Partnership’s Statement on GAO 19-318
Date: June 3rd, 2019
Contact: Stephanie Hydal
THE PARTNERSHIP FOR INCLUSIVE DISASTER STRATEGIES STATEMENT ON GAO’s REPORT HIGHLIGHTING FEMA FAILURES TO HURRICANE IMPACTED PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES AND OLDER ADULTS.
The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies (The Partnership) is alarmed by the findings from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report entitled, FEMA Action Needed to Better Support Individuals Who are Older or Have Disabilities.
The GAO report, released today, was requested by a bipartisan and bicameral group of seventeen Congressional committee leaders to evaluate FEMA’s disaster assistance for older Americans and individuals with disabilities.
The findings detail what the Partnership has attempted to address with FEMA since hurricane Harvey made landfall in August 2017. Among these are FEMA’s system-wide failure to ensure disaster-impacted people with disabilities and older adults are provided with equal access to FEMA assistance programs and critical needs services, such as food, water, and healthcare in the 2017 hurricanes. The findings also evaluate the 2018 restructuring of the FEMA Office of Disability Integration and Coordination (ODIC), which further dismantled critical supports to disaster-impacted people with access and functional needs, and the communities and responders serving them, without developing, implementing, or communicating a replacement plan. In total, the report paints a harrowing picture of the current plan for meeting the needs of disaster-impacted people with disabilities and older adults as the 2019 hurricane season has already begun.
The GAO report provides recommended actions and an agreed timeline, stretching over a year into 2020, for FEMA to implement. However, these plans are hollow due to the continued silence towards disability community leaders and key stakeholders from FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, the Individual Assistance Division, and FEMA’s Administrator.
The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies remains fully committed to work collaboratively with FEMA and our government to ensure that the rights and needs of the 61 million Americans with disabilities, over 50 million older adults, and countless others who also have access and functional needs are no longer denied. Until we all join forces and work together – led by those of us with lived experience – our families, neighbors and communities remain in harm’s way as soon as the next flood, fire, tornado, hurricane, earthquake, terrorist attack, or other disaster strikes.
The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies and our allies from across the country are looking to Congress for their leadership as the Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion for Disasters Act (REAADI) and the Disaster Relief Medicaid Act (DRMA) are introduced on June 10th.
The Partnership’s GAO 19-318 Factsheet
As the nation’s leading subject matter experts on the rights of disaster impacted individuals with disabilities, The Partnership advances disability inclusive emergency preparedness to prevent the disproportionate loss of lives and serious injuries sustained by people with disabilities and older adults during and after disasters in poorly prepared communities. Disability inclusive emergency preparedness is imperative to whole community readiness and resilience and results in favorable outcomes for disaster impacted individuals, families, and communities.