Would an Influenza Pandemic Qualify as a Major Disaster Under the Stafford Act? [December 15, 2009] [open pdf - 166KB]
"This report provides a legal analysis of the eligibility of an influenza pandemic (flu pandemic) to be declared by the President as a major disaster under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. Given the current influenza A(H1N1) pandemic, awareness has been raised regarding the potential effects of a severe flu pandemic occurring in the United States. In such an event, the Stafford Act could provide authority for federal assistance. Although it is widely agreed that emergency assistance under the Stafford Act could be provided by the President in the event of a flu pandemic, questions remain as to whether broader major disaster assistance would be available. An analysis of the text and history of the Stafford Act suggests that this question was not addressed by Congress when it drafted the current definition of a major disaster, and that neither inclusion nor exclusion of flu pandemics from major disaster assistance is explicitly required by the current statutory language. In the 111th Congress, S. 2863 would amend the Stafford Act to explicitly make major disaster assistance available to respond to pandemics and terrorist attacks."
CRS Report for Congress, RL34724