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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Federal Stafford Act Disaster Assistance: Presidential Declarations, Eligible Activities, and Funding


Francis X. McCarthy
Analyst in Emergency Management Policy

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the Stafford Act) authorizes the President to issue major disaster or emergency declarations in response to catastrophes in the United States that overwhelm state and local governments. Such declarations result in the distribution of a wide range of federal aid to individuals and families, certain nonprofit organizations, and public agencies. Congress appropriates money to the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF), through both annual appropriations and emergency supplemental appropriations, for disaster assistance authorized by the Stafford Act. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) administers most, but not all, of the authority the statute vests in the President.

The most recent significant action concerning the statute occurred in the closing months of the 109
th Congress as a result of the congressional investigation on the response to Hurricane Katrina (August 2005). Senators inserted Stafford Act amendments into the FY2007 DHS appropriations legislation (Title VI of P.L. 109-295). These amendments expanded FEMA’s authority to expedite emergency assistance to stricken areas, imposed new planning and preparedness requirements on federal administrators, provided new authority to regional offices, and increased federal assistance to victims and communities. More recently, Congress included a provision in the FY2010 appropriations legislation (P.L. 111-83) that allows retired law judges to arbitrate conflicts concerning the recovery of public infrastructure in the Gulf Coast due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. While not an amendment to the Stafford Act, this provision affects the administration of the FEMA appeals process under which applications for Stafford assistance are reconsidered. The decisions made to date by the arbitration panels resulted in an Administration request for supplemental funding that resulted in P.L. 111-112, which added more than $5.5 billion to the Disaster Relief Fund.

Previously introduced legislation during the 111
th Congress would have amended the statute. Among the proposals, H.R. 3377, the Disaster Response, Recovery, and Mitigation Enhancement Act of 2009, would have authorized the Disaster Relief Fund, provided health benefits to temporary or intermittent federal employees who provide disaster assistance, authorized the National Urban Search and Rescue Response System, and requested FEMA to update standards for individual assistance disaster requests. Other bills sought to reauthorize a mortgage and rental assistance program terminated in 2000 (H.R. 888/S. 763), establish new eligibility criteria (H.R. 941, H.R. 1059, H.R. 1494, H.R. 2484, H.R. 4141, and S. 1069), and mandate establishment of a tracking and storage plan for housing units used by disaster survivors (H.R. 3437/S. 713).


Date of Report: June 7, 2011
Number of Pages: 33
Order Number: RL33053
Price: $29.95

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Friday, June 3, 2011

Missing Adults: Background, Federal Programs, and Issues for Congress


Adrienne L. Fernandes-Alcantara
Specialist in Social Policy

Adults may go missing due to choice, an abduction, foul play, a mental or physical disability, or a natural catastrophe, among other reasons. Although no accurate estimates exist of the number of missing adults, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported that as of January 1, 2011, nearly 50,000 missing adult cases were pending in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system, a federal computerized index with data on crimes and locator files for missing and unidentified persons. Certain adults are particularly vulnerable to missing episodes; for example, those with dementia are at risk for wandering. Adults who engage in high-risk behaviors, including involvement in gang activity, may also be more prone to going missing.

Unlike children, adults have the legal right to go missing under most circumstances. As a result, families of missing adults may receive limited assistance from state and local law enforcement entities in recovering their loved ones. The federal government has not been involved in assisting law enforcement entities with missing adult cases in the same way it has with missing children cases. Further, cases of missing children and young adults under the age of 21 must be reported to the NCIC, while reporting missing adults to the database is voluntary. In recent years, however, the federal government has increasingly played a role in (1) preventing certain types of missing adult incidents and (2) working to recover adults who go missing, including those who are deceased and for whom only remains can be found.

Recognizing the needs of a growing aging population, Congress authorized funding for the Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert program under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322). The program has awarded funds to the Alzheimer’s Association of America since FY1996 to protect and locate missing individuals with dementia through a patient identification program, as well as outreach and education efforts. In 2000, Congress passed Kristen’s Act (P.L. 106-468) to permit the Department of Justice (DOJ) to make grants to establish a national clearinghouse for missing adults and provide technical assistance to law enforcement agencies in locating these individuals. From FY2002 through FY2006, DOJ made grants to the National Center for Missing Adults (NCMA) for these purposes. In addition, federal DNA Initiative has also supported efforts to recover missing persons and identify unidentified human remains by funding DNA analysis and providing technical assistance on using this analysis. Both DOJ and NCMA have established databases to collect and disseminate information to law enforcement on missing adults, their relatives, and unidentified human remains. These databases have overlapping but distinct features, and have limited capacity to share information.

Policymakers and other stakeholders have increasingly focused on two issues related to adults who go missing: whether to provide federal assistance to states and localities to develop alert systems and technology to locate missing adults; and possibly expanding federal involvement in cases of missing adults with diminished mental capacity. Another issue is the coordination of the databases on missing persons.



Date of Report: May 27, 2011
Number of Pages: 24
Order Number: RL34616
Price: $29.95

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Vulnerable Youth: Federal Mentoring Programs and Issues


Adrienne L. Fernandes-Alcantara
Specialist in Social Policy

Youth mentoring refers to a relationship between youth—particularly those most at risk of experiencing negative outcomes in adolescence and adulthood—and the adults who support and guide them. The origin of the modern youth mentoring concept is credited to the efforts of charity groups that formed during the Progressive era of the early 1900s to provide practical assistance to poor and juvenile justice-involved youth, including help with finding employment.

Approximately 2.5 million youth today are involved in formal mentoring relationships through Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of America and similar organizations. Contemporary mentoring programs seek to improve outcomes and reduce risks among vulnerable youth by providing positive role models who regularly meet with the youth in community or school settings. Some programs have broad youth development goals while others focus more narrowly on a particular outcome. Evaluations of the BBBS program and studies of other mentoring programs demonstrate an association between mentoring and some positive youth outcomes, but the effects of mentoring on particular outcomes and the ability for mentored youth to sustain gains over time is less certain.

In recent years, two mentoring programs—the Mentoring Children of Prisoners (MCP) program and Safe and Drug Free Schools (SDFS) Mentoring program—have provided a significant source of federal funding for mentoring services. However, the programs were short-lived: funding for the MCP program was discontinued beginning in FY2011 and funding for the SDFS program was discontinued beginning in FY2010. The Mentoring Children of Prisoners program was created in response to the growing number of children under age 18 with at least one parent who is incarcerated in a federal or state correctional facility. The program was intended, in part, to reduce the chance that mentored youth would use drugs and skip school. Similarly, the SDFS Mentoring program provided school-based mentoring to reduce school dropout and improve relationships for youth at risk of educational failure and with other risk factors. As part of its FY2010 budget justifications, the Obama Administration had proposed eliminating the program because of an evaluation showing that it did not have an impact on students overall in terms of interpersonal relationships, academic outcomes, and delinquent behaviors.

In addition to these programs, the federal government has funded short-term mentoring grants as well as programs that include mentoring as one of their core activities. For example, the Department of Justice has allocated funding for initiatives that provide mentoring for youth in the juvenile justice or foster care systems and other vulnerable youth populations. Youth ChalleNGe, an educational and leadership program for at-risk youth administered by the Department of Defense, includes mentoring as a major aspect of its program. In addition, federal agencies coordinate on federal mentoring issues. The Federal Mentoring Council was created in 2006 to address the ways agencies can combine resources and training and technical assistance to federally administered mentoring programs, and to serve as a clearinghouse on mentoring issues for the federal government. The recently enacted Serve America Act (P.L. 111-13) authorizes funding for Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) programs in which mentoring is a permissible activity.

Issues relevant to the federal role in mentoring include the limitations of research on outcomes for mentored youth, the potential need for additional mentors, grantees’ challenges in sustaining funding, and the possible discontinuation of federal mentoring funding.



Date of Report: May 27, 2011
Number of Pages: 41
Order Number: RL34306
Price: $29.95

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