Bill calls for enhanced federal disaster response for underserved communities

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U.S. Sens. Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Gary Peters (D-Ml) introduced a bill they say strengthens Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster response in communities underserved facing barriers to federal assistance.

Lawmakers said the Achieving Equity in Disaster Response, Recovery and Resilience Act would create the Office of Civil Rights, Equity and Inclusion (OCREI) within the FEMA to increase access to improved quality of disaster assistance for populations comprising minority rural and disabled communities.

“From wildfires to floods, natural disasters disproportionately impact marginalized and underserved communities, and these communities often face additional challenges in receiving federal disaster assistance,” Padilla said. “We need to close these gaps and improve equity in disaster relief efforts. This legislation will allow FEMA to work more closely with underserved communities in California and across the country and help reduce disparities in the delivery of disaster relief.

Lawmakers maintain that minority, rural and disabled communities routinely receive lower quality disaster assistance while being disproportionately affected by disasters.

“We have repeatedly seen that when marginalized and rural communities face disasters – they are not only the most exposed to damage and the least able to recover financially – but they also often have more difficulty obtaining assistance. help from the federal government,” Peters said,
chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said. “From severe weather events in Michigan and across the country that have devastated families and businesses – to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – recent emergencies have shown that we must do more to protect our most vulnerable and least well-off communities. served. This bill will help ensure that our federal government provides all communities with equitable access to disaster relief.

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