U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, along with committee member Senator Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts) today introduced legislation to bring greater predictability to critical disaster relief funding for communities and small businesses. The legislation would end the all-too-frequent brinksmanship that occurs with disaster funding appropriations by requiring the president's annual budget requests to reflect average allocations of previous years. The President's Fiscal Year 2012 budget request included $1.8 billion in disaster relief funding in spite of the fact that $6.8 billion has already been allocated to individuals, families, communities and small businesses for FY11. The Safeguarding Disaster Funding Act would ensure the Disaster Relief Fund can meet the needs of communities and small businesses by providing predictability and certainty to its reserves.
"There is simply no excuse for Washington continuing to fund disaster accounts on an emergency, ad hoc basis, rather than preparing for them in advance," said Senator Snowe. "Our legislation would help alleviate the political haggling and brinksmanship that has become all too commonplace in Washington D.C., while ensuring that taxpayer supported disaster funds are properly budgeted and offset. What we have learned from major disasters like Hurricane Katrina in 2005 is that we cannot always prevent damage but we can plan ahead to provide appropriate emergency and clean up services in the aftermath."
"With citizens in Massachusetts and across the country still recovering from Hurricane Irene, it's critical that we get them the assistance they need right away," said Senator Brown. "Going forward, we need to change the way we approach budgeting disaster relief to ensure that we are better prepared for these natural disasters. I believe our amendment is an important step in that direction, and look forward to working with my colleagues to move it forward."
At a Committee hearing today, Senator Snowe also explored the role of Federal contracting in assisting communities recovering from disasters. Senator Snowe noted that, in response to the 2005 hurricanes, Gulf Coast small businesses received roughly $2.9 billion in Federal contracts, or just over 13 percent of the $20.5 billion Federal agencies directly awarded nationwide for recovery efforts related to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
"This Committee has a long history in trying to reduce unwarranted contract bundling to provide more opportunities for small businesses," said Senator Snowe. "We must examine why more disaster recovery contracts are not going to local small businesses, as well as the level to which the Federal government is bundling many of the contracts out of convenience."