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Chair DeFazio and Ranking Member Graves Introduce the SPEED Recovery Act for Faster Disaster Recovery

Oct 20, 2021
Press Release

Bipartisan legislation to help expedite disaster recovery efforts, particularly in rural areas, was introduced today by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leaders Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO).

The Small Project Efficient and Effective Disaster (SPEED) Recovery Act updates the threshold for what qualifies as a “small project” under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (or the Stafford Act).  This update will allow more recovery projects to proceed under simplified procedures and in turn streamline the process and paperwork for many projects, reduce administrative burdens, and provide more certainty in the recovery process for communities.

  “After disaster strikes, local communities need the federal government to act as a partner in helping them recover and rebuild,” said DeFazio.  “This bipartisan legislation will help make sure that FEMA isn’t a hindrance to these efforts and that states, Tribal, territorial, and local governments can be reimbursed more quickly for projects that will help communities get back on their feet.”

Background Information

Historically, the number of disaster projects that qualified as small projects with simplified procedures accounted for 95% of such projects.  However, because the threshold for a “small project” has not kept pace with inflation and modern construction costs, a much larger percentage of projects (nearly 25% of all recovery projects) now fall outside of the scope of a “small project.”  This has added unnecessary paperwork and burdens for both communities and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The SPEED Recovery Act will give communities more control in the rebuilding process for smaller projects, and it will once again ensure that approximately 95% of projects qualify as “small projects.”  Notably, while “small projects” constitute a large percentage of total projects, they only represent about 10% of federal disaster funding costs, and the bill’s proposed adjustment represents minimal risk to the taxpayer.  FEMA will then be able to focus more of its staff and time on addressing larger, more complex projects.

The simplified procedures for small projects were established over three decades ago, but the cost threshold in law for what qualifies as a “small project” has only been updated once since then.  This bill will update the threshold to $1 million and allow small rural communities to recover more efficiently from a disaster.

The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which DeFazio chairs, has jurisdiction over the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and federal disaster programs.