Bipartisan Lawmakers Seek Big FEMA Change

( – Republican Louisiana Representative Garret Graves and Democratic Florida Representative Jared Moskowitz are calling for the Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA) to be freed from layers of federal bureaucracy. The pair have raised bipartisan concerns that the agency has been bogged down by red tape as the country prepares for an intense hurricane season.

Florida and Louisiana have long borne the brunt of the storm season, and the two lawmakers are urgently calling for FEMA to be elevated to a Cabinet-level position. Graves and Moskowitz introduced the legislation in September 2023 and are pressing the House leadership to adopt it as soon as possible before the expected storms arrive.

In January, Deanne Criswell, the FEMA Administrator, announced the agency’s most comprehensive changes to its Individual Assistance Program in two decades. The updates followed a push by President Joe Biden’s administration to reduce delays in disaster recovery caused by limitations of federal assistance.

Planned updates to the program include setting up new benefits that will give survivors flexible funding when it is most needed, cutting down on red tape, expanding eligibility, and streamlining the application process to suit the individual needs of survivors. FEMA reported in May that climate change has resulted in the hurricane season starting earlier than usual.

Moskowitz commented that the forecast for the coming storm season was “not good” and stressed that now is the time to prepare communities. FEMA has been under the Department of Homeland Security’s jurisdiction ever since it was relegated to the newly created department following the September 11 attacks in 2011.

Though the two lawmakers have demonstrated a bipartisan effort to sufficiently prepare two of the hardest-hit states ahead of the storm season, the attachment of FEMA to the DHS highlights their disagreement along party lines. Graves took the opportunity when talking to reporters to slate the DHS for its handling of the southern border crisis, which prompted Republican lawmakers to impeach DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over the impact of unprecedented illegal border crossings on the American public.

Moskowitz was more pragmatic in his response, acknowledging that the DHS had become “a little more partisan” in the eyes of lawmakers in Congress. The Democrat stressed that the response to disasters should not be a partisan issue and that events like storms affect all Americans, regardless of their party affiliation.

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