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house Bill H.R. 1984

Should the OMB Publish a Report Detailing All Federal Disaster-Related Spending?

Argument in favor

The American public needs to know what the federal government spends on disaster relief across all agencies each year. Having this information in a single report will help policymakers and the public better understand the real costs of climate change and extreme weather — and it may also encourage them to put more energy into mitigation and adaptation efforts.

Argument opposed

Every federal agency that’d be affected by this bill already reports to Congress on its spending and budget through the appropriations process. There’s no need to create additional work for the OMB to report on these agencies’ disaster spending when anyone interested could just look at the agencies' budget estimates and websites.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
      Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management
    IntroducedMarch 28th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 1984?

This bill — the Disclosing Aid Spent to Ensure Relief (DISASTER) Act — would require the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to submit a report to Congress on federal disaster-related assistance for the previous fiscal year on the same day that the president makes their annual budget submission to Congress. This report would be made publicly available on the OMB’s website in a searchable, sortable and downloadable format.

“Disaster-related assistance” would be defined as federal obligations related to disaster response, recovery, and mitigation efforts, as well as administrative costs associated with these activities. This includes spending by the: Dept. of Agriculture, Commerce Dept., Army Corps of Engineers, Dept. of Defense (DOD), Dept. of Education, Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS), Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Dept. of the Interior, Dept. of Justice (DOJ), Dept. of Labor, Dept. of Transportation (DOT), Treasury Dept. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA), Corporation for National and Community Service, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Federal Judiciary, Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance Program, Dept. of Energy (DOE), General Services Administration, and other authorities as appropriate.

The report would detail the previous fiscal year’s:

  • Overall amount of disaster-related assistance obligations during the fiscal year;
  • Disaster-related assistance obligations by agency and account;
  • Disaster(s) for which federal spending was obligated;
  • Obligations by disaster;
  • Disaster-related assistance by disaster type;
  • Response and recovery spending;
  • Mitigation spending;
  • Spending in the form of loans; and
  • Spending in the form of grants.

Impact

Federal spending on disaster relief; OMB; Dept. of Agriculture; Commerce Dept.; Army Corps of Engineers; Dept. of Defense (DOD); Dept. of Education; Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS); Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); Dept. of the Interior; Dept. of Justice (DOJ); Dept. of Labor; Dept. of Transportation (DOT); Treasury Dept. Internal Revenue Service (IRS); Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA); Corporation for National and Community Service; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Federal Judiciary; Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance Program; Dept. of Energy (DOE); General Services Administration; and the OMB Director.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 1984

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Scott Peters (D-CA) introduced this bill to increase transparency and accountability for federal expenditures on disaster relief:

“When disaster strikes our communities,  the recovery can be slow—and costly. And the costs to the federal government are on the rise as disasters become more frequent and more devastating. We should know exactly how much recovery efforts cost, so our budget can correctly account for them, and we should make those numbers accessible to taxpayers. Disasters can strike any community and we all want to know how tax dollars are spent.”

Original cosponsor Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) adds:

“The DISASTER Act would mark a significant step forward in providing needed transparency to disaster relief expenditures. Our constituents deserve to have access to details on how we spend their money, and our bill would go a long way toward consolidating this research and information for them, like spending reports or calculation breakdowns.”

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) notes that informing policymakers of annual disaster-related costs will help them and the public understand extreme weather events’ true costs. EESI hopes that this improved understanding of extreme weather events’ and natural disasters’ costs would “encourage further mitigation and adaptation efforts.”

This bill has 15 bipartisan cosponsors, including nine Democrats and four Republicans. It’s also endorsed by American Rivers, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club, Taxpayers for Common Sense. The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee passed this bill on a voice vote.


Of NoteThe federal government currently doesn’t have a single estimate of how much money it spends on disaster-related assistance. The Budget Control Act (BCA) requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to set an annual cap for disaster relief spending by calculating an adjusted 10-year rolling average of disaster-related expenditures. This calculation includes spending out of 29 individual accounts managed by 11 different agencies and departments, and very little of the information that goes into it is made public or released in an accessible format.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Llgorko)

AKA

DISASTER Act

Official Title

To amend chapter 11 of title 31, United States Code, to require the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to annually submit to Congress a report on all disaster-related assistance provided by the Federal Government.