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June 21, 2022 4:43 PM, EDT

US House Transportation Panel Passes FEMA Bill

FEMAA flood-damaged road in North Carolina. One of the bills would aim to provide assistance for “meeting the unmet needs” of individuals affected by natural disasters. (Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg News)

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The House transportation panel recently approved legislation meant to facilitate access to federal disaster assistance.

The Expediting Disaster Recovery Act, sponsored by Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), would aim to provide assistance for “meeting the unmet needs” of individuals affected by natural disasters. The bill would seek to prioritize long-term housing programs. Graves is ranking member of the House Aviation Subcommittee.

According to the bill, “After the declaration of a major disaster, the president may direct the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide, subject to amounts made available from appropriations, assistance necessary for meeting unmet needs as a result of such disaster.” A floor vote to advance the bill to the Senate has yet to be scheduled.

Rep. Garret Graves

Graves

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee also advanced to the floor the Safe Aircraft Maintenance Standards Act, the American Aerospace Supply Chain Resiliency, Innovation, and Advancement Act, and the Securities and Exchange Commission Real Estate Leasing Authority Revocation Act.

Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) touted the bill’s approval, as well as legislation targeting aviation and other modes of transportation.

“I am pleased that my committee passed bills today to strengthen the aviation sector and to help communities survive and recover from natural disasters,” DeFazio said June 15. “We are one step closer to ensuring a uniform standard of safety, no matter where the aircraft is repaired and maintained. I look forward to the House approving these bills without delay.”

Pertaining to FEMA-related legislation, the House recently passed a bill designed to facilitate recovery efforts for communities and commercial corridors hard-hit by severe weather events. The chamber passed the Resilient Assistance for Mitigation for Environmentally Resilient Infrastructure and Construction by Americans (AMERICA) Act. The bill is designed to enhance mitigation and resilience provisions during post-natural disaster recovery efforts.

The House also passed the Small Project Efficient and Effective Disaster (SPEED) Recovery Act. The measure aims to expedite disaster recovery efforts, primarily for rural communities. It is specifically designed to streamline the recovery process as well as minimize administrative procedures.

“The Resilient AMERICA Act will reduce disaster damages and hardships by placing a higher priority on disaster mitigation,” transportation committee ranking member Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said after the legislation’s passage. “In my district, many people have suffered losses to their homes and business because of flooding, and this bill makes common-sense reforms to ensure that we invest more [Federal Emergency Management Agency] resources on the front end to reduce and prevent the impacts of floods and other disasters before they can strike.”

Peter DeFazio

DeFazio

“Communities around the country are being hit harder than ever before by natural disasters and extreme weather events due to the ongoing climate catastrophe,” DeFazio added. “In addition to taking rapid action to decarbonize, we must also prepare our neighborhoods and infrastructure for these increasingly violent events.”

Earlier this year, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell told congressional policymakers that ensuring severe weather preparedness was a priority for the Biden administration’s infrastructure policy agenda. As she put it, “We must recognize we are facing a climate crisis.”

“FEMA can educate not only our own staff, but also the nation about the impacts our changing climate poses, and how this will influence the work we do as emergency managers,” she added.

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