In 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed an executive order that merged the numerous disaster relief agencies into one central agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Its stated purpose is “responding to, planning for, recovering from, and mitigating against disasters.” One of FEMA’s first innovations was the creation of an Integrated Emergency Management System to provide not only direction and control of disasters but also warning systems.
FEMA provides relief to disaster victims in the form of financial assistance, temporary shelter, and loans to business owners (provided through the Small Business Administration). It does not duplicate payments received from insurance companies that cover such things as damage to one’s home. Grants from FEMA’s Individual and Households Program do not have to be repaid.