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Mr. SHUSTER. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman from California (Mr. Denham) for his leadership and for sponsoring this important legislation.
We are proud to have strong bipartisan support. Thanks go to Member Rahall and Ms. Holmes Norton for her support on this and working closely with us. In fact, the gentlelady from Washington, D.C., and I worked very closely 8 years ago on many of these reforms that we're going to expand from pilot projects.
I would also like to acknowledge my predecessor and friend, our former chairman, Mr. Mica, who's been a leader on these issues, and also to thank Mr. Palazzo from Mississippi, who offered important suggestions to improve this legislation.
I'm proud to be a cosponsor. These bipartisan Federal Emergency Management Agency and disaster recovery improvements will speed up and streamline Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts. And they will also, importantly, reduce costs.
We worked to target improvements that will specifically help communities in the immediate aftermath of Sandy. These are critical, bipartisan reforms supported by FEMA and key experts and stakeholders. We understand from FEMA Administrator Fugate that these reforms must be enacted by March 1 to help the recovery from Hurricane Sandy.
I have worked on these issues since serving as chairman of the Subcommittee on Emergency Management, as I mentioned, with the gentlelady from Washington, 8 years ago. At that time, I witnessed the devastation following Hurricane Katrina. We saw how our emergency management capability broke down, and significant reforms were needed. We crafted legislation to put FEMA back together again within the Department of Homeland Security, reformed and strengthened our response capability and created pilot programs to test out innovative ways to improve our recovery process.
While we have made significant improvements in disaster preparedness and response since Katrina, there is so much red tape in the recovery programs that rebuilding takes several years longer than it should. The longer communities take to rebuild, the higher the economic losses to those communities and the more it costs the taxpayers.
The pilot programs we created after Katrina laid the foundation for many of these reforms. From the debris removal and public assistance pilot program to the individual and household pilot programs, the savings were significant, and in some cases up to six times less expensive. And these pilot programs did not just save money, but they actually got things done faster.
The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act builds on the important work we started after Hurricane Katrina. Specifically, the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act will: streamline environmental review procedures; allow greater flexibility to reduce rebuilding time and lower costs; reduce debris removal costs; provide flexibility and less expensive housing costs; and call for recommendations for reducing costs for future disasters.
As the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I look forward to working on a FEMA reauthorization bill in the future and moving other important FEMA reforms later in Congress.
However, today I know FEMA needs these reforms, and so I urge all my colleagues to support this in order for us to save hundreds of millions of dollars in Sandy recovery.
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