Senators Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Reform Disaster Recovery

On July 22, U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Todd Young (R-IN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced the Reforming Disaster Recovery Act. The bipartisan proposal aims to improve outcomes for families across the country by providing relief to disaster-stricken communities in a more efficient and equitable way. One of the main provisions is to permanently authorize HUD’s Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program, which supports a range of disaster recovery activities, such as repairing and rebuilding impacted apartment buildings and repairing damaged infrastructure. CDBG-DR is designed to cover the gaps left when all other sources have fallen short and targets specifically low-income communities that lack resources to rebuild.

Codifying CDBG-DR would reduce the amount of time it takes for resources to get from Congress to the people on the ground who need it the most. Without permanent authorization of the program, Congress has the ability appropriate additional funding as CDBG-DR grants to rebuild the affected areas after each disaster, followed by HUD issuing a Federal Register Notice that sets the requirements and waivers for that particular allocation. This ad hoc system results in different requirements and waivers for different grantees, as well as unnecessary delays of as much as 9-12 months from when the disaster hits, to when CDBG-DR funds start reaching communities.

Additionally, permanent authorization of CDBG-DR would create a formal rulemaking process that would bring greater transparency and stakeholder engagement in the process.

Enterprise strongly supports this legislation, which is also part of our 2021 Policy Priorities. Passing this bill would provide meaningful relief to millions of Americans, especially vulnerable populations, who are most likely to be harmed by disasters and tend to be the slowest to recover.

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