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Landrieu: Sandy Aid Bill Allows La. to Continue Recovery from Isaac, Past Disasters

Senator laments House stripping out critical aid for Louisiana parishes

January 28, 2013

WASHINGTON — The chair of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today praised Senate passage of disaster recovery reforms and $50.5 billion in aid that will allow Louisiana and other communities hit by disasters in 2012 to rebuild and recover. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 62 - 36 and now heads to the President for his signature.
In addition to today's legislation that included $50.5 billion in aid, the House and Senate earlier this month passed $9.7 billion to fund the National Flood Insurance Program. With this funding, FEMA will not go to immediate needs funding, which stops recovery projects from past disasters-like Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike and Isaac-and mitigation projects throughout the country. The funding will also support other agencies, such as HUD, DOT, USDA, SBA and the Army Corps of Engineers, charged with helping communities in the recovery and rebuilding phases.

"I've worked with my colleagues to fashion robust funding and a smart recovery that will help Louisiana communities hit by Hurricane Isaac and other past disasters. This bill accomplishes both those goals. The taxpayers don't want to waste money on things that don't work, and survivors need it to work so they can quickly rebuild their homes, businesses, schools, hospitals and lives," Sen. Landrieu said. "With this robust funding, FEMA can continue to support our rebuilding efforts from Isaac and past storms."

Since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, Sen. Landrieu and Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., have worked to reform the Stafford Act, the federal law that governs disaster recovery and response policy. Many of the reforms included in today's legislation are the product of dozens of hearings Sen. Landrieu has held during her chairmanship of the Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery and the Subcommittee on Homeland Security Appropriations. The reforms were developed in consultation with state and local officials across the country, private and nonprofit organizations engaged in disaster relief, numerous federal agencies including FEMA and HUD, and stakeholders throughout the emergency management community.

FEMA has estimated these reforms will save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and reduce construction delays, protracted funding disputes, and bureaucratic waste.

Sen. Landrieu continued: "The American people want government to be smarter and more efficient. That's why these reforms to our nation's disaster recovery laws are so important. The victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita learned the hard way that these laws are needlessly rigid and shortsighted. Having learned these lessons, the Stafford Act reforms that will soon become law will help ensure that the survivors of Hurricane Sandy and future disasters do not experience the same bureaucratic quagmire."

Despite these victories, Sen. Landrieu expressed her frustration that the House of Representatives stripped out several hard-fought provisions from the bipartisan Senate-passed bill that are critical to Louisiana. The Senate bill included a provision to rationalize repayment criteria for FEMA Community Disaster Loans that were issued after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The current formula counts revenues that local governments are prohibited under the law from utilizing, and it excludes expenses they are obligated to pay.

Sen. Landrieu added: "I have been fighting for several years to replace this flawed repayment formula with one that is sensible and consistent with local budgetary realities. These debt obligations are crippling to the sheriffs' departments, fire districts, school districts and parish governments that have been battered by five major hurricanes and a devastating oil spill during the last seven years. Significant layoffs and operating cuts could result in Jefferson, St. Tammany, St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Lafourche, Cameron and other parishes and counties throughout the Gulf Coast because the House of Representatives stripped this language from the bill.

"I worked hard to include this in the legislation that the Senate agreed to on a bipartisan basis. It is very disappointing to learn that the Republican Leadership in the House removed it. Their action prevents Louisiana communities from moving forward and forces them to pay an unfair price for this decision. "

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