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Plaskett's Legislation to Improve Federal Disaster Recovery Response Cleared by House Committee

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Congresswoman  Stacey Plaskett

Last week, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure advanced a bipartisan disaster relief bill sponsored by Rep. Graves (R-LA-6), and co-authored by Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI). The legislation, the Expediting Disaster Recovery Act (H.R. 5774), authorizes the President, after the declaration of a major disaster, to direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide assistance necessary for meeting unmet needs as a result of such disaster.

Congresswoman Plaskett released the following statement regarding committee passage of the bill:

“I am pleased that the Transportation and Infrastructure committee successfully passed the Expediting Disaster Recovery Act (H.R. 5774)– a bill that creates a separate funding stream for FEMA, after the declaration of a major disaster, to expeditiously (within 30 days) allocate additional assistance to cover unmet needs as a result of such disaster.

“After the experiences of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, it was abundantly clear that our territory and the other disaster-impacted areas need the support of the federal government to rebuild lives, businesses, and communities as quickly as possible. This bill cuts out some of the unnecessary federal process to put a minimum amount of long-term recovery funding on the ground in the immediate aftermath of a major disaster, without taking away oversight of taxpayer dollars.

“When disaster strikes, disruptive changes happen to people fast – the federal response needs to match the urgency that victims feel after having their lives turned upside down. By establishing a separate funding stream for FEMA to disburse at least 10 percent of the estimated amount of grants for repair, restoration and replacement of damaged facilities and assistance to individuals and households, and in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters to address long-term rebuilding needs, this bill plans to start to fix the slow, unnecessary federal processes that often re-victimize people and jeopardize recovery for entire communities.

“The bill would require localities to submit reports six months after receiving funds (and every six months after that until funds are expended) detailing how the funds were used. It also would clarify that funds can be used to ensure homes are habitable during long-term recovery from natural disasters, and that direct assistance for permanent or semi-permanent housing is permissible if it is a cost-effective alternative to other housing solutions.

“The next step in this process will be for full House consideration. The bill must still come the Floor of the House of Representatives and be passed by the House and then also by the Senate before it gets to the President’s desk for signature into law. I am confident the measure will be considered by the full House in short order, and we are working to have a companion measure considered by the Senate.”