The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure this past week approved a measure directly helping the Central Valley by improving federal emergency management response: H.R. 1214, the Disaster SAVE Act. U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) is a cosponsor of the bill.
“The Central Valley, as well as all of California, has experienced some extreme weather this year, resulting in two separate disaster declarations with the potential for more to come,” said Rep. Denham. “Many of our local farmers and residents have sustained losses as a result, and this bill will help them get the help they need to rebuild and reestablish operations in the most expedient way possible.”
The Disaster SAVE Act improves on a provision of law authored by Denham: the Sandy Recovery and Improvement Act of 2013 (SRIA). SRIA permanently changed the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Public Assistance (PA) Program directly helping state and local governments in their response and recovery to a disaster by providing financial assistance in the form of grants to clear debris and repair and rebuild facilities. Following past disasters, most notably Hurricane Katrina, the PA program was cumbersome and too inflexible to address the needs of local governments and communities. Recovery projects were met with frequent delays and cost overruns due to the nature of the reimbursement process. The program has been a huge success but the initial project limit of $120,000 has proven to be too low.
H.R. 1214 will increase the disaster assistance threshold to $500,000 – a move to further strengthen the emergency assistance offered through SRIA. Clean-up and rebuilding from the recent floods are estimated to cost $1 billion; many of the projects, especially in the Central Valley, will benefit from the red-tape reductions that this bill presents.
SRIA was signed into law with the Disaster Supplemental under Denham’s leadership as the chairman of the Public Buildings and Emergency Management Subcommittee and established procedures where local governments can accept recovery grants based on fixed, capped estimates, with the flexibility to spend the money in the best way possible as determined by locals.
Denham represents California’s 10th congressional district and is the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials. He also serves on the House Committees on Agriculture and Natural Resources.