FEMA disaster relief programs, “often fail to deliver assistance to those with the greatest need” and worsen “the continued ‘wealth gap’ in the United States,” a report by the agency’s National Advisory Council says. Desperately needed aid following disaster, including hurricanes, floods, and other extreme weather fueled by climate change, “is not distributed to individuals that most need assistance,” so those who “started with less receive disproportionately less.” Part of the problem, as described in the 2020 report, stems from the fact that wealthy homeowners get “an additional boost” from relief programs while landlords receive benefits while their poorer renters “sink further into poverty after disasters.” Bureaucratic hurdles also prevent less-resourced municipalities and individuals from accessing the relief they need. The advisory group issued similar criticisms last year.
Many are also raising concerns over the potential for bureaucracy in the disbursement of forthcoming climate resilience funding in the bipartisan infrastructure package exacerbating systemic inequities. “There’s a lot of money out there. How do we actually get the infrastructure in place to go after it?” Colin Wellenkamp, executive director of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative who has been helping communities navigate the new funding options and application processes, told Politico. “It’s overwhelm[ing] in a good way. It’s a good problem to have. It’s a lot better than the problem of ‘we have no resources at all.’” (FEMA: E&E $, Indiana Environmental Reporter; Resilience funding: Politico)