Disaster Assistance:

Federal, State, and Local Responses to Natural Disasters Need Improvement

T-RCED-91-39: Published: May 15, 1991. Publicly Released: May 15, 1991.

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GAO discussed a report concerning the federal, state, and local responses to such disasters as the September 1989 Hurricane Hugo and the October 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. GAO found that: (1) there were weaknesses in both state and local preparedness programs and in the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) assistance and overall guidance; (2) inefficiencies in the response phase resulted from staffing and coordination difficulties between agencies at all levels; (3) during the recovery phase, state and federal agencies did not coordinate their efforts and made delayed and duplicate payments; (4) because state and local governments independently determined preparedness program resources and emphasis, their emergency response and recovery capabilities differed; (5) FEMA and other federal and state agencies did not manage their assistance programs as efficiently as possible; (6) inefficient operations and uncertainty over roles and responsibilities resulted in incomplete responses to the needs of disaster victims; and (7) current federal disaster assistance programs do not provide adequate assistance to state and local governments to reconstruct damaged rental units for low-income disaster victims.

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