Deanne Criswell Confirmed as FEMA Administrator; Disaster Recovery Advocates Ask for Meeting Citing Opportunities for Reform

Deanne Criswell was confirmed as FEMA administrator by a voice vote in the Senate on April 22. Administrator Criswell has had a long career in emergency management, most recently as the head of New York City’s emergency management agency. Administrator Criswell has also served as an emergency manager in Aurora, CO, worked for FEMA for six years, and served 21 years with the Colorado National Guard. She is the first woman to lead the agency.

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs held a confirmation hearing on March 25. In her opening remarks, Administrator Criswell reiterated her commitment to system-based mitigation and community resiliency in the face of climate change, saying that “as FEMA responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, it also must also support communities in preparing for future challenges and adapting to a changing world,” and that “the best way to balance the competing demands is to make risk reduction investments to build more resilient communities and infrastructure, including against the threat of climate change. FEMA has developed robust preparedness and response capabilities, and now we also have an incredible opportunity to reduce risk.”

NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel sent a letter to Administrator Criswell congratulating her on her confirmation and requesting a meeting on behalf of the NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition – a group of over 850 local, state, and national organizations working to ensure that low-income households can access disaster assistance. “The task ahead is certainly difficult,” Diane wrote, “but NLIHC and our members and partners stand ready to work with you to ensure that the lowest-income and most marginalized people – including people of color, individuals experiencing homelessness, individuals living with disabilities, and others – can access critical disaster housing recovery resources, both during the ongoing pandemic and during future disasters.”

A supplemental memo was sent along with the letter, laying out potential administrative reforms that the agency could make to immediately and significantly improve equity and accessibility of FEMA programs. These reforms include working with HUD to activate the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) after future disasters, ensuring that individuals and families who were unhoused prior to a disaster are fully eligible for recovery assistance, and prioritizing mitigation grants that serve the communities with the greatest needs.

View a recording of nominee Criswell’s confirmation hearing at:

Read the DHRC’s letter to Administrator Criswell at:

Read the DHRC’s supplemental memo on FEMA reforms here: