Introduction of the Fema Help and Education for Local Partners Actby Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton
Posted on 2015-12-17
of the district of columbia
in the house of representatives
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce the FEMA Help and
Education for Local Partners Act (FEMA HELP Act). The bill addresses
concerns raised by states and local governments about the lack of
comprehensive information about the various federal assistance programs
available during and in the aftermath of a natural or man-made
disaster. The bill creates a federal multi-agency team, led by the
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to provide coordinated
assistance to state, local, tribal, and territorial leaders in
implementing a comprehensive approach to recovery and utilizing the
full range of federal resources across agencies and programs.
The number and costs of federally declared disasters has been on the rise over the last 30 years. For example, total damages from 1972's Hurricane Agnes were $2.1 billion, 1999's Hurricane Floyd caused $6 billion in damage, while Hurricane Sandy resulted in $65 billion in total damage. With the multiple disaster assistance programs offered by federal agencies in the aftermath of a disaster, the federal government needs to work together with state, local, tribal, and territorial leaders to provide the right types of aid on time to meet critical needs. At a recent Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management roundtable, a state representative suggested that the federal government provide a ``menu of resources'' so that state, local, tribal, and territorial leaders and their residents can look for government resources in one place.
To address the current lack of coordination, the FEMA HELP Act is designed to require federal agencies to work together in a collaborative manner with state, local, tribal, and territorial leaders and provide them with guidance on federal assistance programs. To accomplish this aim, the bill directs FEMA to convene and manage multi- agency federal teams to work with and provide coordinated assistance to state, local, tribal, and territorial leaders in implementing a comprehensive approach to recovery and utilizing the full range of federal funding resources across agencies and programs. The bill also requires FEMA's coordinating officers be trained in the range of applicable funding programs. The multi-agency federal team would include FEMA, the Federal Transit Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Small Business Administration, the Department of Defense, and the Army Corps of Engineers. The bill also directs FEMA to create a clear and consistent set of guidelines and criteria for making and communicating decisions on funding eligibility and requirements. To retain institutional knowledge, the bill requires federal teams to minimize staff transitions and ensure there is adequate information transfer when staff transitions occur.
I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill.