House Passes Barletta’s Bill to Help Communities Rebuild after Disasters

Mar 27, 2017
Press Release
Disaster SAVE Act Streamlines Disaster Recovery Assistance to Local Governments

WASHINGTON – The House today passed by voice vote legislation introduced by Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to expedite assistance to local communities recovering from disasters and provide them with greater flexibility to serve their residents.  Barletta’s bill, the Disaster Simplified Assistance Value Enhancement Act (Disaster SAVE Act), H.R. 1214, temporarily increases FEMA’s simplified projects threshold for disaster assistance to $500,000 and removes red tape to allow local governments more autonomy in managing recovery efforts.  The bill, which now goes to the Senate for consideration, will streamline the efficient and effective delivery of assistance for small disaster recovery projects without reducing oversight.

“In one of the townships in my congressional district, FEMA reversed its prior approval and has been fighting for years with a local government over whether or not they should have paved a temporary access road that was built after a major flood,” Barletta said.  “The cost of the gravel road was $230,000.  The extra cost to pave it, which the community covered with its own funds, was about $50,000.  The amount of money FEMA has wasted in salaries, administration, and legal fees trying to take back the $230,000 likely exceeds the entire project cost.  This is red tape out of control, and it does not serve the taxpayers well.  My bill would prevent other local governments from facing this nightmare.”

“We need a federal government that is more efficient and works smarter,” Congressman Bill Shuster, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said.  “I support this bill and thank my colleague, Rep. Barletta, for introducing legislation that seeks to support good government and reduce needless red tape and bureaucracy from the disaster response process.”

Under current law, FEMA runs disaster assistance recovery projects under $130,100 similar to an insurance settlement.  These projects include a review of the damage, a cost estimate, and issuance of a repair grant. The local government is then responsible for managing the grant on time and on budget.  In exchange, local governments have greater flexibility in how they rebuild and can enhance a project with their own funds.  This approach dramatically cuts administrative costs, rebuilds infrastructure faster, eliminates the risk of cost overruns for federal taxpayers, and gives local governments the flexibility to rebuild in a way that best meets their needs.  Barletta’s bill would raise the project cap for this program from $130,100 to $500,000, because 98 percent of all public infrastructure repair and reconstruction projects following a disaster cost less than $500,000.  This threshold increase would sunset on September 30, 2021.

Click here to watch Barletta speak on the House floor about H.R. 1214.