U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) announced two pieces of legislation aimed at improving the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) response to and mitigation of disasters like flooding and wildfires. In the wake of severe weather events in the West, Padilla hosted a virtual winter storm recovery forum to promote the state and federal resources available to Californians recovering from recent natural disasters. The federal government must do more to support state and local governments and fire districts, and the pair of bipartisan bills would ensure increased flexibility in the cost-sharing of federal assistance before and after disaster strikes.
“Last month’s extreme weather and flooding events across California led to families losing homes, their livelihoods, and most tragically, their lives,” said Senator Padilla. “As the effects of climate change increase the frequency of severe weather events, we must do more to mitigate disasters like wildfires and floods. My bills will give the federal government the flexibility required to meet the needs of a crisis and better support local governments by allowing for higher cost-sharing of federal aid. This will help the most at-risk communities throughout the country prepare for and recover from disasters.”
“Alaskans face an unprecedented array of natural disasters—floods, wildfires, typhoons, earthquakes, blizzards, among many others,” said Senator Sullivan. “Because of Alaska’s vast size and elevated risk, our state and communities often need greater federal assistance to respond to and recover from these kinds of crises, as we did following Typhoon Merbok’s devastation of Western Alaska last year. I’m glad to join Senator Padilla in introducing legislation that will give FEMA the flexibility and authority to increase its funding match to ensure Alaskans have the resources they need to quickly and fully recover, while also strategically mitigating disaster risks to our communities.”
Fire Suppression and Response Funding Assurance Act
This bill would ensure state and local fire suppression assets that are pre-deployed are eligible for FEMA’s Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAG) once granted for an incident and allow flexibility for the federal cost share of such grants to be increased beyond 75 percent.
Unlike other FEMA programs that allow for flexibility for the Administration to grant a higher federal cost share in extreme times, the FMAG program currently only allows a 75 percent federal cost share, and the state pays the remaining 25 percent for actual costs, with no flexibility for consecutive FMAGs or extreme circumstances.
This bill would make FMAGs consistent with other FEMA disaster assistance by stating that the federal cost share of FMAGs shall be not less than 75 percent of the eligible cost of such assistance. This bill does not mandate any increase but simply allows for additional flexibility. FMAGs are granted on an incident-by-incident basis, and as we have seen across the West, fires often occur in the same area consecutively in the same year.
A one-pager of the bill is available here.
Hazard and Flooding Mitigation Funding Assurance Act
This bill would make FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) consistent with other FEMA disaster assistance programs by stating that the federal cost share of HMGP to mitigate disasters, prevent flooding and debris flows shall be not less than 75 percent of the eligible cost of such assistance.
This bill does not mandate any increase but simply allows for flexibility and increased federal assistance where necessary. As states and locals continue to respond and work to recover from more frequent and more dangerous disasters and extreme weather like wildfires and floods, it is imperative that the federal government has the flexibility to meet the current crisis.
HMGP provides funding to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments so they can develop hazard mitigation plans and rebuild in a way that reduces or mitigates future disaster losses in their communities. When requested by an authorized representative, this grant funding is available after a presidentially declared disaster.
A one-pager of the bill is available here.