Barletta Guides Passage of Bill to Bring Fairness to Disaster Declarations

May 3, 2017
Press Release
Legislation Considers Local Impact of Disasters When Granting Public Assistance

Click here for video of Rep. Barletta managing the bill on the House floor.

WASHINGTON – Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) today guided through the House of Representatives passage of a bill that would bring fairness to the disaster declaration process.  The Disaster Declaration Improvement Act, H.R. 1665, which Barletta co-sponsored, would give greater weight and consideration to the localized impact of a disaster when determining the need for federal assistance and require the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to take into account the cumulative impact of multiple storms in an area.  Barletta managed the bill on the House floor, where it passed unanimously.  It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

“I know all too well how devastating disasters can be to local communities and their budgets, as I am dealing with a similar issue in Northeastern Pennsylvania,” Barletta said.  “In March, much of the area I represent was hit with a crippling snowstorm that dumped as much as 30 inches of snow in some areas.  Municipalities had to exhaust much of their yearly budgets on snow removal efforts and emergency services.  However, due to the fact that the statewide threshold needed for Pennsylvania to request reimbursement funding from the federal government was not met, local municipalities were left with massive holes in their budgets.  This bill helps to ensure that the severe and localized impact is taken into consideration and that local communities get the help they need when disasters strike.”

FEMA currently uses a per-capita formula to determine the need for public assistance following disasters.  The formula multiples the state’s population by $1.39 then uses this number as a threshold for determining the state’s need for public assistance.  Pennsylvania’s cost threshold is $18.2 million.  In recent years, there has been more evidence of small and rural communities not receiving federal assistance in a fair and equitable manner compared to other, larger communities and neighboring states.  The Disaster Declaration Improvement Act seeks to address this issue by ensuring that, when making a recommendation to the President for a major disaster declaration, the Administrator of FEMA looks at the intensity of the impact in a localized area, as well as the impact of other recent disasters.