Nov 6 2019

WCTI

A bill that addresses the slow distribution of disaster relief to North Carolina families has been introduced in the U.S. Senate
 
North Carolina Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr introduced legislation they say cuts red tape at the federal and state levels in order to bring federal disaster relief to families and local communities sooner.
 
“North Carolina families are unfortunately all too familiar with the destruction caused by natural disasters like Hurricanes Matthew, Florence, and most recently Dorian. We cannot let red tape stand in the way of helping them get their lives back together,” said Senator Tillis. “My legislation is based on input from federal, state, and local officials, as well as families in North Carolina that are still reeling due to an inefficient and heavily bureaucratic recovery process. The commonsense reforms I’m proposing will empower local communities and get federal assistance in the hands of North Carolina families sooner. I look forward to working with my colleagues to reform and streamline the disaster recovery process and make it more effective and accountable for North Carolinians who need a helping hand after a disaster strikes.”
 
He says the Ensuring Disaster Recovery For Local Communities Act is based on findings from the U.S. Government Accountability Office and N.C. General Assembly’s Program Evaluation Division report and feedback from local and state officials from both parties on ways to improve the recovery process for individuals seeking assistance. The NCGA report noted the expertise of local governments, including “entitlement communities” was not used by the state government in administering federal disaster recovery funds, and that the state scrapped its original plan to rely heavily on counties and instead opted for a more state-centric plan.
 
“It’s unacceptable that some North Carolina counties are still waiting for disaster recovery assistance after the devastation left by recent hurricanes,” said Senator Burr. “We can help fix this long-standing problem by empowering local communities to directly receive federal assistance from HUD if there are continued delays. This legislation does just that, cutting government red tape and streamlining the allocation process to deliver much-needed assistance to families and businesses in need. I’m proud to work with Senator Tillis on this important legislation so North Carolina communities can more efficiently recover and prepare before the next storm hits.”
 
Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr led the North Carolina Congressional Delegation’s successful effort to secure long-term recovery funding in the immediate aftermath of Hurricanes Matthew, Florence, and Dorian. Tillis and Burr also led the delegation’s efforts to secure a provision signed into law in June that allows the state of North Carolina to use Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Florence assistance interchangeably, giving the state more flexibility for the many communities that were hit by both historic storms.
 
After the Senators worked to secure hundreds of millions in federal assistance for North Carolina’s recovery, it became apparent the state was having trouble getting those resources to the victims who needed it most. In response, Senator Tillis worked with the state and federal officials to remove burdensome administrative hurdles and as of October 1st, for the first time since Hurricane Mathew hit, the state has been designated an “on pace” spender by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
 
The Ensuring Disaster Recovery For Local Communities Act:
 
  • Directs the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to set spending goal thresholds for state grantees to hit on six months intervals, creating tangible spending metrics for the public and impacted storm survivors to hold grantees accountable.
  • Ensures local communities have access to federal disaster assistance by allowing them to request to take over funds as a subgrantee.
  • For communities that do not yet have a capacity to administer CDBG funds, HUD would provide each community with technical assistance, including HUD experts, to provide training and technical assistance to ensure those communities have the capacity to administer the funds.
  • Local communities can adopt the state grantee’s HUD-approved Action Plan to further expedite relief.
  • Amends existing federal law to give FEMA a 60-day timeline to make a decision on property acquisition or “buyout” applications.
  • Directs the GAO to undertake a comprehensive review of property acquisition programs administered by FEMA and make recommendations on how to streamline and expedite delivery of funds to storm survivors.

Read the story here.