May 7, 2014

FEMA Disaster Cost-Shares: Evolution and Analysis, April 4, 2013

FY2013 Supplemental Funding for Disaster Relief, February 19, 2013

Federal Involvement in Flood Response and Flood Infrastructure Repair: Storm Sandy Recovery, October 31, 2012