A bipartisan bill to speed up assistance to communities recovering from Hurricane Sandy and reduce the costs of the 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, and action today by the Senate now clears the measure to be signed into law. The legislation was introduced in the House by Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure leaders, including Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), 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 that can help strengthen the Hurricane Sandy recovery process and reduce costs. The bill will not only benefit communities and individuals in getting back on their feet following the recent superstorm that devastated the Northeastern United States; Americans and their communities to be impacted by future disasters will also be able to rebound faster because of the improvements in the 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 problems that have hampered recoveries from Katrina and other disasters will not unnecessarily hold up those in New York, New Jersey and other states still working to rebound from Hurricane Sandy, or 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.This improvement will allow local governments to rebuild from Sandy faster and more efficiently, without having to haggle with federal emergency program officials over the cost of every replaced door knob.
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.Communities in the path of future storms will know that one of the first and most costly stages of recovery -- clearing the devastation and debris following a recent disaster -- will cost less and occur more rapidly.
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. Communities recovering from Sandy and other future disasters will benefit from a more reasonable, curtailed dispute resolution process, which will help keep project costs in check by avoiding increases inevitably associated with lengthy project delays.
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.