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House Passes Legislation To Help Close Payer State Gap, Give Illinois a Fair Shot at Federal Disaster Funds

Mar 3, 2016
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, the House passed H.R. 1471, the FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act of 2015, legislation that would help to close the Payer State gap by giving Illinois communities a fair shot at securing federal disaster funding.  Currently, federal disaster declarations are issued based on a calculation using a state’s population. The result is that two states could have identical disasters, but the smaller state could receive federal support while the more populous state would not.

“The allocation of federal disaster funds is just one of the many ill-conceived policies that cause the Payer State problem, in which money is systematically funneled out of payer states like Illinois and into taker states which receive more in federal spending than they pay in taxes,” said Foster.

“Communities apply for disaster declarations during their times of greatest need – they should not be penalized simply for sharing a state with a big city like Chicago,” Foster added.

In May 2015, Congressman Foster was among five bipartisan Members of Congress from Illinois to cosponsor legislation to fix the disaster declaration formula. A version of that bill was included in H.R. 1471. With this important provision included, the bipartisan group of Illinois Congressmen sent a letter to the Speaker of the House and Democratic Leader urging them to bring H.R. 1471 to the floor for a vote. 

H.R. 1471 would require FEMA to give greater weight to localized impacts when making a recommendation on whether or not to declare a Federal Disaster. On February 29, H.R. 1471 passed unanimously in the House of Representatives. It must be passed by the Senate and signed by the President before it becomes law.