Federal Legislation

Communities across the nation rely on federal policies that help advance resilience. Congress and other policymakers can improve the resilience of communities and the nation by taking a holistic view of the diverse aspects of community resilience when developing policies of all kinds as well as recognizing the complex interactions of specific federal policies with each other and their likely effect on the communities themselves.

Legislative Branch policies may be established and implemented explicitly through legislation, or implicitly through the oversight process that holds federal agencies accountable through the hearings or appropriations processes. Major existing legislative policies or actions that contribute to resilience are numerous and varied. Two foundational laws are the Stafford Act4 and the Homeland Security Act of 20025. These statutes provide most of the organizational and functional framework for mitigating, responding to, and recovering from natural disasters and acts of terrorism.

The most widely known law, and the most widely cited in the context of traumatic incidents, is the Stafford Act. The Stafford Act is intended:

to provide an orderly and continuing means of assistance by the Federal Government to State and local governments in carrying out their responsibilities to alleviate the suffering and damage which result from such disasters…6

Therefore, the Stafford Act is primarily a guide for responding to disaster incidents and does not refer explicitly to resilience.

Another piece of legislation, passed into law as The Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-390), amended the Stafford Act:

(1) to reduce the loss of life and property, human suffering, economic disruption, and disaster assistance costs resulting from natural disasters; and

(2) to provide a source of predisaster hazard mitigation funding that will assist States and local governments (including Indian tribes) in implementing effective hazard


4The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 100-707), signed into law on November 23, 1988; amended the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-288). The Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-390) amended the Stafford Act and authorized a program for predisaster mitigation. The Stafford Act and its amendments constitute the statutory authority for most federal disaster response activities, especially as they pertain to FEMA and FEMA programs, https://www.fema.gov/library/viewRecord.do?fromSearch=fromsearch&id=3564.

5Homeland Security Act of 2002, P.L. 107-296, November 2002, http://www.dhs.gov/xabout/laws/law_regulation_rule_0011.shtm.


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