Not out of control: analysis of the federal disaster spending trend
Wollman, Lauren F.
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The purpose of this study of 20-year trends in federal disaster spending was to determine whether and to what extent spending has been on the rise, and to examine contributing factors. A grounded theory analysis was conducted on 1,156 major declared disasters from fiscal years 1995 through 2014. Numerical data graphically illustrate budgeting, spending, and declaration trends, and policy and inertia influences are described. This study found an upward trend of federal disaster spending, yet one that is far from out of control. Research shows that 66% of major disaster funding was provided by emergency supplemental bills versus regularly budgeted appropriations. Half of all spending was on infrastructure, and hurricanes were the number one disaster type for federal spending. More severe storms were declared than all other disaster types combined, and the number of major disasters declared demonstrated an upward trend. The trend of rising spending and quantity of declarations was consistent with existing literature. Federal spending for fire, human services, post-disaster mitigation, and mission assignments demonstrated a downward trend as a proportion of the Disaster Relief Fund. Recommendations are provided to transform national thinking toward development of a national risk management approach to incentivize policymakers, homeowners, and local- and state-level funding recipients to better manage risk and improve stewardship of federal tax dollars.
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