Disaster Assistance:

Program Changes Expedited Delivery of Individual and Family Grants

RCED-89-73: Published: Apr 4, 1989. Publicly Released: May 8, 1989.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the effect of 1986 administrative changes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Individual and Family Grant (IFG) Program, focusing on: (1) the timeliness of program benefits delivery to disaster victims; and (2) how the changes affected program costs.

GAO found that: (1) states processed 65 percent of IFG applications within 30 days after the disaster, and all applications in an average of 46 days; (2) 1,000 applications processed in a few months under the new procedures would have taken up to a year to process under the old procedures; (3) other disaster assistance providers improved their operations with earlier submission and processing of disaster loan applications and transmission of data on assistance provided; (4) the new IFG procedures provided an incentive for all agencies to expedite their procedures to minimize delays in disaster assistance; (5) FEMA administrative costs increased because the program reallocated states' administrative costs and damage verification costs to FEMA; (6) inspections, which FEMA used for temporary housing assistance, cost the federal government about $4.1 million under the new procedures; (7) FEMA also obligated about $2.6 million for an enhanced information system that expedited the application process; and (8) proposed legislation and program changes would increase IFG program costs, since they would increase the maximum limit on grants, federal share of state administrative expenses, and the length of the group flood insurance policy.

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