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Lawmakers call for reforms to speed delivery of disaster relief funds

Dec. 4, 2012 - 05:41PM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
Shown is a view of Seaside Heights, N.J., on Oct. 31 after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the East Coast. Lawmakers on Tuesday praised the Federal Emergency Management Agency's response to the superstorm but said more could be done to help those affected.
Shown is a view of Seaside Heights, N.J., on Oct. 31 after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the East Coast. Lawmakers on Tuesday praised the Federal Emergency Management Agency's response to the superstorm but said more could be done to help those affected. (AFP)

Lawmakers on Tuesday praised the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to superstorm Sandy but said more could be done to help those affected.

Congress should reform the often tangled and long process of distributing relief funds, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said at a hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which he chairs.

He pushed for the Senate to pass the 2012 FEMA Reauthorization Act, which passed the House on Sept. 19.

The legislation would give FEMA more flexibility to finance rebuilding projects and would establish a pilot program giving FEMA new authority to offer grants to remove debris and collect income from debris recycling, Mica said.

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said the legislation is needed because it allows FEMA to update its rules to issue disaster assistance to individuals and families sooner. He said it has been five weeks since West Virginians first requested FEMA assistance in Sandy’s aftermath, which he said is too long to wait for help.

“Clearly Sandy is yet another reminder that such updates are very much needed in order to ensure more timely and responsive assistance,” Rahall said.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said the agency had obligated nearly $2 billion in the aftermath of Sandy. He said the agency would run out of money in its Disaster Relief Fund in early spring because of remaining funding requirements from Sandy and other natural disasters and would need supplemental funding to continue its recovery operations after that.

Fugate also praised the House-passed reauthorization bill for granting federally recognized Indian tribes the right to petition FEMA for disaster declarations in the aftermath of natural disasters and to receive funding for recovery projects. Currently only states and local governments can request disaster declarations.

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