We are focused on reducing barriers and increasing opportunities so all people, including those from vulnerable and underserved communities, can get help when they need it.
On January 20, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. released Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, requiring that agencies assess equity with respect to race, ethnicity, religion, income, geography, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability.
Under the leadership of Administrator Criswell, we have undertaken initiatives to expand access so more people are better able to access our response, recovery, and resilience programs.
“We’re turning a page at FEMA and infusing equity throughout our agency, programs, and policies to better serve people who face unique barriers before, during and after disasters.” – FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell
We are committed to delivering better services to marginalized and other vulnerable populations. These communities face systemic barriers and are disproportionately affected by climate change.
While there is a lot of work to do to implement long term systemic change, we have taken steps and have started several initiatives to address equity in FEMA programs. This includes:
- Encouraging active employee engagement to ensure internal discussions generate new ideas on workplace diversity, equity and inclusion.
- Expanding eligibility criteria for Critical Needs Assistance to include applicants who state they have a need for shelter but have not been able to leave their damaged dwelling.
- Expanding access by integrating a Documentation Drop Off Center model for Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) that enables survivors to submit documentation in-person, notifies survivors when a representative is available and provides estimated wait times.
- Streamlining and simplifying eligibility verification processes to assist applicants, through improved automated public records verification, allowing inspectors to verify home occupancy and ownership on site by viewing approved documents, and utilizing historical information in FEMA’s system of record to verify home occupancy and ownership for the same damaged dwelling address.
- Expanding documentation survivors can provide to verify home occupancy and ownership if ownership and occupancy cannot be verified utilizing any of the above verification methods.
- To confirm occupancy, FEMA will now accept additional documentation to include motor vehicle registrations, documentation including letters from local schools, federal or state benefit providers, social service organizations, or court documents. Survivors who live in mobile homes or travel trailers can also use a signed, written statement from a commercial or mobile home park owner or self-declarative statement of occupancy.
- To confirm ownership, FEMA will now accept additional documentation to include a public official’s letter or written statement, receipts for major repairs or improvements, court documents, or for those who live in a mobile home or travel trailer, a letter or signed written statement from a commercial or mobile home park owner to verify ownership. Survivors with heirship properties, mobile homes or travel trailers, who do not have documentation of ownership verification, may provide a self-declarative statement of ownership as a last resort.
- Prioritizing casework and evaluation for direct housing eligibility for vulnerable populations to include those with access and functional needs or those who have a primary language other than English.
- Expanding home repair assistance for people with disaster-caused disabilities by reimbursing real property accessibility-related items (I.e., grab bars, ramps and a paved pathway), when these items are necessary to make the home safe and functional.
- Providing expanded Housing Assistance and Other Needs Assistance funding to include:
- Clean and Sanitize Assistance, a limited amount of financial assistance through FEMA’s Other Needs Assistance, for renters and homeowners with disaster-caused real property damage that did not make the home uninhabitable to clean and sanitize the home. This is a new type of assistance that must be requested and approved by the state, tribe, or territory before it can be implemented within a disaster due to the cost share.
- Financial home repair assistance to clean or repair real property components impacted by disaster-caused mold growth.
Streamlining the Small Business Administration (SBA) requirement of the Other Needs Assistance (ONA) program by providing FEMA assistance for SBA-Dependent ONA for some low-income applicants that meet the SBA’s minimum oncome test prior to their loan evaluation with SBA.
Read more about FEMA's initial initiatives to advance equity.
Equity Enterprise Steering Group
- Creates a FEMA-wide definition of equity, and framework for implementing equity into agency programs, in line with FEMA core values: compassion, fairness, integrity, and respect;
- Reviews and recommends revision to FEMA-wide policies, procedures, plans, and guidance, in collaboration with FEMA Enterprise Governance Boards, as appropriate;
- Ensures integration of equity considerations to drive equitable outcomes.
FEMA’s 2022 – 2026 Strategic Plan
The 2022-2026 FEMA Strategic Plan, released in December 2021, outlines a bold vision and three ambitious goals designed to address key challenges the agency faces during a pivotal moment in the field of emergency management.
The goals are to instill equity as a foundation of emergency management, lead the whole of community in climate resilience, and promote and sustain a ready FEMA and prepared nation. These goals position FEMA to address the increasing range and complexity of disasters, support the diversity of communities we serve, and complement the nation’s growing expectations of the emergency management community.
The importance of equity in emergency management is not a new concept. We know that historically underserved communities experience differences in preparedness and mitigation measures as well as how quickly their communities can resume social and economic life after a disaster. FEMA will continue to integrate equity as a foundation of our culture through transformational change within our workforce, across our programs, and throughout the emergency management community. The agency will also direct resources and routinely evaluate our programs and policies to help reduce barriers to access and to achieve equitable outcomes that benefit all communities.
FEMA’s Equity Action Plan
FEMA is proud to release its first ever Equity Action Plan as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s federal equity initiative. The plan was developed by the Office of Equal Rights in collaboration with FEMA program offices in response to requirements in Executive Order 13985, “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through the Federal Government.”
Request for Information on FEMA’s Programs and Climate Change and Underserved Populations
On April 22, 2021, FEMA published a Request for Information (RFI) seeking public comment on how the agency’s programs manage climate change and underserved communities and populations. The public comment period closed on July 21, 2021.
The results of this RFI helped inform the 2022-2026 FEMA Strategic Plan and further informed FEMA’s approach to climate change and resiliency regarding support through its programs to communities and underserved populations.
Download the RFI Summary Report
Download the RFI Action Report