Last week, U.S. Congressman Billy Long fought for disaster victims, first responders, and disaster relief workers by submitting a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would eliminate federal relief restrictions during emergencies. The FEMA Flexibility Act of 2011 would streamline Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance by removing restrictions on federal aid to disaster stricken areas following disaster declarations.
"During a disaster, the first 48 hours is critical in saving lives," said Long. "This bill will do just that by eliminating the red tape between disaster assistance workers and disaster assistance."
When homes and businesses are evacuated and destroyed, victims and first responders have an immediate need for basic items like bottled water, first aid kits, communication equipment, and generators as well as items like baby formula, diapers, and personal hygiene products. To get these supplies to disaster victims as quickly as possible, FEMA often relies on pre-purchased stockpiles. Recent tragedies in Joplin, Missouri, and throughout the country have shown that these stockpiles are often not enough to meet demand. FEMA makes up this shortage by procuring "micro-purchases" to secure additional items. Unfortunately, this process is capped at a $3,000 limit, which delays disaster relief getting to where it is needed most.
The FEMA Flexibility Act of 2011 Act would provide the Department of Homeland Security, which overseas FEMA, with the authority to raise the spending limit from $3,000 to $15,000 so more aid could be purchased when emergency supplies become limited. That way, disaster supplies are with disaster victims instead of sitting idly in corporate warehouses.
"The FEMA Flexibility Act of 2011 Act gives FEMA the flexibility to purchase the necessary equipment without wasting precious time," said Long. "As someone who was saw disaster recovery with my own eyes, I know that it is vital to get the right resources to the right people as quickly as possible because lives depend on it."
Congressman Long is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security and worked with FEMA during the disaster response in Joplin. In Congress, Long has championed the rebuilding of Joplin and voted to release $1 billion to cover disaster relief costs. He also cosponsored the Southeastern Disaster Tax Relief Act, a bill that would provide tax relief for recent disaster areas across the United States.