Senators Introduce Disaster Recovery Reform Legislation
US Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) introduced new legislation to help communities plan for and recover from major disasters, according to a July 26, 2019, press release.
The Reforming Disaster Recovery Act of 2019 would strengthen the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s disaster recovery grants for states, local governments and tribes. It would also improve coordination at the federal level by establishing an office within the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (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,” Sen. Schatz said.
“Our legislation would streamline, reform and inject greater fiscal responsibility into the broken CDBG Disaster Recovery Program,” said Sen. 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.”
The new legislation also directs the federal government to submit to Congress two reports—one from HUD, the other from the U.S. Government Accountability Office—on how to improve the federal government’s efforts to provide housing the wake of a disaster.
Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a companion bill, which was introduced by Congressman Al Green (D-Texas).
“Our country’s disaster housing recovery system consistently leaves behind those with the greatest needs—America’s lowest-income seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, and people experiencing homelessness,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC). “Sen. Schatz’s and Senator Young’s bill is an important step towards ensuring that federal recovery and rebuilding dollars better reach low-income survivors, who are often hardest hit by disasters and have the fewest resources to recover. NLIHC and our Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition of over 800 organizations urge Congress to quickly enact this important bill.”
The Reforming Disaster Recovery Act has been endorsed by the Arc of the United States, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Housing Task Force, Disaster Law Project, Enterprise Community Partners, Fair Share Housing Center of New Jersey, Habitat for Humanity International, Hispanic Federation, Local Initiatives Support Coalition, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, National Coalition for Healthy Housing, National Community Development Association, National Fair Housing Alliance, National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Texas Low Income Housing Information Service.