Graves’ FEMA Reform Efforts Earn Committee Approval
Washington, DC – A bill offered by Congressman Garret Graves (R-South Louisiana) to directly address the frustrations disaster victims experience regarding the status of federal assistance administered through FEMA earned approval today by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, moving it one step closer to passage in the House of Representatives. Graves worked with local flood victims and parish and state officials to address challenges through legislation, and his bill was one of three that passed through the committee this morning – all of which are designed to improve FEMA’s performance.
“It’s just wrong that disaster victims are often re-victimized by FEMA inefficiencies,” said Graves. “Here we are in the 21st Century, living private lives that revolve around technology – yet interacting with the government is like going back in time. Flood victims still have to dial an 800 number, sit on hold and wait for one of the hundreds of FEMA employees to search a database to get an update on a claim’s status. The process is filled with uncertainty, is expensive and leaves taxpayers feeling extraordinarily frustrated.”
Graves’ H.R. 1679, the FEMA Accountability, Modernization and Transparency Act of 2017 would require the agency to modernize its grant management system and provide secure online access to applicants. It would ensure FEMA’s improvement efforts include robust applicant accessibility and transparency measures.
Graves continued, “This bill would also bridge the current information gap between state and local government efforts that undermines their ability to complement federal recovery programs. This does not pass even the most basic common sense test. Gathering and sharing information on response and recovery work is a basic management principle and serves only to improve efficient execution of overall efforts.”
The committee further approved a Graves amendment to another FEMA bill, H.R. 1665, which is also making its way to the House floor. His amendment would ensure that FEMA considers the cumulative regional impact of recent disasters when making a recommendation to the president for a current major declaration and would address situations faced by states when back-to-back disasters occur. Louisiana recently experienced this challenge when a string of tornadoes tore through multiple communities, including some that were impacted by the historic flood in 2016.
“In states like Louisiana where in the last 11 years we’ve endured Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike and Isaac, record high water on the Mississippi River and other natural disasters – a lot can happen in a short amount of time. Sometimes FEMA needs to look at these disasters cumulatively,” said Graves.
The committee additionally approved H.R. 1678, which is co-sponsored by Graves and puts a 3-year limit on FEMA’s ability to approach disaster victims with attempts to recover disaster assistance payments.