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Highlights

Recovery from major disasters is a complex undertaking that involves the combined efforts of federal, state, and local government in order to succeed. While the federal government provides a significant amount of financial and technical assistance for recovery, state and local jurisdictions work closely with federal agencies to secure and make use of those resources. This testimony describes lessons and insights that GAO has identified from review of past disasters, which may be useful to inform recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricanes Ike and Gustav, as well as disasters yet to come. These lessons come from two reports GAO recently released last fall on disaster recovery. The first draws on the experiences of communities that have recovered from previous major disasters in order to help inform recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricanes Ike and Gustav as well as the 2008 Midwest floods. The second examines the implementation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Public Assistance grant program and identifies several actions that the Department of Homeland Security can take to improve operations of that program. These include improving information sharing and enhancing continuity and communication. Commenting on a draft of that report, the department generally agreed with our recommendations. In doing this work, GAO interviewed federal, state, and local officials involved in recovery and reviewed relevant documents, data, and laws.

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