Skip to main content

BPC Relaunches Task Force to Improve Federal Disaster Assistance

Washington, DC—The Bipartisan Policy Center announced today it has revamped and relaunched its Task Force to examine and advance needed reforms to federal disaster assistance programs.  

First convened in 2020, this bipartisan group of emergency management and disaster recovery experts—all with diverse expertise from prior roles in the government, private, and nonprofit sectors—has already provided critical guidance to policymakers on the pandemic’s impact on disaster relief and recovery programs and has led the charge to reform and codify the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program.  

Recognizing that our emergency response and recovery systems have been stretched to the limit over the last few years and the increasingly devastating impact of major natural disasters, BPC’s reconstituted task force will assess opportunities to make FEMA, HUD, and other federal disaster assistance more timely, equitable, and impactful. With new members and leadership, the Task Force will immediately begin work to: 

  • Identify and document the most problematic and pervasive barriers to providing critical federal aid to communities in crisis, thereby promoting speedy and equitable disaster recoveries; 
  • Create a broad-based, bipartisan understanding and a sense of urgency around needed disaster reforms; and 
  • Advance meaningful policies in Congress to improve the provision of federal disaster assistance and the lives of disaster survivors. 

The Task Force’s ability to address these issues can help set the stage for improved recovery efforts in jurisdictions across the nation that have recently been impacted by a range of diverse events—from the recent wildfires in Maui County, HI to the flooding in Vermont, and continued recovery from Hurricane Ian in Lee County, FL. 

The task force will be chaired by former FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor and former HUD Deputy Secretary and BPC Board Member Pamela Hughes Patenaude—and is generously supported by The JPB Foundation and the Walmart Foundation  

“I am thankful for the opportunity to serve on serve on BPC’s Disaster Response Reform Task Force,” said Task Force Co-Chair Pete Gaynor. “Throughout my career, including my time at FEMA, I have seen significant progress made in the disaster response space, but more needs to be done. I look forward to working with BPC and this group of thoughtful experts and leaders to ensure that federal disaster programs work well for the families and communities that need them the most.”  

“Both FEMA and HUD will soon exhaust their funding for disaster response and recovery efforts in the aftermath of the heartbreaking fires in Hawai’i and in the middle of hurricane season, forcing a divided Congress to quickly advance emergency funding,” said Task Force Co-Chair Pamela Hughes Patenaude. “We see this happen time and time again. Disaster-affected communities and disaster survivors cannot count on timely federal assistance and, when it is available, they struggle to navigate red tape and recover quickly. BPC’s task force is well positioned to identify the most pervasive barriers to the efficient, effective delivery of federal disaster assistance and recommend the bipartisan policies to tackle them.”   

“Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have a long history of helping vulnerable communities build resilience and supporting impacted communities after disasters,” said Brooks Nelson, program officer for disaster relief and preparedness on the team. “Our investments aim to improve entire systems, beyond responding in the moment. We hope that BPC’s Disaster Response Reform Task Force will champion changes that lead to faster and more equitable deployment of federal resources to disaster survivors.”  

Task force members include:  

  • Kevin Bush | Principal, Cadmus Group; Former HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary 
  • Jeffrey Byard | Vice President of Operations, Team Rubicon; Former FEMA Associate Administrator 
  • Pete Gaynor, Task Force Co-Chair | Senior Vice President and Director of National Resilience, Response and Recovery Programs, GEI Consultants; Former FEMA Administrator  
  • Fernando Gil-Enseñat, Esq | Principal, FGE LLC; Former Puerto Rico Secretary of Housing 
  • Stan Gimont | Senior Advisor for Community Recovery, Hagerty Consulting; Former HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary 
  • Jennifer Gray Thompson | Founder and CEO, After the Fire USA 
  • Bryan Koon | Vice President of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, IEM; Former Florida Director of Emergency Management 
  • Ben Metcalf | Managing Director, Terner Center, University of California-Berkeley; Former Director, California Department of Housing and Community Development 
  • Reese May | Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, SBP 
  • Pamela Hughes Patenaude | Task Force Co-Chair| Board Member, BPC; Former HUD Deputy Secretary 
  • Neal Rackleff | Attorney at Law, Rackleff LLP; Former HUD Assistant Secretary 
  • Chauncia Willis | Co-Founder and CEO, Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management  

To follow the work of BPC’s Disaster Response Reform Task Force as it moves forward, please subscribe to our newsletter and visit the task force webpage.  

Read Next