Last night, the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan provision pushed by Congressman Mike Michaud that will make an important change to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) hazard mitigation procedures. Under current law, states must submit hazard mitigation plans every 3 years in order to qualify for important FEMA grants that help communities rebuild critical infrastructure in the wake of natural disasters. Because of the importance of preventing a lapse in assistance, state agencies are forced to devote a significant portion of their limited resources to make sure that plans are approved before the deadline.
Last year, after hearing more about these concerns from the Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), Congressman Michaud led 22 other members of Congress in writing a bipartisan letter urging FEMA to change this overly burdensome policy. The FEMA Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2903), which passed the House last night, extends the submission cycle for state hazard mitigation plans to every 5 years. This extension will bring state plans in line with local planning cycles and allow states to direct more of their resources toward critical projects, such as working with communities to limit damages in future storms.
"I'm pleased this commonsense fix is finally moving forward," said Michaud. "Mitigation programs are proven cost-savers that help communities protect themselves from damages caused by natural disasters. With the number of storms on the rise and tight state budgets around the country, we must ensure that we're using our available resources in the most effective way possible."
The National Emergency Management Association estimates that state agencies will be able to redirect up to 40% of their staff and resource costs with this change. This measure builds on earlier stop-gap steps taken by FEMA to relax the deadline on hazard mitigation plan submissions.