Faster federal funds made available under Graves’ bipartisan disaster relief bill

Bipartisan disaster relief legislation recently offered by U.S. Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) would make federal recovery funds immediately available to states following a major disaster.

“The legislation will expedite recovery by pushing predictable federal dollars toward our impacted communities immediately because the federal response needs to meet the urgency folks are feeling,” said Rep. Graves. “Getting this bill signed into law is a national priority.”

The congressman on Oct. 26 sponsored the Expediting Disaster Recovery Act, H.R. 6084, alongside original cosponsor U.S. Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) to amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to ensure that unmet needs after a major disaster are met, according to the text of the bill.

“The foundation of this legislation is built on tough lessons learned from communities that are, unfortunately, experts in disaster response and recovery,” Rep. Graves said on Monday. “But this bill isn’t just about Louisiana. Several states have experienced disasters recently, and sadly, under FEMA’s existing processes, their experience with the federal response timeline will also be woefully inadequate if history is any indication.”

If enacted, H.R. 6084 would require FEMA to immediately fund 10 percent of estimated grant assistance under the Stafford Act’s Sections 406 (repair, restoration & replacement of damaged facilities) and 408 (Individual Assistance) to respond to major disasters within 30 days of a disaster declaration, according to a bill summary provided by Rep. Graves’ staff.

Funding would be available for home repair and rebuilding, unmet needs for families, and emergency assistance for disaster-impacted businesses like food and agriculture, the summary says.

Additionally, H.R. 6084 would authorize a permanent Emergency Home Repair Program to give FEMA more flexibility to make permanent repairs to homes and allow disaster victims to shelter in place while permanent repairs are completed. This saves taxpayer funding by eliminating both temporary and long-term repairs, according to the lawmakers.

The measure also would make other Stafford Act improvements, such as requiring FEMA to share more information with disaster victims who have been denied assistance, states the summary.

“When disaster strikes, disruptive changes happen to people fast; the federal response needs to match the urgency that victims feel after having their lives turned upside down,” said Rep. Plaskett. “That is why I am pleased to join my Republican colleague Rep. Graves to reintroduce this important legislation. This bill provides people a way out of the slow, unnecessary federal processes that often re-victimize people and jeopardize recovery for entire communities.”