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Eleanor N.
Democrat DC 0

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  • Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013

    by Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton

    Posted on 2013-01-14

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    NORTON. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    I want to thank Mr. Shuster, Mr. Rahall, and my good friend Mr. Denham for their very important work to bring this matter to the floor so soon after the recess. I'm sure everyone appreciates it, and I certainly associate myself with the remarks of Mr. Denham. He and I worked on the very passages he quoted.

    I, therefore, rise in support of H.R. 219, the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013. This bipartisan measure consists of reforms to expedite the recovery process for those communities that received disaster declarations for [[Page H69]] Hurricane Sandy as well as for future Presidentially declared disasters. I do believe this may be the first time that some of these reforms with any significant event have been tested because many of the provisions included in the bill are matters that we have long worked for and that were incorporated into similar legislation in past Congresses. Several of the provisions will streamline the rebuilding process to provide jobs in the region and to achieve full recovery. The measure is also supported by the International Association of Emergency Managers, the Association of State Floodplain Managers, the National League of Cities, and more.

    After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Congress enacted two pilot programs: one for debris removal and another allowing FEMA to make limited repairs instead of lease payments to provide housing when cheaper than using temporary trailers. Both pilot programs were successful and resulted in savings for the Federal Government. Local governments and emergency management professionals have discussed the need to make the debris removal program permanent in order to expedite debris recovery. The housing program will be especially useful in large urban areas, such as in New York City, where temporary trailers simply are not an option. This bill would codify both expired pilot programs, providing additional tools for FEMA to help communities recover.

    This measure would also authorize FEMA to use fixed grants based on cost estimates at the request of the local community--another favorite we have been pressing for years. Although Congress authorized FEMA to use cost estimating 12 years ago, which is the way the insurance industry does it, for example, FEMA has not done so. The new authorization includes incentives for the local communities to use cost estimating by allowing them to rebuild according to today's needs and by eliminating long delays in the recovery process caused by cost disputes. Moreover, this provision explicitly authorizes FEMA and the applicant to mutually agree on a professionally licensed expert to prepare a cost estimate to be relied upon by FEMA instead of using an adversarial process in which both hire their own cost estimators, paid for by the Federal Government, and then get into a dispute as to which one is the best to use. This process alone will eliminate one of the most inefficient uses of Federal funds I have ever heard of in which FEMA pays for the State's experts to submit competing estimates of the costs of repair to the government's experts. No more of that. No more waste from that.

    Finally, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held an oversight hearing last month on the preparedness, response to, and recovery from Hurricane Sandy. At that hearing, I questioned FEMA Administrator Fugate about the need to expedite the dispute resolution process. I am pleased to state that this bill includes a 3-year dispute resolution pilot program for FEMA to draft procedures in order to expedite project closure and to decrease recovery costs caused by project delays.

    Madam Speaker, I strongly urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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