Last week, Reps. Scott Peters (CA-52) and Mark Meadows (NC-11) introduced H.R. 1984, the bipartisan Disclosing Aid Spent to Ensure Relief (DISASTER) Act, which increases transparency and accountability of federal expenses on disaster relief.
The federal government does not have a single estimate of how much money is spent on disaster-related assistance. The Budget Control Act (BCA) requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to set an annual cap for disaster relief spending by calculating an adjusted 10-year rolling average of disaster-related expenditures. This calculation includes spending by 29 individual accounts managed by 11 different agencies and departments. Very little of this information is made public or released in an accessible format. The bill would require OMB to use this data to produce a report that gives an estimate of disaster spending for the fiscal year and submit it to Congress.
“When disaster strikes our communities, the recovery can be slow—and costly. And the costs to the federal government are on the rise as disasters become more frequent and more devastating. We should know exactly how much recovery efforts cost, so our budget can correctly account for them, and we should make those numbers accessible to taxpayers. Disasters can strike any community and we all want to know how tax dollars are spent. That’s why it’s important for both parties to get behind this bill and I thank Rep. Meadows for his leadership and partnership to reform disaster spending disclosure,” said Rep. Peters.
“The DISASTER Act would mark a significant step forward in providing needed transparency to disaster relief expenditures. Our constituents deserve to have access to details on how we spend their money, and our bill would go a long way toward consolidating this research and information for them, like spending reports or calculation breakdowns. I want to particularly thank my colleague, Rep. Scott Peters, for his leadership on needed reforms to the Federal Disaster assistance process, and I look forward to continuing our bipartisan work on this important issue going forward,” said Rep. Meadows.
The bill has wide bipartisan support from members across the country, including Reps. Gil Cisneros (CA-39), Gerry Connolly (VA-11), John Garamendi (CA-03,) , Garret Graves (LA-06), Josh Harder (CA-10), Katie Hill (CA-25), Lucy McBath (GA-06), Ralph Norman (SC-05), Frank Pallone (NJ-06), Harley Rouda (CA-48), Paul Tonko (NY-20), and Randy Weber (TX-14).
Rep. Peters is also the lead Democrat on two disaster-spending related bills that Rep. Meadows introduced. Last week, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed both of those bills, the Federal Disaster Assistance Coordination Act and the Post-Disaster Assistance Online Accountability Act.