By Lucia Bragg
The U.S. House on Friday passed by 338-13 components of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA) as part of HR 4, a bill that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration for the next five years.
The House passed an earlier DRRA bill late last year, but the Senate has not taken up the measure.
Parts of the DRRA passed as part of the 2018 omnibus spending package, signed by the president in March, which dedicates $249 million for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program.
The components of the DRRA included in HR 4 would increase the federal investment in pre-disaster mitigation, increase reimbursement caps for state and local governments on a range of disaster costs, and allow state and local governments to administer housing assistance grants. Specifically, the bill would:
- Amend the Stafford Act to establish increased and fixed reimbursement rates to state and local governments for direct and indirect administrative costs associated with disaster recovery efforts. This includes no more than 15 percent for hazard mitigation and 12 percent for essential assistance; repair, restoration, and replacement; debris removal; and transportation assistance (section 502).
- Allow states the option to administer FEMA funding for direct temporary housing and permanent housing construction in the wake of a disaster. FEMA must fund 100 percent of the direct temporary housing costs.
- Establish the National Public Infrastructure Pre-Disaster Mitigation Assistance Program, which would commit certain funding from the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) to pre-disaster mitigation efforts. It would allocate 6percent of the combined obligations estimated following a major disaster (unemployment assistance, assistance to low-income migrant and seasonal farmworkers and crisis counseling assistance and training) to mitigation assistance.
- Require the FEMA administrator to develop a plan to streamline information collection processes for grant applications and make the process less burdensome and time consuming.
- Direct FEMA to increase consideration of severe local impact when evaluating whether to recommend a major disaster declaration.
- Allow the FEMA administrator to develop incentives and penalties to encourage state and local governments to expedite the timely closeout of recovery-related expenditures and activities.
The House passed several emergency management amendments to the bill throughout floor proceedings. In part, these amendments would:
- Create an interagency council to improve coordination on the federal, state and local levels on extreme weather, resilience, preparedness and risk identification.
- Improve FFEMA’s reimbursement amounts and processes for state and local governments in the areas of housing assistance, building inspections, and in cases of delayed recoupment.
- Require FEMA to coordinate emergency response plans with state, tribal and local governments.
- Require FEMA to provide training to state, local, and tribal governments, first responders, and facilities that store hazardous materials in the event of major disaster.
Next, HR 4 will head to the Senate where lawmakers will be prompted for the second time to consider DRRA provisions.
Lucia Bragg is a policy associate with NCSL's State-Federal Relations Division.