Graves Introduces Bill to Stop FEMA Clawbacks of Assistance and Prevent Disaster Revictimization

Press Release

WASHINGTON D.C. —Congressman Sam Graves (MO-06), Ranking Member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, introduced bipartisan legislation today to ensure the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) does not attempt to take back disaster assistance funds it has mistakenly awarded to victims who applied for the help in good faith and spent the money to begin rebuilding their lives.

The legislation, the Preventing Disaster Revictimization Act (H.R. 5953), updates current law by requiring FEMA to waive the debt of someone who has received FEMA assistance in cases where no fraud has been committed and when the agency later determines it mistakenly granted the assistance.  Under the current process, FEMA can come back weeks, months, or even years later to seek repayment of funds it awarded victims, even when the agency made the initial error.  

“This bill stops FEMA from revictimizing the victims of disasters,” said Rep. Graves.  “The Preventing Disaster Revictimization Act prevents FEMA from trying to claw back critical assistance that disaster victims, through no fault of their own, have been awarded and have already used in the difficult process of putting their lives back together.  The amount an individual can receive from FEMA in these instances is relatively small in terms of the overall federal budget, but to my constituents in North Missouri and many others across the country, that assistance can be the difference between the road to recovery and the road to ruin.  To try to take that money back from disaster victims, because of a mistake FEMA made, is simply unacceptable.”

Graves introduced the bill after a Holt County resident, who lost his family home to the 2019 flooding, was mistakenly provided over $12,000 in FEMA Individual Assistance money to help him get back on his feet and then later told he didn’t qualify and would have to pay it back.

The bill also ensures that FEMA reports to Congress on the number of mistakes it makes in individual assistance award determinations and the agency’s efforts to minimize similar errors in the future.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is scheduled to mark up the legislation tomorrow.  Click here to read the bill.