Katko’s bill would improve FEMA’s preliminary damage assessment process

U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY) on June 4 sponsored a bipartisan bill that would bolster the ability of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide federal disaster relief across the nation, including to the flood-prone Lake Ontario area in his home state.

“When disaster strikes, time is of the essence. Unfortunately, due to constraints at FEMA, federal relief for disaster-impacted communities can be unnecessarily delayed,” Rep. Katko said. “My bipartisan bill takes important steps to help deliver reliable and consistent federal funding to Lake Ontario’s shoreline communities and communities nationwide that are impacted by flooding.”

Rep. Katko introduced the Preliminary Damage Assessment Improvement Act of 2021, H.R. 3709, with cosponsor U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-NY), which would establish an advisory panel of state and local emergency personnel from all 10 FEMA regions to work with FEMA on enhancements to the agency’s preliminary damage assessment (PDA) process, according to a bill summary provided by Rep. Katko’s office.

Through the PDA process, FEMA personnel validate information gathered by state and local authorities on the impact and severity of a natural disaster. Emergency management personnel nationwide, however, continue to face challenges in coordinating with FEMA, resulting in delays and inefficiencies, according to Rep. Katko’s staff.

If enacted, H.R. 3709 would authorize implementation of standardized training for FEMA personnel to ensure PDAs are reviewed under consistent guidelines, and would direct FEMA to provide information on its PDA procedures, including efforts to maintain communication with state and local officials in impacted communities throughout the disaster response process, the summary says.

Rep. Katko worked with the American Flood Coalition to develop the PDA Improvement Act, which he said will enhance FEMA’s PDA process and provide more consistent and timely relief to local shoreline communities. 

H.R. 3709 has been referred to the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for consideration.