Stafford Act Reform
A Group Discussion on Recommended Changes

Andrew Sachs
Vice President, Crisis and Consequence Management
James Lee Witt Associates

September 24, 2009

Transcript (HTML)
Transcript (MS Word)
Discussion Questions

Related Websites:

8/19/08 FEMA National Advisory Council Recommendations
NYU Center for Catastrophic Preparedness report The Stafford Act: Priorities for Reform
Arkansas Democrat Gazette article, "Ex-FEMA Chief Urges Revamping Disaster Legislation"
8/28/08 Government Technology article, "New Rule Slashes FEMA Disaster Funds for States"
James Lee Witt Associates

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"Excellent discussion and most informative. Thanks!"

"I was going to suggest a hold on making changes until we see how the current changes effect how Hurricane Ike recovery was handled. After seeing Drew's explainations & comments and the comments from others, I now believe that we really need to look hard at making some wholesale changes, but with the envolvement of ALL entities that might be effected. Thanks Amy and Drew."

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Andrew Sachs is Vice President of Crisis and Consequence Management at James Lee Witt Associates. Mr. Sachs is currently one of two senior management staff leading the JLWA recovery team in Louisiana. In this role, Mr. Sachs helped design and implement the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA), an entity established to coordinate overall recovery efforts, establish priorities, receive and distribute appropriated relief funds, and provide a single voice for the State on recovery issues. Mr. Sachs has since served as a senior advisor to both the Governor and Executive Director of the LRA on matters related to disaster response and recovery, including how to maximize Federal assistance to the State and local governments and how best to work with FEMA to achieve results.

While in Louisiana, Mr. Sachs led the State's long-term community recovery planning effort with the 26 most impacted parishes, and developed and implemented regional and statewide planning activities designed to address issues that cross jurisdictional boundaries. Additionally, Mr. Sachs provided technical assistance and support for the State's initial implementation of the Public Assistance Program, to include resolution of critical issues and disagreements with FEMA, representation of applicant and State needs, and communications with applicants.

Previously, Mr. Sachs served as the Chief of Program Outreach at FEMA. In this role he developed partnerships with private sector organizations, non-profit groups, and other agencies to influence policy design and program delivery. He regularly represented the Agency before the Congress, constituent groups, the media, and senior governmental officials to influence policy and redirect resources.

As the Special Assistant to the Associate Director of the Response and Recovery Directorate at FEMA, Mr. Sachs co-managed a staff of 40 and closed out over $750 million in disputed disaster claims by the State of Florida after Hurricane Andrew. He successfully researched claims, developed resolution strategies, and negotiated settlements for all projects in less than five months.

Mr. Sachs holds a Masters in Public Administration with a concentration in business and government relations from George Washington University and a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science from Bates College. He graduated from both programs with Honors.

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Our discussion is based on selected themes from three sources:

  • Remarks by James Lee Witt at a NYU-hosted event of May 6, 2008

  • "Recommendations on the Stafford Act and Related Federal Regualtions: Public Assistance and Individual Assistance Issues," DHS/FEMA National Advisory Council, August 19, 2008

  • The Stafford Act: Priorities for Reform, Mitchell L. Moss, NYU Center for Catastrophic Preparedness and Response, October 17, 2007

1. If a new "Catastrophic Disaster" category were created, how should it be defined?

2. Does the Stafford Act need to be revised to include the broader spectrum of 21st Century hazards in any declaration category?

3. When disasters impact multiple states, should disaster declarations be based on an aggregate of county damage assessments, irrespective of which state they are located in?

4. Should the "capable states" be given more authority to administer block grants or advanced funding for the Public Assistance program?

5. What changes are needed to the Public Assistance program to encourage communities to rebuild smarter?

6. Are changes needed in the way reimbursement is made for public employees time devoted to disaster response and recovery?

7. In a catastrophic scenario, what changes are needed in the Community Disaster Loan program?

8. What changes are needed with respect to evacuees and transportation assistance to return them to their communities?

9. How can we improve the Long Term Recovery planning process, and what changes are needed?

10. What changes are needed to maximize the effectiveness of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program?