The United States pays for disaster assistance through a complicated intergovernmental system that relies on funding from different agencies—from emergency management to housing and transportation. These agencies’ activities are funded through annual appropriations, plus supplemental expenditures such as those Congress passed to respond to the major hurricanes and wildfires of 2017 and 2018. As disasters have become more frequent, severe, and expensive, the spending on them has increased. When comparing the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) public assistance program during the 2000-09 and 2010-19 decades, spending on natural disasters increased 23% in the latter.
At a recent webinar, experts shared insights about how these rising costs, disaster assistance policy, and the changing climate intersect. The event was part of a virtual conference celebrating 100 years since the passage of the Budget and Accounting Act, co-hosted by the American Association for Budget and Program Analysis, the Association for Budgeting and Financial Management, and the National Academy of Public Administration.