SBP’s mission is to shrink the time between disaster and recovery. The organization advocates for innovation and systems change within NGOs and local, state and Federal government agencies that will result in measurable improvements to the recovery industry. Specifically, SBP is pushing for industry-wide changes in how success is measured. We believe that after disasters, specific time-measurable objectives should be set, and that success should be tied to achieving those goals.
SBP Policy Recommendations
SBP believes that a prompt, predictable and efficient path to recovery will greatly reduce unnecessary human suffering. In order to provide this predictable path, the U.S. must adapt, innovate and reform its current long-term disaster recovery strategy. Though this requires a much larger, more nuanced policy conversation, SBP recommends three straightforward suggestions which, if implemented, would greatly help shrink the time between disaster and recovery.
Expedite and Optimize the FEMA Application and Approval Process
Problem: Registering for federal aid following a disaster is often a confusing, unclear and time-consuming process. The uncertainty surrounding the application and compensation process, coupled with the challenges that disaster-impacted citizens have in procuring the necessary documentation, reduces the pool of applicants who apply and follow through. Compounding the issue is FEMA’s lack of transparency with regards calculation of awards, which further increases the attrition rate and deters individuals from appealing. In a process, described by FEMA as geared towards “an ongoing discussion,” this further reduces the pool of applicants who might otherwise be qualified for assistance.
Solution 1: Enable taxpayers to pre-register for FEMA and Small Business Administration Disaster Loans through a volitional “opt-in” box on their annual IRS tax filings. The majority of the information required to apply for FEMA and SBA aid following disaster is contained in annual taxpayer filings with the IRS. By enabling taxpayers to opt-in and pre-register with FEMA and the SBA through their tax filings, citizens can be spared the aggravation and delay in applying for federal disaster aid.
Solution 2: Provide transparency for FEMA award calculation decisions to allow homeowners a clear, predictable path during the appeal process.
Deploy Recovery Funding to Disaster Areas in a More Rapid Manner
Problem: Typically, it takes at least a year (and, often, quite a bit longer) for HUD Community Development Block Grant funding to reach disaster-impacted citizens. Waiting a year or more results in homeowner distress, community degradation, and increased costs to the federal government due to the amplified costs of mold and secondary damage.
Solution: Enable private capital investment early in the recovery process by allowing for a reimbursement mechanism in CDBG action plans. The initial private investments would then be reimbursed by HUD when funds became available, so long as contractor(s) complied with all ERR and HUD guidelines.
Deploy HUD CDBG Funding in a More Efficient Manner
Problem: The HUD-mandated environmental review process is the same for new, large-scale, commercial construction as it is for rehabbing single-family homes damaged by natural disaster (e.g., a home with 2 feet of flooding, with drywall gutted to 4 feet). This review delays the rebuilding process and can consume up to 20% of funds allocated to the recovery process.
Solution: Streamline/right size HUD Environmental Review requirements for the for repair of pre-existing, single-family dwellings that are being rebuilt on exactly the same footprint, and with no changes to the foundation system.