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DeFazio-Authored Legislation to Reduce Financial Burdens on States, Tribes and Communities After Disasters and Emergencies During COVID-19 Pandemic Proceeds to House Floor

Sep 30, 2020
Press Release

Today, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure marked up legislation authored by T&I Chair Peter DeFazio to reduce the financial burdens on states, tribes and local communities after natural disasters, such as wildfires, floods, and hurricanes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill will now get a vote on the floor as part of House Democrats’ updated COVID-19 relief legislation.

“Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the catastrophic wildfires that have ravaged our state, Southwest Oregon is facing multiple crises at once,” said DeFazio. “Thanks to the pandemic, state and local governments have seen their public health and emergency management capabilities stretched thin or exceeded, all while their tax bases dwindle. It’s imperative that the federal government does not leave communities like ours on the hook for disaster recovery costs they cannot afford while combatting this pandemic. My legislation would significantly increase federal support after a disaster, enabling communities to focus on helping the families, workers, and services that are in desperate need of immediate relief.”

DeFazio’s legislation, the FEMA Assistance Relief Act, would adjust the federal cost share of certain disaster assistance provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act).

Typically, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments pick up 25 percent of the costs of FEMA assistance, but, with their own response costs up and tax receipts down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s critical these communities have the resources to respond to multiple crises at once.

Specifically, this legislation would:

  • Adjust the FEMA cost share for all Emergencies and Major Disasters declared in calendar year 2020 to not less than 90 percent Federal and 10 percent non-Federal, up from the typical 75 percent Federal and 25 percent non-Federal;
  • Adjust the FEMA cost share for all COVID-19 related Emergency and Major Disaster declarations to 100 percent Federal; and
  • Clarify to FEMA that under the COVID-19 declarations, the Agency may—and Congress expects—FEMA to cover certain expenses for reimbursement, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and other services for public schools, public transit, and courthouses. This comes on the heels of the Trump administration pulling funding for critical supplies, like PPE and disinfecting schools.