Legislation Helps Curb FEMA Case Management Staff Turnover Following Disasters

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Tom Rice (R-S.C.) and Congresswoman Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) yesterday introduced the FEMA Caseworker Accountability Act to increase transparency of case management staff turnover at The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) following a disaster. 

This legislation requires FEMA to submit a report on the turnover rate of case management staff and the steps that FEMA is taking to lower the staff turnover rate. It also requires statistics on the average and median length of employment of case management staff and agency staff who are detailed to work on disaster recovery.

“South Carolina’s 7th District recuperates from disaster after disaster. Over the years, we’ve continually seen how case management staff turnover rates at FEMA have extended the process for our communities to receive the assistance they need. I’ve heard this from constituents in the district and local officials alike,” said Congressman Tom Rice. “The FEMA Caseworker Accountability Act will help to curb these issues by requiring FEMA to put in place steps towards reducing the agency’s turnover rates. FEMA must be held accountable to our communities and taxpayers who rely on them following a disaster.” 

“I have seen firsthand the impact natural disasters have on communities, both in the Lowcountry and across the country. Reducing turnover rates in an agency as important during natural disasters as FEMA, needs to have a low staff turnover rate. Institutional knowledge within disaster management staff needs to be significant in order to effectively respond to disasters as they happen,” said Congresswoman Nancy Mace. “The FEMA Caseworker Accountability Act will help reduce the agency’s staff turnover rate and hold the agency accountable for the citizens they assist after disasters.”

“Horry County has experienced at least 4 significant Presidential declarations over the past 7 years.  During the processes of working through the Public Assistance program for each of these events, we have submitted the required documentation for our expenses to FEMA through the South Carolina Emergency Management Division.  Horry County has experienced first-hand the constant aggravation of the turn-over of personnel at FEMA and the lack of coordination that takes place with the change of staff that were assigned to our claims.  The turn-over always requires us to resubmit the same documents over and over.  The constant turn-over and the resubmission of the same documents leads to significant delays in processing our claims and reimbursement funds.  Horry County appreciates working with our State and Federal partners as we navigate through the FEMA Public Assistance process after declared disasters and we are certainly supportive of this bill.  Our desire is to be a part of a very efficient process that ensures compliance with FEMA regulations while at the same time providing the much-needed reimbursements to our County when we need the funds the most,” said Randall Webster, Assistant County Administrator for Public Safety, Horry County, SC. 

“Over the last 6 years, we've experienced multiple Major Disaster Declarations here in Georgetown County. As a result, we've been exposed to the many ins and outs of FEMA disaster recovery operations from both a Public Assistance and Individual Assistance perspective. Our frustrations with this process have ranged from the continuous cycling of FEMA personnel assigned to handle our disaster recovery operations during the days, weeks, and months following a disaster; inconsistencies in FEMA personnel managing and maintaining disaster documents that are necessary to support recovery operations; and inconsistencies with interpretation of FEMA guidance with regards to disaster recovery operations. These are a few of the things at the local level that we have experienced, which we are hopeful that this legislation will help to alleviate, allowing for a more effective and efficient disaster recovery process,” said Brandon Ellis, Director of Emergency Services, Georgetown County, SC.

Background:

This legislation is the second bill introduced in the 117th Congress by Congressman Rice to increase transparency and accountability in disaster relief. 

On May 13, 2021, Congressman Rice introduced the The Disaster Relief Transparency Act to increase government accountability in the allocation of disaster relief funds. This legislation requires HUD to submit a report explaining the methodology used to determine their allocation of CDBG-DR/MIT funding over the past five years. This legislation also requires FEMA to submit a report that provides data on Individual Assistance (IA) and the Individuals and Households Program (IHP), including denial rates, over the past five years.