Political storms breakout: How did we get here? A history of federal disaster funding
Federal disaster aid began in 1803 as an informal reaction to a state emergency and has evolved into a complicated bureaucratic process. Still, power over what constitutes a disaster remains in the president’s hands.
1803: Congressional Act of 1803 marks the first time national legislature extended federal aid for a specific local disaster, in this case an extensive fire that hit a New Hampshire town.
1932: Federal Reconstruction Finance Corporation charged with making disaster loans for repair of certain public facilities after disasters.
1974: Disaster Relief Act spelled out presidential disaster declaration process.
1979: Federal Emergency Management Agency created by President Jimmy Carter to merge fragmented disaster relief efforts.
1988: Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act passed, putting FEMA in charge of governmental relief efforts, and increasing presidential discretion as to what constitutes an emergency or major disaster.
2003: FEMA absorbed by Department of Homeland Security by President George W. Bush, in post-Sept. 11, 2001, reorganization of emergency response tactics.
Source: FEMA History, Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Public Law 100-707)