The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013 (H.R. 219)

The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act is bipartisan legislation to speed up and streamline federal disaster recovery programs.  The measure specifically targets improvements to help strengthen the Hurricane Sandy recovery process and reduce costs as communities rebound from the recent superstorm and other future disasters. 

H.R. 219 was introduced in the House by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), and is cosponsored by Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA); Committee Ranking Member Nick J. Rahall, II (D-WV); and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). 

The bill addresses inefficiencies in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) programs that slow down and increase costs of recovery.  The bill will save time and money by streamlining FEMA procedures and programs, and increasing flexibility to allow for quicker recoveries in a manner that will best support communities that need assistance.

The provisions of the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act were incorporated into H.R. 152 after the House approved that measure, and became law on January 29, 2013.

The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act includes the following provisions:

Streamlines Environmental Review Procedures

Expedites hazard mitigation projects by streamlining the environmental review and requires the President to establish an expedited review for environmental and historic requirements for rebuilding damaged infrastructure.

Allows Greater Flexibility to Reduce Rebuilding Time and Lower Costs

Gives local governments greater flexibility to consolidate or rebuild facilities by allowing FEMA to issue fixed price grants on the basis of damaged estimates instead of a traditional reimbursement process – the current FEMA process is mired in regulations that delay rebuilding for years and drive up project costs by 25 percent or more.

Reduces Debris Removal Costs

Cuts debris removal costs dramatically by utilizing reforms from a successful 2006 Debris Removal Pilot Program that enable operations to be conducted in a more cost-effective manner and incentivize the completion of projects on-time and under budget.

Provides Flexibility for Less Expensive Housing Options

Allows FEMA to make limited repairs, instead of lease payments, for the purpose of providing housing when less expensive than traditional FEMA trailers – an expired 2006 pilot program documented dramatic savings over FEMA’s traditional trailer program.

Improves Dispute Resolutions to Avoid Cost Overruns

Establishes a limited dispute resolution pilot to resolve disputes over assistance to drive projects to closure and avoid cost overruns.

Reforms Individual Assistance Factors

Requires FEMA to review and update factors for individual assistance disaster declarations to make them less subjective.

Ensures Tribal Communities Receive Equitable Treatment

Provides for disaster declarations for tribal communities.

Recommendations for Reducing Costs of Future Disasters

Directs FEMA to submit recommendations to Congress for the development of national strategy to reduce future costs, loss of life, and injuries associated with extreme disaster events.