November 17, 2020

DeFazio-Led Bill to Reduce Financial Burdens on States and Communities Facing Disasters amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, including Wildfires and Hurricanes, Passes the House

Washington, DC – Today, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA), Chair of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Dina Titus (D-NV), Chair of the House Committee on Appropriations Nita Lowey (D-NY), and Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) applauded House passage of H.R. 8266, the FEMA Assistance Relief Act of 2020.

This legislation—which the T&I Committee approved in late September—would ease financial burdens on States, as well as local and tribal communities, that have been granted Stafford Act Emergency and Major Disaster declarations this year. Typically, State, local, tribal, and territorial governments pick up 25 percent of the costs of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance, but, with their own response costs up and tax receipts down, it’s critical these communities have the resources to respond to multiple crises, including wildfires in the West, hurricanes in the South, and the ongoing pandemic.

Chair DeFazio’s remarks on this legislation as delivered on the House Floor can be viewed here.

“Communities across our Nation—including my district in Southwest Oregon—have been faced with the dual crises of extreme weather events and the coronavirus pandemic. As the public health and emergency response capacities of State, local, tribal, and territorial governments become even more tenuous, it is imperative that the Federal government step up to help these communities recover from disaster,” Chair DeFazio said. “I applaud my colleagues in the House for passing the FEMA Assistance Relief Act of 2020, which would increase Federal support to not less than 90 percent and allow communities to focus their limited resources on helping the families, workers, and critical services in desperate need of immediate relief. I urge the Senate to pass this legislation.”

“This year, our district and so many others across our nation have been hit by both natural disasters like wildfires and the Coronavirus pandemic. This is a devastating double burden for state and local governments as they work to help our communities rebuild,” said Representative Thompson. “Today, the House took a major step forward in providing Federal relief by passing my bill with Chairman DeFazio, the FEMA Assistance Relief Act. This bill increases the Federal cost share of disaster relief for the COVID-19 pandemic from 75 to 100 percent, which would help local governments and allow them to partner with restaurants and nonprofits to provide meals to vulnerable populations, similar to the FEED Act that I introduced earlier this year. The FEMA Assistance Relief Act would also increase the Federal cost share of disaster relief for all other disasters occurring this year, such as fires in our district, from 75 to at least 90 percent to help communities recover and rebuild. This increased cost share helps our strained state and local governments as they respond to the set of dual crises and I will do everything I can to get it signed into law.”

“Communities across the West and all around the country are facing unprecedented challenges from wildfires, floods, and hurricanes while combatting a global pandemic and a severe economic crisis,” said Chair Titus. “The federal government must step up and provide leadership in this time of national emergency. This legislation will offer much needed relief at a time when our states and communities need it the most.”

“It is imperative that the federal government step up to the plate and support state and local governments on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic and serious natural disasters across the country,” said Chair Lowey. “By ensuring FEMA takes on a greater share of emergency response costs, this legislation will help ensure our heroes are paid and on the job. While more comprehensive action is needed, I am proud that the House has passed this important bill.”

“This legislation provides much-needed additional assistance to states and communities as our nation continues to deal with this year’s unprecedented challenges,” said Chair Roybal-Allard. “I was pleased to co-sponsor this bill to help provide communities with the resources they need to address the COVID-19 pandemic, challenges relating to the economic crisis, and the many natural disasters our country faces, including hurricanes, floods, and wildfires in my home state of California and throughout the West. I urge our Senate colleagues join us in passing this critical legislation and providing our country with the resources it needs.”

Additional Information:

In September 2020, the T&I Committee advanced several bills during a Full Committee markup, including the FEMA Assistance Relief Act to ease financial burdens on states and local governments during emergencies and major disasters. To learn more, click here.

In August 2020, Chairs DeFazio and Titus joined Chair of the House Committee on Armed Services Adam Smith (D-WA) in leading 68 Members of Congress in pressing President Trump to immediately waive National Guard and FEMA cost-sharing requirements for all States and territories amid the national COVID-19 pandemic response. To read more, click here.

In May 2020, Chairs DeFazio and Titus, along with several other Congressional leaders, introduced H.R. 6669, the COVID-19 Cost Share Adjustment Relief Act of 2020, legislation to ensure the Federal government pays 100 percent of the costs of COVID-19-related FEMA assistance under the emergency and major disaster declarations granted pursuant to the Stafford Act. The House passed this measure as part of the HEROES Act, which the Senate has failed to act on in over six months. To learn more, click here.

In March 2020, Chairs DeFazio and Titus joined other Congressional leaders in sending a letter to President Trump urging him to, during the coronavirus pandemic, eliminate the 25 percent cost share that States typically are required to bear under Emergency and Major Disaster declarations. To read the letter, click here.