Federal Snow Removal Reimbursement Policy:

Improvements Needed

CED-79-97: Published: Aug 2, 1979. Publicly Released: Aug 2, 1979.

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A review was made of the Federal Disaster Assistance Administration's (FDAA) new snow removal reimbursement policy and the emergency request procedures FDAA and the Indiana and Illinois state governments used following the severe mid-January 1979 snowstorm. The law authorizes the President to provide assistance to supplement the efforts and available resources of state and local governments when a major disaster or emergency is declared. FDAA processes requests from state governors for federal assistance and also coordinates the activities of other federal agencies and disaster relief organizations during an emergency. Many federal programs are available to provide varying kinds of assistance to state and local goverments and individuals adversely affected by severe snowstorms. Federal assistance is to be available if and only to the extent that an effective response to the situation is beyond state and local capabilities.

The snow removal policy has several weaknesses because it does not adequately consider states' financial resources and does not adequately assess the costs incurred before reimbursement to determine if they are appropriate. The Disaster Relief Act of 1974 also has weaknesses which have the potential to affect some states' eligibility for federal disaster assistance. The act may result in inequitable emergency assistance treatment of states because of differences in state laws and differences in states' willingness to prepare for emergencies. While FDAA does not specify a system for requesting assistance, it does provide both financial and technical assistance to states to develop and update emergency preparedness plans. The states are in the best position to gather the data on the severity of a snowstorm and the ability of the state and local agencies to handle it. This responsibility appears to have been properly assigned within the states. In a comparison of the Indiana and Illinois procedures to request federal assistance no major differences between the states' plans were found which would account for the fact that Illinois' request was approved and Indiana's was denied.

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