Newhouse proposal places moratorium on phone number reassignment after disaster declaration

Americans who survive natural disasters but lose their homes would be able to retain their telephone numbers free of charge when rebuilding under a newly introduced bipartisan bill offered by U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA). 

“The people of central Washington and communities across the West understand the challenges of rebuilding after a natural disaster like a catastrophic wildfire,” Rep. Newhouse said on Monday. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation to ensure that families, homeowners, businesses, and farmers can remain connected to the people and resources they need to get back on their feet after a natural disaster.”

On Feb. 1, Rep. Newhouse signed on as an original cosponsor of the Preserving Home and Office Numbers in Emergencies (PHONE) Act of 2021, H.R. 678, with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA).

If enacted, H.R. 678 would provide for an automatic one-year freeze to be authorized on residential phone number reassignments following a major disaster declaration, according to the bill, which also would create an option for disaster survivors to extend that freeze for an additional year if they choose to request it. 

Additionally, the bill would require states to determine whether this safeguard is necessary and in the public interest; to coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); and to consult with wireline service providers to limit the designation to areas that have sustained covered damage under a respective disaster declaration, according to a bill summary provided by Rep. Newhouse’s office.

“Disaster survivors who lost their homes face a daunting process with miles of red tape and they deserve as much assistance from the federal government as possible,” said Rep. Thompson. “I will continue working to get this bill signed into law and bring back every federal dollar and resource to help fire survivors.”