The United States House of Representatives passed HR 255 and HR 259, two bipartisan bills sponsored by Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R) of Puerto Rico, to promote transparency and improve the disaster recovery process following natural disasters. This is achieved by creating an integrated online portal that tracks federal agencies’ aid and consolidates information provided by individuals and families when applying for federal assistance.
“The Federal Disaster Assistance Coordination Act and the Post-Disaster Assistance Online Accountability Act promote transparency and quicker access to disaster funding. My district, like many others, has faced multiple hardships during the last few years due to disasters. I saw firsthand and learned from local agencies and stakeholders the many challenges associated with tracking disaster aid and multiple technical requirements for projects and allocations, which delay the recovery process. Both bills will improve accountability and oversight to guarantee that funding is being used as intended. As the sponsor, I am proud of these two bipartisan initiatives and trust they will help improve the federal government’s response to disasters moving forward,” said González-Colón. “I thank Chairman Graves for his leadership and acting swiftly to bring both bills to the floor. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to act and make them the law of the land as part of our efforts to better prepare for disaster response.”
“I appreciate Congresswoman González-Colón’s leadership on these important pieces of legislation, which will lead to more transparency and less red tape in disaster programs. At a time where resources are strained, we need to do everything we can to make federal disaster programs work better for disaster victims,” said Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO). HR 255, the Federal Disaster Assistance Coordination Act, would establish a process to identify ways to streamline and consolidate the collection of certain disaster information to start the recovery process for individuals and families devastated by natural disasters.
Currently, there is no process to share these assessments amongst federal agencies. The bill would establish a federal working group led by FEMA, in collaboration with the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, to identify ways to reduce duplication and modernize the Federal damage assessment process.
HR 259, the Post Disaster Assistance Online Accountability Act, establishes a single online repository for reporting information about federal disaster assistance. Specifically, it would establish a subpage for transparency of disaster assistance on the USASpending.gov website.
It would also require agencies that offered disaster assistance, including the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Small Business Administration, and others, to regularly submit updated information to the Office of Management and Budget and ensure that the best possible data is available in an easily accessible format.