House Passes Disaster Recovery Reform Bills

The House of Representatives unanimously passed two bills addressing disaster recovery on June 15. The first bill, the “Preventing Disaster Revictimization Act,” sponsored by Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, deals with repayment of disaster recovery assistance provided to a disaster survivor who was later determined to be ineligible. The second bill, the “Federal Disaster Assistance Coordination Act,” sponsored by Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR), would extend the deadline for FEMA to submit a report on methods of streamlining information collection and preliminary damage assessments.

Currently, when FEMA determines that assistance was provided to a disaster survivor in error, the agency will aggressively pursue repayment from the disaster survivor. The agency does have the ability to waive the repayment requirement if it determines that the error resulting in the incorrect payment was caused by the agency and not a misstatement by the disaster survivor. The Preventing Disaster Revictimization Act would require FEMA to waive a repayment requirement if it stemmed from an error by the agency and when the agency determines that repayment of the debt would be construed as a hardship to the disaster survivor. The bill also requires the agency to provide a report to Congress on the internal processes used to make decisions regarding IA assistance.

FEMA, HUD, the Small Business Administration, and several additional agencies will all conduct preliminary damage assessments after disasters. The Disaster Recovery Reform Act, passed in 2018, including a requirement that FEMA bring together representatives from multiple agencies to find ways to streamline this preliminary data collection process. The bill also directs FEMA to include a study of how emerging technologies, such as unmanned aircraft systems, can be used to further streamline the process. The Federal Disaster Assistance Coordination Act provides FEMA with two additional years to finish that report and ensure it is published in an accessible format on the FEMA website.

Read the text of the Preventing Disaster Revictimization Act at:

Read the text of the Federal Disaster Assistance Coordination Act at: