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FEMA action needed to better support individuals with disabilities

Man with woman in wheelchair

Three sequential hurricanes—Harvey, Irma, and Maria—affected more than 28 million people in 2017, according to FEMA. Hurricane survivors aged 65 and older and those with disabilities faced particular challenges evacuating to safe shelter, accessing medicine, and obtaining recovery assistance. In June 2018, FEMA began implementing a new approach to assist individuals with disabilities.

GAO was asked to review disaster assistance for individuals who are older or have disabilities. This report addresses:

  1. challenges FEMA partners reported in providing assistance to such individuals,
  2. challenges such individuals faced accessing assistance from FEMA and actions FEMA took to address these challenges, and
  3. the extent to which FEMA has implemented its new approach to disability integration.

GAO analyzed FEMA data and reviewed relevant federal laws, agency policy, and federal frameworks. GAO also interviewed state, territorial, local, and nonprofit officials in Florida, Puerto Rico, Texas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands; FEMA officials at headquarters, in regional offices, and deployed to disaster sites; and officials at relevant nonprofit organizations.

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