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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 of 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 more than 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 the status of FEMA’s implementation as there are updates.

  • Wildfire Prevention (Section 1204): Authorizes FEMA to provide hazard mitigation grant funding in areas that received 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 structures with poles 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.
  • 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.
  • Duplication of Benefits (Section 1210a): Authorizes the President to waive certain duplication of benefits if in the public interest and not resulting 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 States 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.  
  • 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 establishes the following rates for the Public Assistance program:
  • 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 establishes the following rates for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program:
  • Debt Waiver and Recoupment Statute of Limitations  (Section 1216 a and b): Authorizes FEMA to wave 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 statutes of limitations on the recoupment of grants under the Individuals and Households Program.  
  • 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 grant programs.
  • Stafford Act to Title 5 Appointment Authority (Section 1222): This section amends the Stafford Act to authorize FEMA’s own 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Provide 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. This section directs FEMA to provide a legislative proposal to provide assistance to common areas of condos and cooperatives.
  • Legislative Proposal for Condos and Co-Ops (Section 1230b): Requires FEMA to provide technical assistance "to a common interest community that provides essential services of a government nature" on how they will be eligible for Public Assistance in certain circumstances. This section directs FEMA to provide a legislative proposal to provide assistance to 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) (Section 1232): Directs the FEMA Administrator to give greater consideration to local impacts as the Agency provides its recommendation to the President on whether an area should be declared as a federal disaster.
  • 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).
    • UPDATED STATUS: FEMA has created a topic forum on IdeaScale about the development and implementation of the BRIC program. FEMA is seeking opinions and welcomes public comments on this new program to help build a more resilient nation. umber of topics related to BRIC. The topics related to BRIC include for comment include:  Infrastructure Mitigation Projects and Community Lifelines;  Hazard Mitigation Planning, Grant Application and Evaluation, and Risk Based Funding; Funding & Resource Management and Benefit-Cost Analysis; and Building Codes and Enforcement and Capacity and Capability.  Comments can be provided either on IdeaScale at https://fema.ideascale.com/a/campaign-home/61112 or by email at buildbric@fema.dhs.gov.
    • UPDATED STATUS: During the month of June 2019, FEMA is hosting four webinars to provide a brief overview of the different topic areas that are important for the development and implementation of the BRIC program. In each 2-hour session, FEMA welcomes an open conversation with stakeholders through the chat platform. For information and a description about each session as well as the date and times, visit FEMA.gov/DRRA-BRIC.
  • 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 (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 when the Department of Homeland Security OIG finds that the local government relied on inaccurate information provided by a FEMA Technical Assistance Contractor.
  • Federal Assistance to Individuals and Households and Nonprofit Facilities (Section 1238): Authorizes the waiver of fees for replacing certain critical federal documents lost or destroyed during a major disaster. This section adds center-based childcare to the list 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 a progress update 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. 
  • 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.
  • Review of Assistance for Damaged Underground Water Infrastructure (Section 1245): Directs FEMA to provide a report to Congress on an Agency review of the 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.
Last Updated: 
05/21/2019 - 08:53