Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Filing Deadlines

Media 10.7,05

Recipient: Mr. R. David Paulison

Mr. R. David Paulison
Acting Director
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C Street SW
Room 828
Washington, DC 20472

Dear Acting Director Paulison:

Hundreds of thousands of victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are at risk of being unable to exercise their federal rights to disaster assistance merely because they have been unable to register with FEMA. On behalf of these victims, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) and the undersigned organizations request that FEMA exercise its broad powers during a declared emergency to extend the period for individuals to file for benefits. The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights is the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, with more than 190 member organizations.

The initial FEMA registration period is 60 days after the date that the President declares a major disaster. 44 C.F.R. § 206.112(a). Currently, this 60-day filing deadline is set to expire in late October for Hurricane Katrina victims and in late November for Hurricane Rita victims. FEMA has unambiguous authority to extend the registration period. 42 U.S.C. § 5141; 44 C.F.R. § 206.112. Pursuant to the Stafford Act, FEMA can “modify or waive, for a major disaster, such administrative conditions for assistance as would otherwise prevent the giving of assistance under such programs if the inability to meet such conditions is a result of a major disaster.” 42 U.S.C. § 5141. Likewise, the governing regulations provide the regional director or his/her designee with the authority to extend the initial 60-day registration period. 44 C.F.R. § 206.112(b). Such an extension is appropriate when additional time is requested to collect registrations from the affected population or when necessary to establish the same registration deadline for contiguous counties or States. Id. FEMA has exercised this authority to extend the filing deadline in response to previous disasters, including the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, and Hurricane Charley in 2004.

Clearly, an extension of this deadline is warranted under the present circumstance as well. In the weeks following the disaster, many minority and low-income victims struggled to secure the basic assistance necessary for survival, such as food, a place to live, clean water, and basic healthcare. Many affected people have been unable to register for benefits by phone or over the internet, because they do not have internet or phone service. Others with access to these resources received error messages on the internet or busy signals on the telephone. Many survivors have not made contact with a single FEMA official and have been unable to reach FEMA to register for any type of benefits. Because of the absence of a meaningful FEMA presence, many victims have been simply unable to apply.

For these reasons, the undersigned organizations request an extension of the period for the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to register for FEMA benefits. To discuss these important issues, please contact Andrea Martin of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, at (202) 263-2852, or Sarah Crawford of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law at (202) 662-8350. Thank you for your time and consideration. We look forward to hearing from you.


Shirley Wilcher, Executive Director
American Association for Affirmative Action

Andrew J. Imparato, President
American Association of People with Disabilities

Cyndi M. Lucas, Government Relations Manager
American Association of University Women

John Sweeny, President
American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations

Felicia Davis, Executive Director
Benjamin E. Mays Center

Michael Waldman, Executive Director
Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law

Yalonda Sinde, Executive Director
Community Coalition for Environmental Justice

Anthony Dorsey, Director
Georgia Kids Against Pollution

S. Floyd Mori, Director of Public Policy
Japanese American Citizens League

Barbara Arnwine, Executive Director
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Wade Henderson, Executive Director
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

Peter Zamora, Legislative Attorney
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund

Ricardo C. Byrd, Executive Director
National Association of Neighborhoods

Raul Gonzalez, Legislative Director
National Council of La Raza

Daniel Davis, Acting Director of Advocacy and Public Policy
National Council on Independent Living

John Taylor, President
National Community Reinvestment Coalition

Randall Moody, Manager Federal Policy & Politics
National Education Association

Marissa M. Tirona, Program Director
National Employment Lawyers Association

Shanna L. Smith, President
National Fair Housing Alliance

Debra Ness, President
National Partnership for Women & Families

Karen Wayland, Legislative Director
Natural Resources Defense Council

Marcia Greenberger, President
National Women’s Law Center

Raymond C. Offenheiser, President
Oxfam America

Tanya M. Clay, Senior Deputy Director of Public Policy
People For the American Way

Philip Tegeler, Executive Director
Poverty & Race Research Action Council

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Don Chen, Executive Director
Smart Growth America

Alan Reuther, Legislative Director
The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America

Julia Hathaway, Legislative Director
The Ocean Conservancy

John S. Hill, Director
The United Methodist Church