One aspect of the restoration economy that we’ve always celebrated here in REVITALIZATION is the fact that restoration, regeneration, revitalization and recovery activities tend to be far more nonpartisan than old-style conservation and sustainability initiatives.
The latest proof came on May 24, 2023, when bipartisan legislation was reintroduced to the U.S. Congress to help communities recover more quickly from major disasters.
“Red tape and delays are the last things you want to run into when recovering from disaster,” said Senator Bill Cassidy. “This legislation streamlines the process to get communities and families the resources they need, as soon as possible, to get back on their feet.”
The Reforming Disaster Recovery Act would strengthen the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) disaster recovery program for states, local governments, and tribes.
It was sponsored by U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), 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), 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).
“Right now, communities in crisis are forced to wait for Congress to pass a disaster funding bill before HUD can help. This bill changes the law so they no longer have to wait. As soon as a disaster strikes, communities can begin the process of recovery,” said Senator Schatz.
The bill addresses long-standing recommendations from the HUD Office of the Inspector General and Government Accountability Office to establish a permanent and predictable funding process.
“The Council of State Community Development Agencies (COSCDA) applauds reintroduction of the Reforming Disaster Recovery Act. As communities continue to experience major natural disasters, federal help is essential for rebuilding efforts and to mitigate against future events. The Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program (CDBG-DR) facilitates this critical assistance for long-term recovery,” said Dianne Taylor, Executive Director of COSCDA.
“While CDBG-DR provides meaningful investments towards housing, infrastructure and related needs, the program experiences significant challenges including timeliness in assisting disaster victims. Program codification and related reforms are essential for improved performance and outcomes. The Reforming Disaster Recovery Act would streamline regulations, strengthen capacity and technical assistance, and enhance data availability among other key priorities. COSCDA supports these updates to accommodate more expedient and effective resources to populations in need,” she added.
The bill accelerates 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.
“Our nation’s disaster housing recovery system is fundamentally broken and in need of major reform. After each disaster, the lowest-income and most marginalized people and communities are left behind, putting households at increased risk of displacement and, in worst cases, homelessness and placing already disinvested communities at greater risk harm due to future disasters,” said Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
“NLIHC and its Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition of nearly 900 local, state, and national organizations urge Congress to quickly enact the bipartisan Reforming Disaster Recovery Act as an important step towards ensuring critical federal recovery resources can efficiently and quickly reach those with the greatest, clearest needs,” she continued.
“BPC Action commends Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Patty Murray (D-WA), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Jon Tester (D-MT), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Todd Young (R-IN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Alex Padilla (D-CA) for their leadership in reintroducing the bipartisan Reforming Disaster Recovery Act. This much needed legislation would permanently authorize HUD’s CDBG-DR program, helping HUD and disaster-impacted communities address unmet recovery needs more quickly and impactfully. This bill aligns with the goals of BPC’s task force on disaster response reform, formed in 2020, and advances a key priority of our Adaptation Working Group. With seven catastrophic disasters expected to cost over $1 billion and 30 FEMA major disaster declarations issued in just the first five months of 2023, Congress should not miss the opportunity to put such a critical source of disaster assistance on more permanent footing. BPC Action looks forward to working with the 118th Congress to enact this bill,” explained Michele Stockwell, Executive Director of BPC Action.
The bill is supported by more than 40 organizations 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.