Senator Schatz Calls for Additional Federal Long-Term Disaster Recovery Funding

Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) took to the floor of the U.S. Senate on April 10 to call for additional federal long-term disaster recovery funding for the island of Maui, which was struck by catastrophic wildfires during the summer of 2023, and other disaster impacted communities across the country. Senator Schatz, who is a primary sponsor of the “Reforming Disaster Recovery Act” (RDRA), an NLIHC-supported bill that would permanently authorize the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program – HUD’s long-term disaster recovery program – pushed for longer term recovery funding as conversations evolved about the need for a supplemental spending bill to fund the repair of Baltimore’s Key Bridge, which collapsed on March 26.

“It’s been almost six months since the president called on Congress to help communities recover from disasters,” said Senator Schatz. “We’ve waited a long time, but we can’t wait any longer. The disasters keep piling up, and with them, the urgent needs of survivors. People need help. And so we need to pass this supplemental and make sure all survivors are getting the relief they need. This is not each against all…we’re all in this together. Every community deserves help – and Congress must provide it.”

The RDRA was introduced in the Senate on a firmly bipartisan basis by Senators Schatz, Susan Collins (R-ME), Patty Murray (D-WA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Todd Young (R-IN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Alex Padilla (D-CA). A companion bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in both 2019 and 2022.

Although other federal agencies have standing resources to quickly serve communities when disasters strike, CDBG-DR funds are only made available through special congressional approval. Due to the program’s lack of permanent authorization, HUD must write a new set of regulations to guide state and local grantees each time it appropriates funds. This ad hoc system can delay funding for as long as three years after a disaster occurs. As a result, recovery timelines are lengthened, state and local economies stagnate, and homelessness and out-migration from disaster-impacted areas increase. 

If enacted, the RDRA would permanently authorize HUD’s CDBG-DR program, helping ensure that long-term disaster recovery funds are made quickly available after disasters and that all disaster survivors and their communities can fully and equitably recover.