House Passes Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Package Containing Text Endorsed by Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition

The House of Representatives passed the “Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act” on July 29 by a vote of 218-199. The more than 500-page bill contains numerous provisions boosting the nation’s ability to fight wildfires, conserve and improve access to water, preserve indigenous rights to water, address environmental justice issues in low-income communities, and improve how the country responds to and learns from disasters. The package includes provisions providing expanded assistance to victims of the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire – the largest wildfire in the history of New Mexico – which investigators determined began when a U.S. Forest Service prescribed burn escaped confinement.

Notably, the package includes text of the “Disaster Learning and Lifesaving Act.” Introduced in the House by Representative Katie Porter (D-CA), the bill would create a new permanent and independent National Disaster Safety Board (NDSB) to study the underlying causes of disaster-related deaths and property damage across the country. The bill is endorsed by the NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition, a group over 850 local, state, and national organizations working to ensure that all disaster survivors receive the assistance they need to fully recover.

The National Disaster Safety Board (NDSB) is modeled on the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that investigates plane crashes, major railroad accidents, and commercial highway accidents. Rather than working to assign specific blame for disaster failures, the NDSB would focus on how to improve disaster recovery systems to avoid future loss of life and major property damage. The bill would also ensure that reports and recommendations are publicly available, and it requires the board to provide technical assistance to jurisdictions attempting to implement recommendations. Low-income households commonly experience the worst effects of disasters while also receiving the least amount of assistance to recover afterward. By attempting to identify the underlying causes of these catastrophes and implementing improvements, the NDSB would mitigate the risks facing low-income households during major disasters.

Read the text of the “Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act” at: