Gardner Legislation Protects Disaster Victims From FEMA Clawbacks

Washington, D.C. – Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) announced today that he is introducing the Disaster Assistance Fairness and Accountability Act of 2015. This legislation is designed to protect disaster victims, including Coloradans affected by the 2013 floods, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) aid clawbacks.

Under current law, FEMA can go back to disaster victims who have been approved for and received aid and retroactively change its aid determination, demanding that the recipient return the funds. FEMA is currently authorized to conduct these clawbacks without any statute of limitations, and victims could be forced to prove again that they deserved the aid that they applied for and were awarded.

This legislation would prohibit FEMA from clawing back aid to those who filled out accurate reports and had a reasonable expectation of receiving aid.  It would treat victims as innocent until proven guilty, requiring FEMA to prove that the applicant had made an error or committed fraud on their application for aid. And it sets a statute of limitations of three years for disaster recoupment.   

This legislation is nearly identical to bipartisan language introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Tom MacArthur (R-NJ).

“Disaster victims have suffered enough,” Gardner said. “Victims don’t need the prospect of the federal government coming back to them, years after they’ve had to rebuild their lives, demanding a return of the aid that had been appropriately granted.

“Nothing in this legislation stops FEMA from recouping money from anyone who has defrauded FEMA and the American taxpayer. We must be extremely diligent in seeking out and prosecuting those who would use a time of crisis for their own personal enrichment.

“This legislation would ensure that disaster victims are treated fairly. Colorado flood victims deserve that. Victims of disasters across this country deserve that. It’s time to make it happen.”

The full text of the legislation can be read here.