NLIHC Responds to FEMA Request for Information on Diversity and Inclusion, Recommends Numerous Disaster Recovery Reforms

NLIHC submitted a comment to a FEMA Request for Information on Equity and Inclusion in agency programs on July 20. The response highlights the many instances where FEMA policies and programs prevent disaster survivors – including people of color, individuals experiencing homelessness, individuals with disabilities, and individuals with low incomes – from accessing the assistance they need to fully recover.

NLIHC’s response was created with assistance from members of the NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition – a group of over 850 local, state, and national organizations working on to ensure that all disaster survivors receive the assistance they need to fully recover – and highlighted the connection between economic and racial inequality and resilience to disasters and climate change impacts. It also outlined numerous policy changes that FEMA could immediately implement to improve access to life-saving assistance for communities of color and other underserved groups.

NLIHC’s comment addresses the entire length of FEMA’s participation in the disaster response and recovery process, referencing the failure of FEMA to ensure that local and state emergency response plans to consider the unique needs of unhoused individuals, individuals with disabilities, individuals with limited English proficiency, and households with low incomes. The comment specifically addresses the numerous administrative and bureaucratic roadblocks experienced by disaster survivors attempting to access federal disaster recovery assistance, including FEMA’s continuing insistence that survivors provide title documentation to prove they own their disaster-damaged homes and the lack of a clear appeals process if assistance is denied.

The request, initially published in the Federal Register in April, requested public comment on ways that agency programs and policies “perpetuate systemic barriers to opportunities and benefits for people of color and other underserved groups” as well as additional actions or changes the agency could pursue to address the disproportionately high and adverse climate-related impacts on disadvantaged communities.” This request was prompted by executive orders issued by the Biden Administration requesting that federal agencies evaluate their programs in the wake of stagnating inequality and worsening climate-change. While the initial comment period was scheduled to end in June, FEMA extended the deadline by a month to ensure that enough substantive comments were received. FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell referred to the request during a recent congressional hearing on the agency’s future priorities.

Read NLIHC’s Response to FEMA’s Request for Information at: