Wednesday, Senator Doug Jones, D-Ala., introduced the bipartisan Hazard Eligibility and Local Projects (HELP) Act, which would expedite the start of certain hazard mitigation and community safety projects after natural disasters while grant applications await federal assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) hazard mitigation program.
“I’ve seen firsthand the devastation that natural disasters have caused throughout the country and the state of Alabama. We need to do everything we can to cut red tape so that community safety projects can get started as soon as possible,” said Senator Jones. “This bipartisan legislation will allow local governments and states to move more quickly on land acquisition and simple construction projects that will protect Alabamians in the case of severe weather events.”
Under current law, local stakeholders applying for federal funding for mitigation projects must wait until they receive a final eligibility determination from FEMA before they begin to purchase land or start construction on their project. If local officials purchase land or begin construction without an answer on their eligibility, the project is disqualified from receiving federal assistance. This requirement can prevent important resiliency projects from starting and precludes communities from rebuilding as quickly as possible, ultimately making communities wait for years to find out they may not even be eligible.
In addition to Senator Jones, the legislation is cosponsored by Senators Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Richard Burr, R-N.C., John Cornyn, R-Texas, James Lankford, R-Okla., and Mike Rounds, R-S.D.