October 20, 2021

Sam Graves & Bipartisan Committee Leaders Introduce the SPEED Recovery Act for Faster Disaster Recovery

Washington, D.C. - Bipartisan legislation to help expedite disaster recovery efforts, particularly in small and rural areas, was introduced today by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) in the House of Representatives.  Joining Graves as co-leads on the bill are Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR); Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee Ranking Member Daniel Webster (R-FL); and Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee Chair Dina Titus (D-NV).

The Small Project Efficient and Effective Disaster (SPEED) Recovery Act updates the threshold for what qualifies as a “small project” under the Robert TStafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (or the Stafford Act).  This update will allow more recovery projects to proceed under simplified procedures and in turn streamline the process and paperwork for many projects, reduce administrative burdens, and provide more certainty in the recovery process for communities.  

“By far, most disaster recovery projects in the United States are relatively small, and there’s no need to force individuals trying to recover and rebuild to navigate the same procedures as larger, more complex projects,” said Graves.  “The SPEED Recovery Act cuts red tape for smaller projects and will speed recovery in many of our communities, especially rural communities, that have been hit by disasters.”

“After disaster strikes, local communities need the federal government to act as a partner in helping them recover and rebuild,” said DeFazio.  “This bipartisan legislation will help make sure that FEMA isn’t a hindrance to these efforts and that states, Tribal, territorial, and local governments can be reimbursed more quickly for projects that will help communities get back on their feet.”

“Florida is no stranger to hurricanes and extreme weather,” said Webster.  “Too often disaster recovery assistance for devastated communities is mired behind reams of bureaucracy and administrative paperwork.  This bill streamlines the process to provide Floridians, particularly our rural communities with small projects, with speedier disaster recovery assistance.” 

“The impacts of global climate change are being felt with increasingly more dangerous and expensive storms, wildfires, floods, and other natural disasters,” said Titus.  “Already this year we’ve experienced eighteen separate climate and weather disasters costing $1 billion.  This legislation will improve the timely delivery of critical Public Assistance resources to help those communities affected by disaster build back quickly.”

The SPEED Recovery Act is also supported by the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM), the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), and the Big City Emergency Managers (BCEM).  In a joint statement of support, the groups said, “This type of modernization to disaster response and recovery programs will allow us as emergency managers to more swiftly move projects for disaster survivors and expedite the road toward recovery.  As we work individually and with one another to build resilience nationwide, tools such as the SPEED Recovery Act will simplify and streamline FEMA programs when survivors need them most.”

Background Information

Historically, the number of disaster projects that qualified as small projects with simplified procedures accounted for 95% of such projects.  However, because the threshold for a “small project” has not kept pace with inflation and modern construction costs, a much larger percentage of projects (nearly 25% of all recovery projects) now fall outside of the scope of a “small project.”  This has added unnecessary paperwork and burdens for both communities and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The SPEED Recovery Act will give communities more control in the rebuilding process for smaller projects, and it will once again ensure that approximately 95% of projects qualify as “small projects.”  Notably, while “small projects” constitute a large percentage of total projects, they only represent about 10% of federal disaster funding costs, and the bill’s proposed adjustment represents minimal risk to the taxpayer.  FEMA will then be able to focus more of its staff and time on addressing larger, more complex projects.

The simplified procedures for small projects were established over three decades ago, but the cost threshold in law for what qualifies as a “small project” has only been updated once since then.  This bill will update the threshold to $1 million and allow small rural communities to recover more efficiently from a disaster.

The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management have jurisdiction over the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and federal disaster programs.

Click here to read the bill.