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Graves Files Bipartisan Bill for Faster Disaster Recovery

February 20, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Garret Graves (South Louisiana) and Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett (U.S. Virgin Islands) reintroduced disaster relief legislation in the House of Representatives this week to help impacted states and communities recover faster, better and at lower costs to taxpayers. H.R. 1311 is a bipartisan solution for the costly and bureaucratic delays in the current system, and it ensures federal resources get to disaster areas quickly and with the flexibility states need to use them effectively.

“There is no question that programs like Restore Louisiana, Road Home and others take too long and waste too much money paying contractors and administrators.  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 Graves. “This bill starts to fix the slow, unnecessary federal processes that often to re-victimize people and jeopardize recovery for entire communities.” 

“I'm grateful to work across the aisle with my colleague Garret Graves toward solutions for families and communities in need after disaster strikes,” said Plaskett. “After the experiences of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Virgin Islands and the other disaster-impacted areas need the support of the federal government as quickly as possible to rebuild lives, businesses, and communities.  This bill cuts out some of the unnecessary federal process that, while well intentioned, burdens communities who have just been destroyed by disaster, while giving states and territories flexibility in spending, without taking away oversight of taxpayer dollars.” 

H.R. 1311 fundamentally changes the way federally-funded disaster recovery programs such as Restore Louisiana and Road Home function.  Under the bill, long-term disaster recovery funding is predictable and available within weeks of a disaster.  Current practices result in months or even years before long-term disaster recovery funding is certain.  As former FEMA Administrator Long testified last Congress, the agency has long-advocated for more block grant authority to give states more discretion to administer housing and other relief using common sense and available resources. H.R. 1311 would help make that happen, reducing waste and redundancy in providing post-disaster housing so that victims can get back in their homes more quickly.

Three decades have passed since the Stafford Act first established a federal framework for disaster response. While every disaster is unique, it is clear that the current system does not serve states and communities well. Ensuring that each affected community has predictability of funding levels and an understanding of when those funds will be received is critical to immediate and long term recovery plans. The Graves bill combines the flexibility states need with the accountability Americans deserve to deliver better coordination of federal, state and local efforts. Under the Graves bill, recovery can get started without wasting time and limited resources. For far too long, taxpayers have footed the bill for the cost of inaction and communities have suffered from these unnecessary delays.

“Bottom line is that we need to get recovery funds into the hands of disaster victims as soon as possible.  Spending hundreds of millions on temporary housing while waiting on long-term funding is a waste of taxpayer dollars and delays recovery of our communities.  The current system is a proven failure.  Our bill is a needed course correction,” added Graves.