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Coalition Supports Federal Legislation to Reform Wildfire, Natural Disaster Response

 November 9, 2021 | Cole Karr

The National Special Districts Coalition supports recently introduced legislation that would improve federal response and interagency collaboration in addressing wildfires as well as enhance public assistance and mitigation programs for natural disasters in communities in need.

Senator Alex Padilla, D-Calif., leads two bills focused on these issues. S. 3092, the FEMA Improvement, Reform, and Efficiency (FIRE) Act, would broaden Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) preparedness and mitigation programs to better accommodate wildfires and the devastating impacts on communities. NSDC supports provisions within the FIRE Act that would amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Actwhich governs FEMA programing, to authorize pre-deployment of resources when the National Weather Service issues red flag warnings. The legislation would expand flood-oriented hazard mitigation programs to allow relocation of critical infrastructure facilities in fire-prone risk areas. The Coalition also supports the bill’s requirement for FEMA to review discrepancies in recovery resources for wildfire damage, and a review of insurance coverage in high fire-risk areas. Click here to read NSDC’s S. 3092 support letter.

S. 3093, the Disaster Equity and Fairness Act, would ensure public agencies receive resources necessary for emergency response in communities that have experienced more than one disaster in a three-year timeframe. It would also ensure underserved communities and those that have not received hazard mitigation assistance in a five-year period receive technical assistance to apply for hazard mitigation programs. In communities meeting these criteria, public agencies utilizing FEMA’s programs for disaster response and hazard mitigation would receive a federal cost share of 90 percent instead of the standard 75 percent. If signed into law, many NSDC members stand to benefit – especially those along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts experiencing multiple severe weather and hurricane events, those in the West struggling with fires and post-fire impacts, and districts with much-needed mitigation projects that unable to take advantage of critical FEMA mitigation assistance programs. Click here to read NSDC’s S. 3093 support letter.

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., introduced on October 29 companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives for both the FIRE Act (H.R. 5782) and the Disaster Equity and Fairness Act (H.R. 5780). These bills will be considered for Coalition support during the NSDC Legislative Committee meeting on Thursday, December 2.

Contact Cole Karr, NSDC Federal Advocacy Coordinator, for more information.

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