“There are thousands of people in the great floods of 2016 who were told to get an SBA loan and then found that they could not get a Restore Louisiana recovery grant because of some dumb quirk in the law."

U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), released the following video statementafter the Senate Commerce Committee released an updated version of legislation (Senate Substitute Amendment to H.R. 4) to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that includes several provisions sought by Cassidy as part of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, including a fix for the Small Business Administration (SBA) loan duplication of benefits issue hurting Louisiana residents affected by flooding in 2016.

“There are thousands of people in the great floods of 2016 who were told to get an SBA loan and then found that they could not get a Restore Louisiana recovery grant because of some dumb quirk in the law. It makes no sense for these folks trying to do the right thing, doing what they’re told, to then be denied access to a Restore Louisiana recovery grant. This bill fixes that,” said Dr. Cassidy. “It ensures that those folks so affected can finally get the resources they need to complete the recovery and rebuild. Very grateful to my friend and colleague Senator Ron Johnson for working with me and agreeing to offer these amendments on behalf of everyone caught in this no-win situation and the great flood of 2016.”

Cassidy worked closely with Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI), who, as a member of the Commerce Committee, agreed to offer the provisions sought by Cassidy. These provisions were included in the most recent amendment in the nature of a substitute (ANS) for H.R. 4 released today. The ANS reauthorizes the FAA, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Major additions to the ANS include disaster relief provisions passed by HSGAC and amended to apply to Louisiana’s 2016 floods.

Once H.R. 4 passes the Senate as amended, a conference committee will be convened with the House in order to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The duplication of benefits issue is now remedied in both versions, making it likelier that the fix will be included in the final legislation.

The Cassidy-requested sections included in the revised ANS released today are:

Section 9010 - Duplication of Benefits:

Eliminates federal duplication of benefits restrictions directly affecting homeowners approved for or having drawn down SBA disaster loans as they seek to rebuild. Currently, federal disaster homeowners who qualify for SBA loans are prohibited from seeking Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding to either repay their SBA disaster loans or use it to supplement assistance for recovery purposes. This measure modifies the Stafford Act to ensure that this duplication of benefits language interpretation does not continue to penalize disaster victims who were approved for SBA loans and then find themselves unable to receive CDBG-DR funds.

Section 9019 - Right of Arbitration:

Modifies the right of arbitration procedures by adopting the arbitration procedures used for Hurricane Katrina/Rita as opposed to the ineffective arbitration process that was provided for in Hurricane Sandy. This arbitration process would be used for all significant disputes with FEMA over project worksheets and would provide for a neutral arbitration process that would use the Civilian Board of Appeals as the independent arbitration board that resolves any disputes that applicants may have with FEMA.

Section 9034 - Flood Insurance:

Waives Sec. 406 (d) of the Stafford Act that requires under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) a $500,000 per facility deduction for schools, law enforcement and other public facilities that did not maintain flood insurance. This measure ensures the $500,000 penalty applies only to one building per campus as opposed to each individual building on campus.

Section 9014 - Private Nonprofit Facility:

Clarifies that food banks – i.e. Baton Rouge Food Bank – is explicitly eligible for disaster relief. Food banks are typically the first organization to begin distributing food well before FEMA or other private charitable groups arrive on the scene. This language would make domestic hunger relief entities, like food banks, along with long term recovery groups to be eligible to be reimbursed by FEMA for their disaster-related expenditures.

Section 9028 - Guidance on Inundated and Submerged Roads:

Requires that FEMA and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) develop and issue guidance to states regarding how they plan to reimburse states and localities for damages caused by flooding and/or other natural disasters. Currently, there is no clear guidance regarding repairing/replacing inundated and submerged roads damaged or destroyed by a major federal disaster. FEMA is not willing to reimburse states and localities any funding for damages caused by flooding or other natural disasters to roads even though in many cases these roads have been clearly damaged by these natural disasters.

Contributed by Sen. Bill Cassidy