Denham FEMA Reform Bill Passes Senate, Goes to President

Jan 28, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC — A bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) to speed up and reduce the costs of the Hurricane Sandy recovery process is on its way to the President for his signature.

The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013 (H.R. 219) was approved by the House earlier this month by a vote of 403 to 0; action by the Senate now clears the measure to be signed into law.  The legislation was co-sponsored by leaders in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leaders, including Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), Committee Ranking Member Nick J. Rahall, II (D-WV) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). 

The bill specifically targets and streamlines federal disaster recovery programs to help strengthen the Hurricane Sandy recovery process and reduce costs. The bill will not only benefit communities and individuals recovering in the Northeastern United States following the devastation left by the recent superstorm; Americans and their communities impacted by future disasters will also be able to rebound faster because of the improvements included in this legislation.

“This bipartisan legislation will help communities impacted by this storm put their lives back together,” said Denham.  “By providing FEMA with the tools necessary to streamline recovery efforts, we will save hundreds of millions of dollars and ensure our states and communities can rebuild faster and with greater protection from future events.”

“Congressman Denham’s bipartisan bill will help speed up and reduce costs of the Hurricane Sandy recovery,” said Shuster.  “I have worked on these issues since serving as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Emergency Management eight years ago.  At that time, we saw the devastation following Hurricane Katrina and the breakdown of our emergency management capability.  We began working on FEMA reforms, and this bill helps makes sure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”

H.R. 219 addresses inefficiencies in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) programs that slow down and increase costs of recovery.  Bureaucratic problems continue to delay ongoing recoveries from previous disasters, including efforts to recover from Hurricane Katrina and other storms along the Gulf Coast. The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act will help ensure the same problems do not hamper the recoveries from Sandy and other future disasters. 

The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act will save time and money by streamlining FEMA procedures and programs, and increasing flexibility to allow for quicker recoveries in a manner that will best support communities that need assistance.  The bill includes the following provisions:

 

Streamlines Environmental Review Procedures

Expedites hazard mitigation projects by streamlining the environmental review and requires the President to establish an expedited review for environmental and historic requirements for rebuilding damaged infrastructure.

 

Allows Greater Flexibility to Reduce Rebuilding Time and Lower Costs

Gives local governments greater flexibility to consolidate or rebuild facilities by allowing FEMA to issue fixed price grants on the basis of damaged estimates instead of a traditional reimbursement process – the current FEMA process is mired in regulations that delay rebuilding for years and drive up project costs by 25 percent or more.

 

Reduces Debris Removal Costs

Cuts debris removal costs dramatically by utilizing reforms from a successful 2006 Debris Removal Pilot Program that enable operations to be conducted in a more cost-effective manner and incentivize the completion of projects on-time and under budget.

 

Provides Flexibility for Less Expensive Housing Options

Allows FEMA to make limited repairs, instead of lease payments, for the purpose of providing housing when less expensive than traditional FEMA trailers – an expired 2006 pilot program documented dramatic savings over FEMA’s traditional trailer program.

 

Improves Dispute Resolutions to Avoid Cost Overruns

Establishes a limited dispute resolution pilot to resolve disputes over assistance to drive projects to closure and avoid cost overruns.

 

Reforms Individual Assistance Factors

Requires FEMA to review and update factors for individual assistance disaster declarations to make them less subjective.

 

Ensures Tribal Communities Receive Equitable Treatment

Provides for disaster declarations for tribal communities.

 

Recommendations for Reducing Costs of Future Disasters

Directs FEMA to submit recommendations to Congress for the development of national strategy to reduce future costs, loss of life, and injuries associated with extreme disaster events.