07.22.21

Schatz, Collins, Young, Leahy, Cassidy Introduce Bipartisan Legislation To Reform Disaster Recovery

. . . Bipartisan Legislation Would Improve Long-Term Housing For Disaster-Struck Areas

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, July 22, 2021) – U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) today introduced legislation to help communities plan for and recover from major disasters. The Reforming Disaster Recovery Act would strengthen the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) disaster recovery grants for states, local governments, and tribes. It would also improve coordination at the federal level by establishing an office within HUD that would be devoted to disaster recovery and resilient communities.

“Right now, the law mandates that communities in crisis wait for Congress to pass a disaster funding bill before they can even apply for help from HUD. This bill changes the law so they no longer have to wait. As soon as a disaster strikes, HUD can help communities begin the process of recovery,” said Senator Schatz, Chairman of the Housing Appropriations Subcommittee.

“With natural disasters increasing in frequency and intensity, it is critical that states have the necessary resources to respond in order to protect public safety, property, and our economy,” said Senator Collins, the Ranking Member of the Housing Appropriations Subcommittee. “Our bipartisan legislation would allow communities to immediately focus on helping families and local businesses recover instead of navigating the federal bureaucracy in the wake of a natural disaster.”

“Our legislation would streamline, reform, and inject greater fiscal responsibility into the broken CDBG Disaster Recovery Program,” said Senator Young. “This is a response to reports from the Government Accountability Office and HUD’s Office of Inspector General recommending Congress permanently codify the program to avoid funding lags and rid duplicative requirements in the wake of a disaster.”

“Damage from disasters can be unpredictable, but the process of getting funding for long-term recovery shouldn’t be. Congress has an opportunity to ensure that communities suffering from the long-term effects of disasters can access funding from the CDBG-DR program on a reasonable and predictable timeline.  This bill will fix the haphazard process of allocating funding on a case-by-case basis and give community leaders and residents one less thing to worry about in the aftermath of a disaster,” said Senator Leahy.

“Red tape and delays hurts families trying to recover from disaster,” said Senator Cassidy. “This legislation streamlines the process to get communities the resources they need, as soon as possible, to get back on their feet.”

The bill addresses long-standing recommendations from the HUD Office of the Inspector General and Government Accountability Office to establish a permanent and predictable funding process. The bill accelerates assistance to disaster-impacted communities by: 

  • Creating a disaster recovery fund to allow HUD to predictably assist communities without waiting for Congress to act on each event;
  • Authorizing HUD to issue regulations to codify program requirements and reduce unnecessary red tape, delays, and unpredictability that stems from the current Federal Register notice process;
  • Supporting resilience as a part of – rather than separate from – disaster recovery;
  • Authorizing “quick release” funds to support grantee capacity right after an event; and
  • Reducing unnecessary administrative burdens and interagency requirement conflicts.

The full text of the bill is available here.

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