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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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The Disaster Relief Act of 1974

The Disaster Relief Act of 1974

Richard Nixon and the Creation of Emergency Management

(p.135) 9 The Disaster Relief Act of 1974
Playing Politics with Natural Disaster

Timothy W. Kneeland

Cornell University Press

This chapter studies how, after his landslide reelection in 1972, Richard Nixon began his campaign to change the trajectory of American disaster policy and create a new era in which preparation and mitigation at the local level of government was a requirement to receive any assistance from the federal government. In signing the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 on May 22 of that year, Nixon remarked that this bill “truly brings the new federalism to our disaster preparedness and assistance activities.” The significance of the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 is debatable; some analysts see it as a continuation of practices set into motion by the Disaster Relief Act of 1950, whereas others see it as a significant departure from prior disaster legislation. The Disaster Relief Act of 1974 marked the beginning of the regulatory phase of disaster assistance, an era in which the federal government limited federal costs and forced individuals and communities to assume some of the responsibility of living in disaster-prone areas. The legislation contained the provisions requiring states and localities to take steps to mitigate future disasters. Moreover, it required communities to have plans and contingencies for disaster, which laid the foundation of the professionalization of emergency management. The chapter then considers the creation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Keywords:   Richard Nixon, American disaster policy, local government, federal requirement, 1974 Disaster Relief Act, disaster assistance, emergency management, FEMA, disaster preparedness, Federal Emergency Management Agency

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