The Commission on Intergovernmental Relations: A Report to the President for Transmittal to the Congress

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Chapter 13
NATURAL DISASTER RELIEF

The National Government has long recognized an obligation to give relief to the States and their subdivisions in the event of great natural disasters. An "orderly and continuing means of assistance" is provided in Public Law 875, 81st Congress, as amended.

Public Law 875 authorizes the President to coordinate the disaster assistance activities of all agencies of the National Government and to direct them to utilize their available personnel, equipment, supplies, facilities, and other resources. The act does not authorize permanent restoration and rehabilitation work; rather it restricts the activity of Federal agencies to temporary or emergency types of assistance. In addition, the National Government may grant funds to the State and local governments for purposes of "performing on public or private lands protective and other work essential for the preservation of life and property, clearing debris and wreckage, making emergency repairs to and temporary replacements of public facilities of local governments damaged or destroyed in such major disaster, providing temporary housing or other emergency shelter * * *."

The President is authorized to designate the agency responsible for administering Public Law 875. From the enactment of the law in September 1950 until January 1953, the Housing and Home Finance Agency had this responsibility. Since that time, the act has been administered at the National level by the Federal Civil Defense Administration. At the State level, the recent tendency has been to center disaster functions in the State civil defense agency.

Disaster assistance by the National Government is in the form of both cash and aid-in-kind. Aid-in-kind is given extensively. A number of Federal agencies are authorized by law to use their

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