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Playing Politics with Natural DisasterHurricane Agnes, the 1972 Election, and the Origins of FEMA$
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Timothy W. Kneeland

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501748530

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501748530.001.0001

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American Disaster Policy through 1972

American Disaster Policy through 1972

Growing Benefits and Expanding Federal Authority

(p.12) 1 American Disaster Policy through 1972
Playing Politics with Natural Disaster

Timothy W. Kneeland

Cornell University Press

This chapter traces the history and expansion of federal disaster aid, beginning with the Disaster Relief Act of 1950. Under the Disaster Relief Act of 1950, the federal government assumed a permanent role and new responsibility for assisting local communities and state governments after a disaster. Between the 1950 legislation and the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, U.S. Congress allocated an ever-increasing amount of money toward disaster relief and added new benefits for disaster victims. As a consequence, the number of executive agencies and civil servants involved in dealing with disaster recovery multiplied. Disaster assistance, which was once aimed exclusively at state and local governments, now included direct payments to private citizens affected by natural disaster. This pattern of adding new benefits to disaster legislation culminated in the Disaster Relief Act of 1970, which made permanent all the benefits and programs found in previous acts, making these programs tantamount to a new entitlement. President Nixon was not pleased with the existing entitlement programs and tried to reduce the role of the federal government by empowering the states to prepare for, and deal with, a disaster on their own.

Keywords:   federal disaster aid, Disaster Relief Act, federal government, Richard Nixon, U.S. Congress, disaster relief, disaster victims, disaster recovery, disaster assistance, disaster legislation

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