Rice Co-Leads Bill to Protect Victims of Natural Disasters

Bill Improves the Disaster Contracting Process on the Federal, State and Local Levels

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Congressman Tom Rice (R-S.C.) introduced a bipartisan bill with Representative Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to ensure post-disaster services are delivered timely and taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently, cutting down on waste and fraud.

The Disaster Contract Improvement Act establishes oversight on debris removal through the creation of an Advisory Working Group and tasks the FEMA Administrator with implementing guidance and procedures for debris removal contracts. 

“This is commonsense legislation to ensure we are not wasting important resources in the wake of natural disasters,” said Rice. “Thankfully, the South Carolina coast was not impacted by a devastating hurricane this year, but we should always be prepared for the worst. This legislation will improve efficiency and reduce fraudulent spending, protecting our taxpayers and preserving resources for future natural disaster response efforts.”

“Natural disasters, including severe flooding like that recently seen on New Hampshire’s Seacoast, are costing more and more,” said Congressman Chris Pappas. “This bipartisan legislation would greatly improve FEMA’s ability to quickly respond to natural disasters and provide needed goods and services to those affected. Helping our communities recover quickly from these disasters is of the utmost importance, and I’ll keep working to improve this process.”

The Rice-Pappas legislation is a companion bill to S.3512, sponsored by Senator Rick Scott (R-F.L.)

Senator Rick Scott said, “Florida, unfortunately, is no stranger to natural disasters. Every year, hurricanes impact families and businesses across the state. Florida is resilient because of the intense preparation that goes into our disaster readiness planning. But, even when we prepare, all too often we have seen waste, fraud and abuse following storms. It hurts our families, local governments, and the American taxpayer. Our bill, the Disaster Contracting Improvement Act, will help stop this waste and make sure that every dollar is spent with care, preserving resources for future disaster response efforts. I want to thank Representatives Rice and Pappas for leading this bipartisan effort in the House. The Disaster Contracting Improvement Act is a win for American taxpayers and I look forward to advancing this bill in Congress.”

The Advisory Working Group this bill creates will be comprised of representatives from FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, State, Tribal, and Local governments, the USDA natural resources and Conservation Service, as well as experts, including those in the debris services contractor industry. The FEMA Administrator, working with this new group, will have one year after the bill’s enactment to develop and implement guidance and procedures associated with the debris removal contracts. 

BACKGROUND

Following Hurricane Katrina, Congress required the Federal Emergency Management Office (FEMA) to establish advance contracts for goods and services to enable the government to quickly and effectively mobilize resources in the aftermath of a disaster. 

FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers used advance contracts for $4.5 billion in goods and services after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and the California fires of 2017. In an audit report released in 2018, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that FEMA’s guidance on the use of these types of contracts is unclear, and that inconsistent information from FEMA could impair its efforts to help state and local governments use advance contracts.

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