Stafford Act Declarations 1953-2011: Trends and Analyses, and Implications for Congress [August 31, 2012] [open pdf - 624KB]
"The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act authorizes the President to issue declarations that provide states and localities with a range of federal assistance in response to natural and man-made incidents. Since 1953 the number of declarations issued each year has steadily increased. For example, the average number of major disaster declarations issued from 1960 to 1969 was roughly 18 per year. In contrast, the average number of major disaster declarations issued from 2000 to 2009 was 56 per year. The highest number was declared in 2011, with 99 major disaster declarations. Declarations are of congressional concern for at least two reasons: (1) scrutiny of the budget has led to an awareness of expenditures for disaster assistance, and (2) some are skeptical that declarations are solely made to provide disaster relief. They argue that declarations have become political tools--especially during election years--to gain political favor. Advocates of this position point to incidents which, in their view, could have been handled without federal assistance. This report describes the declaration process and the types of declarations that can be declared under the Stafford Act: (1) Fire Management Assistance Grants, (2) emergencies, and (3) major disasters."
CRS Report for Congress, R42702