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Rounds, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Expedite Disaster Recovery Projects

02.12.20

Legislation would allow certain eligible disaster mitigation projects to begin without the risk of losing potential federal funds

WASHINGTON– U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today joined Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) to introduce bipartisan legislation that would expedite the start of certain hazard mitigation projects after natural disasters, while grant applicants await federal assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) hazard mitigation grant program.

“South Dakotans know all too well the damage that can be done by Mother Nature,” said Rounds. “When storms strike, communities work to rebuild as quickly as possible. State and local governments shouldn’t have to wait on the federal bureaucracy to start simple construction projects following a natural disaster. Our bill will help to make sure federal funds continue to go toward eligible projects even after they’ve already been started, which makes the entire process more efficient.”

Under current law, local stakeholders applying for federal funding for mitigation projects must wait until they receive a final eligibility determination from FEMA before they begin to purchase land or start construction on their project. If local officials purchase land or begin construction without an answer on their eligibility, the project is disqualified from receiving federal assistance. This requirement prevents important resiliency projects from starting and precludes communities from rebuilding as quickly as possible, ultimately making communities wait for years to find out they may not even be eligible.

The Hazard Eligibility and Local Projects (HELP) Act would change eligibility for FEMA’s hazard mitigation grant program to allow local municipalities and states to move quickly on land acquisition and simple construction projects following a natural disaster.  

Similar legislation passed the House of Representatives in December 2019.

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