H.R. 2903: FEMA Reauthorization Act of 2011, as amended

H.R. 2903

FEMA Reauthorization Act of 2011, as amended

Sen. Bernard Sanders

September 19, 2012 (112th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, September 19, 2012 the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 2903, the FEMA Reauthorization of 2011, as amended, under a suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. This legislation was introduced by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) on September 13, 2011, and referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. On March 1, 2012, the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management held a markup where two amendments were adopted and the bill was ordered forwarded to the full committee by voice vote. The full Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a markup on March 8, 2012, and H.R. 2903 was ordered to be reported as amended to the House by voice vote.

Bill Summary

H.R. 2903 would authorize approximately $2.2 billion over the next two years for the Urban Search and Rescue Response System, Emergency Management Assistance Compact grants, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for management and administration.

Title I – Reauthorization of FEMA and Modernization of Integrated Public Alert and Warning System

Section 101: Reauthorization of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): The bill would reauthorize FEMA through fiscal year 2014 and provide $1.031 billion each year for Salaries and Expenses (S&E) consistent with current funding levels.

Section 102: Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Modernization: The bill would reauthorize the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) and provide $13.3 million out of the S&E account consistent with existing funding levels.  This section also would establish a clear framework for the development of IPAWS and ensure stakeholder input through an advisory committee.

Title II – Stafford Act and Other Programs

Section 201: Reauthorization of Urban Search and Rescue Response System: The bill would reauthorize the Urban Search and Rescue system (USAR) and provide $35.25 million for fiscal years 2012 through 2014 consistent with previous funding levels.  

Section 202: Reauthorization of Emergency Management Assistance Compact Grants: The bill would reauthorize the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) grants and provide $2 million dollars each year through fiscal year 2014.  Authorization levels would be consistent with existing funding.

Section 203: Disposal of Excess Property to Assist Other Disaster Survivors: The bill would streamline the process for FEMA to transfer excess materials, supplies, or equipment to state and local governments, or relief or disaster assistance organization to assist disaster survivors in incidents other than declared major disasters or emergencies.

Section 204: Storage, Sale, Transfer, and Disposal of Housing Units:  The bill would require FEMA to review the existing inventory of temporary housing units (THUs), determine the number of excess THUs and streamlines the process for transferring excess THUs to states or disposing of such units.

Section 205: Other Methods of Disposal:  The bill would provide a streamlined process for FEMA to sell, transfer or donate THUs to assist disaster victims in disasters and incidents caused by a hazard that do not result in a declaration.

Section 206: Establishment of Criteria Relating to Administration of Hazard Mitigation Assistance By States: The bill would require FEMA to promulgate criteria, as required under statute, within 180 days of enactment, to implement provisions in the Stafford Act that would allow states to administer the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

Section 207: Review of Regulations and Policies: The bill would require FEMA, within 180 days of enactment, to review its regulations and policies related to disaster assistance to eliminate regulations that are no longer relevant, to harmonize conflicting regulations and to simplify and expedite disaster recovery and assistance. 

Section 208: Appeals Process: The bill would shorten FEMA’s appeals process from 90 to 60 days. 

Section 209:  Implementation of Cost Estimating: The bill would require FEMA to, within 180 days of enactment of the Act, promulgate regulations to implement cost estimating provisions in the Stafford Act. 

Section 210: Tribal Requests for a Major Disaster or Emergency Declaration Under Stafford Act:  The bill would provide for federally-recognized tribes to request a disaster declaration when the state in which they reside fails to do so. 

Section 211: Individual Assistance Factors: The bill would require FEMA, within 1 year of enactment, to review, update and revise the factors considered in regulation related to Individual Assistance.

Section 212: Public Assistance Pilot Program: The bill would establish a Public Assistance pilot program directing FEMA to develop a pilot program that would reduce costs and expedite assistance through the use of cost estimates and consolidating projects.  The bill would limit the pilot by terminating it in 2014 and requires FEMA to report to Congress on its assessment of the pilot program in 2015. 

Section 213: Public Assistance Debris Removal Procedures: The bill would streamline and make permanent FEMA’s Debris Removal pilot program to provide for assistance based on estimates.

Section 214: Use of Funds: The bill would make clear any costs associated with reports, reviews, or studies required in the Act are authorized out of FEMA’s S&E authorization. This provision would clarify FEMA must use existing funding to pay for any costs associated with reports, reviews or studies. 

Section 215: Reduction of authorization for emergency management performance grants: The bill would reduce the authorization for the Emergency Management Performance Grants (EMPG) by $3.4 million in fiscal year 2012 to offset a corresponding increase in the authorization for the National Dam Safety Program reauthorized in section 217. 

Section 216: Technical Correction: The bill would correct a technical error in the Stafford Act. 

Section 217: National Dam Safety Program Act Reauthorization: The bill would reauthorize the National Dam Safety Program through Fiscal Year 2015 at levels consistent with existing spending except that an increase has been provided for which is offset by the reduction pursuant to section 215. 


The Federal Emergency Management Agency coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror. FEMA was established in 1979 by Executive Order by President Carter to centralize the federal government’s emergency response and increase coordination during disasters. After operating for nearly 30 years without explicit authorization, the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 authorized FEMA for the first time in legislation. That authorization has since expired.


According to CBO, H.R. 2903 would authorize appropriations totaling about $2.2 billion over the next two years for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The legislation would authorize about $2.1 billion for salaries and expenses of the agency, including $37 million to modernize the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS); $71 million for the Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Response System; $32 million for dam safety activities; and $4 million for emergency management assistance compact grants. Based on historical expenditure patterns, CBO estimates that implementing the legislation would cost $2.1 billion over the 2013-2017 period, assuming appropriation of the specified amounts.