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Context of 'February 2001: FEMA Institutes New Program to Replace Discontinued Project Impact'

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FEMA director James Lee Witt announces Project Impact, under which FEMA will foster partnerships between federal, state, and local emergency workers, as well as local businesses, to help individual communities reduce their vulnerability to certain types of natural disasters. Describing the new initiative, FEMA Director James Lee Witt says, “Our goal, starting with this summit, is to change the way America prevents and prepares for disasters. We’ve got to break the damage-repair-damage-repair cycle.” Project Impact is part of a broader mitigation program aimed at reducing the $14 billion in federal dollars spent annually on disaster relief. Witt says that prevention is necessary because of the apparent increased severity and frequency of natural disasters. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/15/1997; Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004] Project Impact becomes the agency’s highest profile program. “In Seattle, Washington, for example, the grants [are] used to retrofit schools, bridges, and houses at risk from earthquakes. In Pascagoula, Mississippi, the project [funds] the creation of a database of structures in the local flood plain—crucial information for preparing mitigation plans. In several eastern North Carolina communities, it [helps] fund and coordinate buyouts of houses in flood-prone areas.” [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: James Lee Witt, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Project Impact

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

After Congress approves the Bush administration’s proposal to terminate Project Impact (see October 14, 1997-2001), FEMA institutes a new program under which pre-disaster mitigation (PDMs) grants are awarded on a competitive basis. Critics, such as the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), say that under the competitive based program, lower income communities will not be able to effectively compete with higher income areas. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Project Impact, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The Bush administration’s proposed fiscal year 2002 budget includes a dramatic cut in federal funding for hazard mitigation grants, reducing the federal-state cost-sharing formula from 75/25 to 50/50. Mitigation grants allow localities to prepare for anticipated disasters by building levees and floodwalls, moving homes out of flood plains, and/or strengthening structures at risk from floods, earthquakes or other natural disasters. The Bush administration asserts that by making states pay more, they will spend the funds more wisely. “Shouldering a larger share of the costs will help to ensure that states select truly cost effective projects, an incentive that is missing if most of the funding is provided by FEMA,” the budget proposal reads. The proposed budget also eliminates FEMA’s Project Impact, the popular $25 million model mitigation program implemented during the Clinton administration in 1997 (see October 14, 1997-2001). Bush officials say the project, which has been launched in 250 cities and towns, “has not proven effective.” Additionally, the Bush administration proposes to eliminate $12 million from the National Flood Insurance Program budget by $12 million by denying coverage for thousands of “repetitive loss” properties in flood plains. [Office of Management and Budget, 2/27/2001, pp. 81 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/8/2001] A repetitive loss property is one that has suffered flood damage two or more times over a 10-year period and for which repair costs exceed more than 25 percent of its market value. [FEMA, 10/22/2004] White House spokesman Scott Stanzel explains that proposed cuts to these and other federal emergency management programs are part of “an ongoing effort to shift control and responsibility to the states and give them more flexibility.” [Washington Post, 5/8/2001] Jack Harrald, director of the Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management at George Washington University, says in an interview with the Washington Post that Bush administration officials “clearly are disassociating themselves from programs closely identified with the previous administration. Whether a broader philosophical process is going on is not entirely clear yet, but I suspect it is.” [Washington Post, 5/8/2001] Congress will reject the administration’s proposal to reduce the 75/50 cost-sharing formula, but agree to end Project Impact. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Scott Stanzel, Jack Harrald, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Bush administration (43), Project Impact

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) submits written testimony to Congress, recommending that it reject certain budget cuts proposed by the Bush administration for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and FEMA. The administration’s proposed $3.3 billion budget for drinking-water and wastewater infrastructure is “totally inadequate,” according to the ASCE. Over the next 20 years, America’s water and wastewater systems need to increase funding by an annual $23 billion, just to meet the existing national environmental and public health priorities in the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act and to replace aging and failing infrastructure, the ASCE reports, noting that in it’s recently released 2001 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, “the drinking water and wastewater categories each received a grade of D.” The ASCE also tells Congress to reject the Bush administration’s proposal to eliminate Project Impact, a $25 million model mitigation program created by the Clinton administration in 1997 (see February 27, 2001) (see October 14, 1997-2001). “Project Impact is a nationwide public-private partnership designed to help communities become more disaster resistant. These types of natural hazard mitigation efforts are precisely what Congress should be funding, in an effort to avoid paying the much higher price after a tornado, earthquake or hurricane hits a local community. ASCE recommends that Congress fully fund Project Impact at the fiscal year 2001 appropriated level of $25 million.” [American Society of Civil Engineers, 3/21/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, American Society of Civil Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration (43), Project Impact

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Congress, stung into action by the Bush administration’s poor response to Hurricane Katrina and particularly the ineptitude of Michael Brown, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA—see Early September 2001), passes a law saying that President Bush must nominate a replacement who has “a demonstrated ability in and knowledge of emergency management,” and “not less than five years of executive leadership.” In a signing statement, Bush says that only he, the head of the executive branch, can decide who to appoint to offices. Therefore, he states, he is ignoring the prohibition. [Savage, 2007, pp. 239-240]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), George W. Bush, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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