Rouzer Introduces Bill To Streamline Disaster Recovery Assistance

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman David Rouzer (NC-07) introduced the Natural Disaster Recovery Program Act of 2021, a bill to create a new section under the Stafford Act that authorizes a simple block grant program for disaster assistance funds for states impacted by federally declared disasters.  

“Under the current Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program, disaster survivors may wait years for recovery dollars,” said Congressman Rouzer.  “This is largely due to the overly bureaucratic process that governs the program.  The result is long delays, which means long gaps between the end of short-term disaster recovery programs from FEMA and SBA and the start of long-term recovery programs.  This time gap leaves survivors in the lurch, prolonging their suffering and hampering the full recovery of individuals, families and their communities as they wait months or years for disaster assistance.  It is time to scrap the CDBG-DR program and replace it with a simple block grant that allows an affected state to properly address the needs of our citizens and communities affected by disasters.”

Background:

The Natural Disaster Recovery Program Act of 2021 would cut unnecessary red tape and provide states much-needed flexibility to address unmet needs.  This bill would allow them to decide where to spend disaster dollars and create a program structure to get the money out the door in a timely manner – all while maintaining oversight of taxpayer dollars.  It would allow states to focus on their unique recovery needs, not on what HUD decides their recovery needs are.  In the critical months after a devastating natural disaster, the needs of survivors should be the highest priority.  The more efficiently these needs are met, the more quickly communities can fully recover.

Specific Provisions of the Natural Disaster Recovery Program Act of 2021:

  • Creates a new section under the Stafford Act that authorizes a simple block grant program for disaster assistance to states impacted by federally declared disasters.  FEMA would calculate unmet needs, serve as a pass through for grant funds, and reclaim any misspent or fraudulently used funds.  No fuss, no bureaucratic quagmire, and no unnecessary delays that revictimize disaster survivors.
  • Allows states to address their unmet needs, and could be used for disaster relief, resiliency, long-term recovery, restoration of infrastructure and housing, mitigation, and economic revitalization such as they see fit.  It can be funded through regular or supplemental appropriations, and grants would be allocated to disaster-stricken states proportionally based on the amount of unmet need that can be met with funds available. 
  • The program would not make funds contingent on the grantee’s submission of an action plan.  States would be awarded half of the total grant funds immediately, allowing recovery dollars to start flowing as quickly as possible.  States would be totally responsible for the direction of these funds, except that a portion must be used to clean debris and sediment from rivers, creeks, streams, and ditches to alleviate inland flooding.
  • Requires the state to submit a report to the authorizing and appropriating committees detailing how funds were spent after they expend the first half of their grant allocation.  They would also be required to submit an audit certifying that none of the funds were misused or fraudulently spent.  If no issues arise with the report, the second half of the grant is released to the state.
  • Allows for a much faster response for long-term recovery without waiving oversight of taxpayer dollars.  It would allow states to act freely and focus on their unique recovery needs – not on what HUD decides their recovery needs are.  

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