GAO Investigates Disaster Recovery Barriers

In light of the recent tornadoes that have devastated several states, members of Congress asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report on the impact of federal disaster recovery programs on various societal groups. To investigate, GAO conducted an extensive literature review, analyzed federal disaster recovery program documentation, and interviewed several recovery stakeholders and officials.

Overall, the report discusses research findings on recovery outcomes from six federal programs, perspectives from state, tribal, and nonprofit representatives, as well as the extent to which federal agencies have taken actions to identify and address potential access barriers and differing outcomes. GAO also made several recommendations to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Some highlights from the report include:

  • Some disaster survivors—specifically people living in low-income neighborhoods or rural isolated areas, people of color, and people with disabilities—have problems accessing disaster assistance programs and recovery resources.

  • We found that most federal recovery programs in our review did not collect or analyze demographic data from applicants to specifically identify potential access barriers that survivors face.

  • We recommended that disaster assistance agencies work together on a plan that specifies the data needed to help more equitably serve disaster survivors and create processes to routinely identify and address access barriers.

The full report can be found here. For more information on topics related to this piece, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on natural disasters: Hurricanes, Wildfires, and Earthquakes, or check out HSDL resources related to disaster recovery.

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