September 16, 2020

DeFazio, Thompson, Titus, Lowey, and Roybal-Allard Introduce Legislation to Reduce Financial Burdens on States and Communities Facing Emergencies, including Wildfires and Hurricanes, amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

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) introduced legislation to adjust the Federal cost share of certain Federal disaster assistance provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act). This legislation, the “FEMA Assistance Relief Act,” would help 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 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.

Specifically, this legislation would:

  • Adjust the FEMA cost share for all Emergencies and Major Disasters declared in calendar year 2020 to not less than 90 percent Federal and 10 percent non-Federal, up from the typical 75 percent Federal and 25 percent non-Federal;
  • Adjust the FEMA cost share for all COVID-19 related Emergency and Major Disaster declarations to 100 percent Federal; and
  • Clarify to FEMA that under the COVID-19 declarations, the Agency may—and Congress expects—FEMA to cover certain expenses for reimbursement, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and other services for public schools, public transit, and courthouses. This comes on the heels of the Trump administration pulling funding for critical supplies, like PPE and disinfecting schools.

“Communities across the country—including my district in Oregon—are facing twin crises from climate change-fueled extreme weather events and the COVID-19 pandemic. As state, local, tribal, and territorial governments see their public health and emergency management capacities stretched thin or exceeded—and as their tax bases dwindle—it is important that the Federal government step in to ensure they don’t become financially ruined as a result,” said Chair DeFazio. “This legislation I’m introducing with Congressman Thompson, Subcommittee Chair Titus, and my colleagues would increase Federal support to not less than 90 percent, enabling communities to focus on helping the families, workers, and services that are in desperate need of immediate relief.”

“Our state and local governments in my district and up and down the West Coast have been hit with dual crises – the Coronavirus pandemic with a devastating economic impact and some of the worst fires in our history. The Federal government needs to provide every resource and dollar possible to help with the recovery process. That’s why I am proud to introduce this bill with Chairman DeFazio to increase the Federal cost share of disaster relief regarding the COVID-19 pandemic from 75 to 100 percent and the federal cost share of disaster relief for all other disaster occurring this year, including the west coast fires, from 75 to 90 percent. This will provide critical assistance to help our state and local governments as they work to rebuild and recovery and ensure our communities can come back even stronger. We are going to do everything we can to get this passed and signed into law to help our district rebuild,” Representative Thompson said.

“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.”

“The toll of this pandemic, compounded by natural disasters across the country, is unprecedented, but FEMA taking on a greater share of emergency response costs is not. Our state and local governments have been on the frontlines working to respond to the health and economic impact of the pandemic, and they have been in dire need of additional resources and support to weather this crisis. At the same time, our communities continue to battle natural disasters from coast to coast,” said Chair Lowey. “Despite continued urging from Congress and precedent from prior emergencies under past presidents, President Trump has failed to step up and relieve astounding state and local cost shares. At the intersection of multiple disasters, our bill is critical to saving lives and rebuilding communities.”

“2020 has been an unprecedented year, with our country dealing with a pandemic, the greatest economic crisis since the great depression and natural disasters across the country including hurricanes, floods and wildfires in my home state of California and throughout the west. I am pleased to co-sponsor this legislation which will provide much needed additional assistance to states and communities across the country who are also facing all these challenges. Unfortunately, many of our Senate colleagues have chosen to sit and wait to see what happens rather than address the urgent needs our country faces, I hope they will join us in taking up this urgent legislation,” Chair Roybal-Allard said.

Additional Information:

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 Federal Emergency Management Agency (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 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. This measure was passed by the House as part of the HEROES Act, which the Senate has failed to act on in over four 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.