Bill to expedite recovery projects signed into law: Rep. Graves

Staff Report
U.S. Congressman Garret Graves smiles during his remarks on the Bayou Lafourche pump station project in Donaldsonville the morning of Oct. 21.

U.S. Congressman Garret Graves announced a bill was signed into law to help parishes, cities, towns, school districts, and other disaster-affected areas to recover faster from a disaster.

In a news release, Graves said he worked with local flood and hurricane victims and local and state officials to get the legislation passed.

Before the legislation, local small projects, which received under $1 million in reimbursement from FEMA, were stuck in the reimbursement process. For example, some Hurricane Ida reimbursements are still in the bureaucratic process despite landfall occurring over a year ago.

Now, grant recipients such as school boards, local governments, and others will have an expedited approval process for response and recovery grant programs if their reimbursement total falls below $1 million. Previously, all FEMA grants or reimbursements greater than $35,000 required multiple, extensive reviews that often take a year or more. This means projects will be completed in a faster timeframe and local governments will receive reimbursement more quickly.

“This is big news for Louisiana. Our bill that was signed into law is going to cut through the bureaucracy and allow for faster recovery from disasters. This will deliver solutions for Louisiana. This is an important win for our communities trying to recover from Hurricane Ida and other disasters,” Graves said.

“We are thankful for Congressman Graves’ continued work in this area. After seeing the devastation that Hurricane Ida brought and the rebuilding process that followed, it was evident that this system needed to change. Being able to complete projects faster and receive funding in a much faster manner will only help strengthen Louisiana,” Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson, III said.

“This bill will allow parishes like St. Charles Parish to get reimbursements faster so we can put taxpayer dollars back to work on meaningful projects in our communities. I applaud Congressman Graves for cutting the unnecessary bureaucratic red tape and his continued support for expediting recovery efforts in Southeast Louisiana,” St. Charles Parish President Matt Jewell said.

“The passage of this legislation is critical,” St. John the Baptist Parish President Jaclyn Hotard said. “As we continue to recover and rebuild from Hurricane Ida, we appreciate Congressman Graves’ diligent efforts to simplify the reimbursement process and provide speedier disaster recovery assistance to our communities.” 

“This change in FEMA reimbursement procedures will hopefully accelerate reimbursements and reduce what many believe to be unnecessary paperwork as communities deal with all the other issues during recovery efforts. Waiting months and sometimes years to get reimbursed from FEMA for relatively small recovery projects is just not right. This is real progress and thanks to Congressman Graves for his dedicated effort to get this legislation enacted,” Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso, Jr.

“This expedited approval process is especially crucial to small towns and municipalities whose budgets cannot easily absorb long reimbursement delays. It helps to smooth the way for more effective and dependable disaster planning, response, and recovery and demonstrates Congressman Graves’ hands on sensitivity that comes from being present on the ground with communities like the City of Baker while we’re recovering,” Baker Mayor Darnell Waites said.

“Denham Springs quickly became the epicenter of recovery efforts after the 2016 Flood. The Amite River devastated our community and inundated just about every corner of the city. I’ve worked with Congressman Graves since then to help folks recover, kickstart and finish critical flood control projects, and get common-sense legislation like this one across the finish line. This will get assistance to cities like Denham so much faster, which will help so many people and families,” Denham Springs Mayor Gerard Landry said.

“Louisiana has been at the forefront of needed changes to the FEMA Public Assistance program based on the impacts of recent storms such as Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Ida.  One of these improvements, the increase to the large project threshold, is now gaining traction.  In August, the Biden Administration announced a policy change to increase of the large project threshold to $1 million and our Congressional partners are establishing this change in law through the SPEED Recovery Act.  This change will simplify and expedite the reimbursement process and enable communities to recover more quickly.  We join with our partners in the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) in supporting these efforts,” Casey Tingle, Director of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness said.