Cyclopedia of Congressional Budget Law

Disaster Funding


The term disaster funding in budget law may indicate several different types of spending, both colloquial and formally defined. Among the latter, the most directly related to budgetary funding is included in section 251(b) of  the Balanced Budget and Emergency  Deficit Control Act of 1985. It takes the form of an adjustment to the discretionary spending limits, as in subsection (c) of that section, and corresponding adjustments in the Congressional committee allocations to the Appropriations  Committees set under section 302 of  the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.

 Section 251(b) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985

Disaster funding

(b) Adjustments to Discretionary Spending Limits.—

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(D) Disaster funding.—

(i) If, for fiscal years 2012 through 2021, appropriations for discretionary accounts are enacted that Congress designates as being for disaster relief in statute, the adjustment for a fiscal year shall be the total of such appropriations for the fiscal year in discretionary accounts designated as being for disaster relief, but not to exceed the total of—

(I) the average funding provided for disaster relief over the previous 10 years, excluding the highest and lowest years; and

(II) the amount, for years when the enacted new discretionary budget authority designated as being for disaster relief for the preceding fiscal year was less than the average as calculated in subclause (I) for that fiscal year, that is the difference between the enacted amount and the allowable adjustment as calculated in such subclause for that fiscal year.

(ii) OMB shall report to the Committees on Appropriations and Budget in each House the average calculated pursuant to clause (i)(II), not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of the Budget Control Act of 2011.

(iii) For the purposes of this subparagraph, the term “disaster relief” means activities carried out pursuant to a determination under section 102(2) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5122(2)).

(iv) Appropriations considered disaster relief under this subparagraph in a fiscal year shall not be eligible for adjustments under subparagraph (A) for the fiscal year.

Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, as amended, and Related Authorities as of April 2013

Section 102(2):

(2) Major disaster.— “Major disaster” means any natural catastrophe (including any hurricane, tornado, storm, high water, winddriven water, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, or drought), or, regardless of cause, any re, ood, or explosion, in any part of the United States, which in the determination of the President causes damage of suf cient severity and magnitude to warrant major disaster assistance under this Act to supplement the efforts and available resources of States, local governments, and disaster relief organizations in alleviating the damage, loss, hardship, or suffering caused thereby.

Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Public Law 100-707), signed into law on November 23, 1988; amended the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 (Public Law 93-288). The Stafford Act constitutes the statutory authority for most Federal disaster response activities especially as they pertain to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and FEMA programs.

A. Mission Statement for Disaster Relief Fund:

Pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) provides a no-year base against which FEMA can direct, coordinate, manage, and fund eligible response and recovery efforts associated with domestic major disasters and emergencies that overwhelm State resources. Through the DRF, FEMA can fund authorized Federal disaster support activities as well as eligible State, territorial, tribal, and local actions, such as providing emergency protection and debris removal. The DRF also funds:

  • The repair and rebuilding of qualifying disaster-damaged infrastructure
  • Hazard mitigation initiatives
  • Financial assistance to eligible disaster survivors
  • Fire Management Assistance Grants for qualifying large urban wildfires

B. Budget Activities:

Major disasters and emergencies may be the result of disasters of all kinds and are declared by the President, typically in response to gubernatorial requests for assistance. States request Federal assistance to supplement their available resources and to certify that a given disaster is beyond their capacity or capability to respond. The DRF also supports fire management assistance activities for the mitigation, management, and control of fires on public and private lands.FEMA coordinates three major disaster assistance programs:

– Federal Assistance to Individuals and Households
        – Public Assistance
        – Hazard Mitigation assistance

Non-declaration specific readiness and support activities also are funded under the DRF. These activities provide indirect support across FEMA (and to our Federal partners) and are managed separately as Disaster Readiness and Support activities.


Direct Spending