Congressional Primer on Responding to Major Disasters and Emergencies [May 24, 2013] [open pdf - 274KB]
"The principles of disaster management assume a leadership role by the local, tribal, and state governments with the federal government providing coordinated supplemental resources and assistance, if requested and approved. The immediate response to a disaster is guided by the National Response Framework (NRF), which details roles and responsibilities at various levels of government, along with cooperation from the private and non-profit sectors, for differing incidents and support functions. [...] The majority of federal aid is made available from FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] under the authority of the Stafford Act. In addition to that assistance, other disaster aid is made available through programs of the Small Business Administration (which provides disaster loans to both businesses and homeowners), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) within the Department of Transportation (DOT), and, in some instances, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) (in the form of Community Development Block Grant funds being made available for unmet disaster needs). While the disaster response and recovery process is fundamentally a relationship between the federal government and the requesting state or tribal government, there are roles for congressional offices to play in providing information to the federal response and recovery teams in their respective states and districts. Congressional offices also serve as a valuable source of accurate and timely information to their constituents."
CRS Report for Congress, R41981