WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., on Thursday helped introduce bipartisan legislation to create a disaster assistance fund to help communities plan for and recover from major disasters.
The Reforming Disaster Recovery Act (S.1686) would strengthen the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) disaster recovery grants for states, local governments, and tribes, and establish an office within HUD devoted to disaster recovery and community resilience.
“Mississippians understand that rapid disaster response helps communities bounce back from natural disaster more quickly,” Wicker said. “This legislation would expedite aid distribution at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, ensuring families can rebuild as soon as possible after disaster strikes.”
“Mississippians certainly understand the long haul required to recover from disasters, which is something we’re working to do now after the March tornadoes. We also know that federal assistance can be improved, which is what we would be doing by authorizing and funding the CDBG Disaster Recovery Program,” Hyde-Smith said.
U.S. Senators Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, introduced S.1686, which is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D., R-La., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Todd Young, R-Ind., Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Alex Padilla, D-Calif.
The bill addresses long-standing recommendations from the HUD Office of the Inspector General and Government Accountability Office to establish a permanent and predictable process to provide disaster assistance for housing and community development.
The bill would accelerate assistance to disaster-impacted communities by:
- Creating a disaster recovery fund to allow HUD to predictably assist communities;
- Authorizing HUD to issue regulations to codify program requirements and reduce unnecessary red tape, delays, and unpredictability that stems from the current process;
- Supporting resilience as a part of – rather than separate from – disaster recovery;
- Authorizing “quick release” funds to support grantee capacity right after an event;
- Improving federal coordination by establishing an office at HUD devoted to disaster recovery and resilience; and
- Reducing unnecessary administrative burdens and interagency requirement conflicts.
More than 40 organizations support this legislation, including BPC Action, Council of State Community Development Agencies, Enterprise Community Partners, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, National Community Development Association, and National Low Income Housing Coalition.