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  • An Election-Year Trend: Disaster Declarations on the Rise

    The Iowa Caucus was not the only thing folks looking to the 2012 election were talking about this week. Barron’s Washington Editor Jim McTague warned that 2012 is likely to be a banner year for natural disaster declarations. Why? As the numbers show, “In nearly every presidential election year since 1972, there was an increase in disaster declaration; the same holds for the year before the elections.”

    Citing Heritage expert Matt A. Mayer, McTague goes on to explain that in 2011, the Obama Administration issued a whopping 242 disaster declarations. This figure was an all-time high and well surpassed the 108 declarations issued by the Administration each year in both 2009 and 2010. It also represents a 54 percent increase over the previous record, set in 1996 when President Bill Clinton was running for reelection.

    Election years aren’t the only problem. Since 1993, the number of federal disaster declarations has been climbing quickly. And no, this isn’t some manifestation of 2012 doomsday prophecy coming true. Catastrophic natural disasters are not increasing at the same rate as disaster declarations. Rather, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is granting declarations for a growing number of routine disasters, seemingly for nearly every minor flood, fire, earthquake, and snow storm that comes its way. To put this into perspective:

    Hurricane Irene—barely a Category 1 hurricane when it finally struck the U.S.—resulted in Major Disaster Declarations for 12 states, largely for flooding. In sharp contrast, just six years ago, Hurricane Katrina—America’s costliest disaster by tens of billions of dollars, with more than 60,000 square miles impacted—resulted in just four states receiving Major Disaster Declarations.

    Ultimately, this means that the costs of response to and recovery from our nation’s natural disasters are increasingly being shifted from the states in which they occurred to the federal government. It should be no wonder that FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) nearly ran out of money last year.

    Yet 2012 need not necessarily follow the election-year trend. By setting clear requirements that limit the types of disasters eligible for a federal disaster declaration and reducing the federal cost-share for disaster declarations to no more than 25 percent, the Administration has the chance to stop abusing FEMA declarations and reverse the trend.

    See our chart below for a list of FEMA declarations by year and presidential administration.

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to An Election-Year Trend: Disaster Declarations on the Rise

    1. Bobbie says:

      shows how over exaggerated and inefficient fema relief is. It's only within reason and common sense that natural disasters is a states matter. an act of war would require the Presidents respect to his oath of office to fulfill his duty. but Mr. President would rather focus on our everyday livelihoods to make everything fair (?) than on his oath of office.

    2. TonyfromOz says:

      (sarc on)
      Surely a President wouldn't declare a natural disaster just for the sake of a photo op to be seen to be doing something just prior to an election.
      (sarc off)


    3. Mike, Wichita Falls says:

      The statists would claim the increase is due to…global warming! Or is it climate change now? Don't you see…we have to limit our emissions for the public good.

      As it is with the individual welfare state, the longer the states don't have to bear the financial burden of their own disasters, the more difficult it will be to do so when the FEMA budget has to be cut due to entitlements consuming an ever-increasing share of the budget as illustrated by Heritage in the past.

      I understand how it is a political disaster to say no to people during natural disasters especially every four years. This is even more of a reason to forgo even enacting these programs and bureaucracies. Politicians who even speak of cutting their funds or eliminating them altogether are committing political suicide.

    4. Lloyd Scallan says:

      What did Rahm Emanuel say, "never let a crisis go to waste". Well, just replace the word "crisis" with the
      word "disaster" and you have why "disaster declarations are on the rise". The more disasters, the more
      government. The more government, the bigger it gets. Get it?

    5. IdontBrakeForDems says:

      It should come as no surprise that FEMA is so careless with it’s funding, look who is running the show. This is nothing more than buying votes for the incumbent president as he lavishes the payments to the people, under the pretense of ‘disaster relief’ so the rest of the country will be OK with it. This is how the current administration uses tax dollars to fuel the obama relection campaign, and also a means to make FEMA look more friendly to the people, like they are really looking out for the citizens.

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