Main Content

Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018

On Oct. 5, 2018, President Trump signed the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 into law as part of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018. These reforms acknowledge the shared responsibility for disaster response and recovery, aim to reduce the complexity of FEMA, and build the nation’s capacity for the next catastrophic event.
The law contains approximately 50 provisions that require FEMA policy or regulation changes for full implementation, as they amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. This page provides an overview of each provision and status updates on FEMA’s implementation.

  • Wildfire Prevention (Section 1204): Authorizes FEMA to provide hazard mitigation grant funding in areas that receive Fire Management Assistance Grants as a result of wildfire. 
  • Expands Eligible Wildfire Activities (Section 1205): Authorizes FEMA to provide assistance under its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and Pre-Disaster Mitigation program for activities related to wildfire and windstorm disaster mitigation. These activities range from reseeding damaged groundcover with native species, to installing utility poles that are resilient to extreme winds.
  • Code Implementation and Enforcement (Section 1206): Authorizes FEMA to provide assistance to state and local governments for building code and floodplain management ordinance administration and enforcement.
  • Public Assistance Program Improvements (Section 1207): Amends the Stafford Act in the following ways:
    • (a) Removes the reduction of assistance for alternate projects.
    • (b) Limits a flood insurance deduction to one building within a multi-structure campus for disasters declared between Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2018. 
    • (c) Prohibits required participation in the Public Assistance Alternative Procedures Pilot program.
    • (d) Creates a presumption within the Public Assistance Alternative Procedures for Permanent Work that a cost estimate certified by an engineer and accepted by the Administrator is reasonable and eligible without evidence of fraud.
    • IMPLEMENTATION UPDATE
  • Prioritization of Facilities (Section 1208): This section requires the development of guidance and annual training for state, local, tribal and territorial governments, first responders and utility companies. The guidance will highlight the prioritization of power restoration for hospitals and nursing homes and the need to coordinate response plans before power outages occur.
  • Guidance on Evacuation Routes (Section 1209): Requires FEMA, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, to produce guidance for state, local, tribal and territorial governments to identify evacuation routes.
    • IMPLEMENTATION UPDATE
  • Duplication of Benefits (Section 1210a): Authorizes the President to waive certain duplication of benefits if waiver is in the public interest and will not result in waste, fraud, or abuse.
  • Federally Authorized Water Resources Development Project (1210b): This section authorizes FEMA to provide assistance to States under its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for water resource development projects that also fall within the authority of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
  • State Administered Housing (Section 1211): Amends the Stafford Act in the following ways:
    • (a) Authorizes FEMA to provide grants to state or tribal governments to directly administer temporary and permanent housing construction.
    • (b) Allows state or local governments who implement cost-effective housing solutions be reimbursed, under certain conditions.
  • Expanded Individuals and Households Assistance (Section 1212): Provides for separate maximum grant amounts for Other Needs Assistance and Housing Assistance under the Individual Assistance program. It also excludes rental assistance and accessibility-related personal property costs from those maximum grant amounts.
    • IMPLEMENTATION UPDATE
      • Retroactive payments began in March 2019.
      • Automatically applied to new disasters as of April 2019.
  • Multifamily Lease and Repair (Section 1213): Authorizes FEMA, within its Multifamily Lease and Repair Program, to allow repairs on properties within this program to be above the value of the lease agreement. It also includes properties in areas impacted by the disaster, as well as properties in areas within a major disaster declaration.
  • Private Nonprofit Food Banks (Section 1214): Adds food banks to the definition of eligible Private Non-Profit facilities.
  • Management Costs - Public Assistance (Section 1215): Expands the definition of management costs to include both direct and indirect administrative expenses by the state, local, tribal or territorial government. It also requires FEMA to reimburse Public Assistance management costs up to 12 percent of the total award amount (up to 7 percent for the recipient and 5 percent for the subrecipient).
  • Management Costs - Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (Section 1215): Expands the definition of management costs to include both direct and indirect administrative expenses by the state, local, tribal or territorial government.  It also requires FEMA to reimburse HMGP management costs up to 15 percent of the total award amount (up to 10 percent for the recipient and 5 percent for the subrecipient).
  • Debt Waiver and Recoupment (Section 1216 a and b): Authorizes FEMA to waive Individual Assistance debts when the debt was the result of FEMA error and not the fault of the debtor, and the Administrator determines that collection of the debt would be against equity and good conscience. It establishes a three-year statute of limitations on the recoupment of assistance under the Individuals and Households Program.  
    • IMPLEMENTATION UPDATE
      • FEMA Instruction updated May 14, 2019.
      • Information on how to apply for a waiver added to debt letters.
  • Statute of Limitations (Section 1216 c): Changes the beginning of the statute of limitations for recoupment of Public Assistance from state or local governments to run from the closeout of individual projects.
  • National Veterinary Emergency Teams (Section 1218): This section authorizes FEMA to establish one or more national veterinary emergency teams at accredited colleges of veterinary medicine.
  • Public Assistance Right of Arbitration (Section 1219): Provides for arbitration of disputes, in lieu of a second appeal, under the Public Assistance program.
  • Unified Federal Environmental and Historic Preservation Review (Section 1220): This section requires FEMA to study the inter-agency expedited environmental and historical review process and provide a report to Congress.
  • Closeout Incentives (Section 1221): The section authorizes FEMA to develop “incentives and penalties” to state, local, tribal and territorial governments to ensure their timely closeout of disaster grants.
  • Stafford Act to Title 5 Appointment Authority (Section 1222): This section amends the Stafford Act to authorize FEMA’s Cadre of Response and Recovery Employees an opportunity, under certain conditions, to apply for open positions at FEMA in the same manner as competitive service employees.
    • IMPLEMENTATION UPDATE
      • As of July 30, 2019, new FEMA PFT job announcements on USAJOBS include Special Authority language.  
  • Study to Streamline and Consolidate Information Collection (Section 1223): This section requires an inter-agency study to streamline information collection from disaster assistance applicants and grantees, and the establishment of a public website to present the data.
  • Agency Accountability (Section 1224):  Requires the online publication of a variety of disaster data. This section also requires the collection of FEMA contract information to be made available to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and congressional oversight committees upon request.
    • IMPLEMENTATION UPDATE
      • Data on Public Assistance Grants and FEMA Mission Assignments is available on OpenFEMA.
  • Audit of Contracts (Section 1225): Prohibits FEMA from providing reimbursement to any state, local, tribal or territorial government, or private non-profit for activities made pursuant to a contract that purports to prohibit audits or internal reviews by the FEMA Administrator or the Comptroller General. 
  • Inspector General Audit of FEMA Contracts for Tarps and Plastic Sheeting (Section 1226): Requires the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) to provide an audit report on the FEMA contracts to purchase tarps and plastic sheeting for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Maria.
  • Expanding Relief Organizations (Section 1227): Adds long-term recovery groups and domestic hunger relief to organizations that FEMA coordinates with.
    • IMPLEMENTATION UPDATE
      • Memoranda of Agreement with Send Relief organization executed on June 12, 2019.
  • Guidance on Inundated and Submerged Roads (Section 1228): Requires FEMA, in coordination with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, to issue guidance regarding the eligibility of inundated and submerged roads under the Public Assistance Grant program.
  • Extension of Assistance for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (Section 1229): Extends Disaster Unemployment Assistance from 26 to 52 weeks for Hurricane Irma and Maria survivors in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
    • IMPLEMENTATION UPDATE
      • Retroactive payments began in early 2019.
  • Technical Assistance to Common Interest Communities (Section 1230a): Requires FEMA to provide technical assistance “to a common interest community that provides essential services of a governmental nature” on how they may be eligible for Public Assistance in certain circumstances.
    • IMPLEMENTATION UPDATE
      • Technical assistance is currently available under the Public Assistance program.
  • Legislative Proposal for Condos and Co-Ops (Section 1230b): This section directs FEMA to provide a legislative proposal on eligibility for assistance for common areas of condos and cooperatives.
  • Guidance on Hazard Mitigation - Acquisition (Section 1231): Requires FEMA to issue guidance to state, local, tribal and territorial governments on how to manage properties acquired for open space using the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.
  • Disaster Relief Hazards (Local Impact and Multiple Recent Disasters) (Section 1232): Directs the FEMA Administrator to give greater consideration to local impacts when the Agency provides its recommendation to the President on whether to issue a Major Disaster Declaration for Public Assistance.
    • IMPLEMENTATION UPDATE
      • Regional declaration template and state request letter template updated in May 2019.
  • Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for Earthquakes (Section 1233): Authorizes FEMA to provide assistance under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and Pre-Disaster Mitigation program for activities that help reduce the risk of future damage in areas affected by earthquake hazards.
  • National Public Infrastructure Pre-Disaster Hazard Mitigation (Section 1234): Authorizes the National Public Infrastructure Pre-Disaster Mitigation fund, which will be funded through the Disaster Relief Fund as a six percent set aside from estimated disaster grant expenditures. This allows for a greater investment in mitigation before a disaster. This new program is named Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC).
    • IMPLEMENTATION UPDATE
      • FEMA has solicited input through webinars, regional/state workshops, national conferences and the Ideascale crowdsourcing platform. As of July 17, 2019, FEMA has received over 5000 comments across all channels of outreach. 
  • Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for Resilience (Section 1235a): Ensures Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding increases resilience to future damage, hardship, loss or suffering.
  • Public Assistance 406 Codes and Standards (Section 1235b): Authorizes FEMA to provide Public Assistance funding to replace and restore disaster damaged facilities to the latest published editions of relevant consensus-based codes and standards to ensure that facilities are restored in a manner that allows them to be resilient.
  • Guidance and Training by FEMA on Coordination of Emergency Response Plans for HAZMAT (Section 1236): Directs FEMA to provide guidance and annual training for state, local, tribal and territorial governments, first responders, and facilities that store hazardous materials, on the coordination of emergency response plans in the event of a major disaster, to include severe weather events.
  • Certain Recoupment Prohibited (Section 1237): Prohibits FEMA from recovering funds from a local government that received Public Assistance if the Department of Homeland Security OIG finds that the local government relied on inaccurate information provided by a FEMA Technical Assistance Contractor.
    • IMPLEMENTATION UPDATE
      • FEMA issued a memo to Region VI on February 15, 2019 and relevant project worksheets have been reinstated.
  • Critical Document Fee Waiver (Section 1238a): Authorizes the waiver of fees for replacing certain critical federal documents lost or destroyed during a major disaster.
    • IMPLEMENTATION UPDATE
      • Presidential Delegation of this authority to the Secretary of State and the Secretary for Homeland Security issued on December 21, 2018.
  • Federal Assistance to Private Nonprofit Childcare Facilities (Section 1238b): Adds center-based childcare to the definition of eligible Private Non-Profit facilities.
  • Cost of Assistance Estimates (Section 1239): Directs FEMA to reconsider all factors used to evaluate a request for a Major Disaster Declaration for Public Assistance, specifically the estimated cost of assistance (i.e. the per capita indicator).
  • Report on Insurance Shortfalls (Section 1240): Requires FEMA to provide a regular report to Congress on the times and estimated amounts in which self-insurance amounts were insufficient to address flood damages.
  • Post-Disaster Building Safety Assessment (Section 1241): Directs FEMA to develop guidance for building experts to use when they assess structures after a disaster.
  • FEMA Updates on National Preparedness Assessment (Section 1242): Requires FEMA to provide Congress with regular progress updates on a National Preparedness Assessment recommended by the Government Accountability Office in 2012. The assessment is meant to review security risks and capabilities to prioritize grant dollars to needed localities.
    • IMPLEMENTATION UPDATE
      • Progress updates to Congress began on May 16, 2019.
  • Report on Duplication in Non-Natural Disaster Preparedness Grant Programs (Section 1243): Requires FEMA to provide Congress with a progress update on identifying ways to reduce funding duplications within non-natural disaster preparedness grants, as recommended by the Government Accountability Office in 2012.
  • Study and Report on Disaster Mortality (Section 1244): Requires FEMA to contract the National Academy of Medicine to study best practices in quantifying mortality among populations after a major disaster.
    • IMPLEMENTATION UPDATE
      • FEMA contracted with the National Academy of Medicine in December 2018 to conduct the required study.
  • Review of Assistance for Damaged Underground Water Infrastructure (Section 1245): Directs FEMA to review and report to Congress on the assessment and eligibility process of the Public Assistance grant program for disaster-damaged underground water infrastructure.
  • Extension of Jeopardy Biological Opinion (Section 1246): Directs FEMA to extend the implementation deadline, by up to three years, of the alternative outlined in the jeopardy biological opinion issued in Oregon in April 2016.
    • IMPLEMENTATION UPDATE
      • FEMA extended the implementation deadline by three years on February 6, 2019.
Last Updated: 
08/19/2019 - 14:01