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What is the Robert T Stafford Act?

The Robert T Stafford Act is a United States federal law which is designed to bring orderly and systemic means of federal natural disaster assistance for state and local governments carrying out their responsibilities to aid citizens.  Congress’s intention was to encourage states and localities to develop comprehensive disaster preparedness plans, prepare for better intergovernmental coordination in the face of a disaster.  Encouraging the use of insurance coverage, and provide federal assistance programs for losses due to disaster.

The Robert T Stafford Act is a 1988 amended version of the Disaster Relief Act of 1974.  This started the system in place today by which a presidential disaster declaration or an emergency declaration triggers financial aid physical assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  This act gives FEMA the responsibility for coordinating government-wide relief efforts.  The Federal Response Plan includes contributions from 28 federal agencies and non-governmental organizations, such as the American Red Cross.  It is named for the Sen. Robert Stafford serving from 1971-1989, who helped pass the law.

There are many criticisms of the Robert T Stafford Act.  The institute for Southern Studies has stated that the Act needs to give greater latitude to FEMA on how it responds to disasters that are extraordinarily  devastating such as Hurricane Katrina.

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