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House Approves Republican Bills to Prevent FEMA Clawbacks of Disaster Aid, Expedite Airport Improvements, and Enhance Aviation Safety

Washington, D.C., June 15, 2021 | Justin Harclerode (202) 225-9446 | comments
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The U.S. House of Representatives today approved bills introduced by Committee Republicans that will ensure innocent disaster victims won’t have their assistance clawed back by the federal government when it makes an error, encourage the early completion of airport capacity projects, and enhance aviation safety information provided to pilots.

Preventing Disaster Revictimization Act (H.R. 539)

H.R. 539 is bipartisan legislation that will prevent the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from taking back disaster assistance funds that it mistakenly awarded to victims who applied for assistance in good faith and utilized that money to help rebuild their lives.  The bill requires FEMA to waive the debt of disaster relief recipients in cases where the agency later determined it mistakenly granted assistance, but no fraud was committed.  Under current law, FEMA can come back weeks, months, or even years later to seek repayment of funds it awarded victims, even when the agency is at fault for making the error and the funds were appropriately used in the wake of a disaster.  The bill also ensures that FEMA reports to Congress on its efforts to minimize similar errors in the future.  A bipartisan version of this legislation (S. 1946) was also introduced in the Senate last month.

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO), lead sponsor of H.R. 539: “When victims apply for FEMA assistance in good faith, those individuals likely need to move quickly to use the assistance for eligible expenses, like home repairs, to speed up recovery and begin rebuilding their lives.  The Preventing Disaster Revictimization Act will ensure disaster victims trying to recover aren’t revictimized because of the federal government’s error.”

U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), cosponsor of H.R. 539: “The government has no business raiding the disaster compensation fund and obstructing the recovery efforts of fire victims.  The Preventing Disaster Revictimization Act will ensure that no disaster victim will have their hard-fought compensation stripped from them by the federal government under the guise of reimbursing themselves on the backs of those who have suffered.”

U.S. Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR), cosponsor of H.R. 539: “As someone who represents a district that has been affected by multiple natural disasters over the last four calendar years, my constituents look to FEMA to be able to respond to their immediate needs to ensure their safety and security, and then support with their long-term recovery.  I’m proud to cosponsor H.R. 539, the Preventing Disaster Revictimization Act, to prevent FEMA from being able to claw back disaster funding provided to those affected by a natural disaster as they begin to rebuild their lives.”

Expedited Delivery of Airport Infrastructure Act of 2021 (H.R. 468)

H.R. 468 will enable the use of Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds for incentivizing the early completion of critical runway and airport projects.  The AIP provides grants to public-use airports for the planning, development, and execution of airport infrastructure projects, such as runways and taxiways.  With this bill, incentive payments for the early completion of projects will be an eligible cost under the AIP.

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO), lead sponsor of H.R. 468: “This is a smart reform that can help deliver airport projects ahead of schedule, relieve operational disruptions at airports caused by unfinished projects, and save money.  Getting projects done sooner rather than later can essentially provide a similar impact as increasing investment without requiring any additional federal resources.”

Subcommittee on Aviation Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA), co-sponsor of H.R. 468: “We need to make sure our airports are ready to handle the increase in travel – whether vacations, leisure or business trips.  This legislation takes successful, existing road project programs and implements the same efficient practices to get airport improvement projects completed faster, meaning we will improve the efficiency and capacity of our airports while handling a runway or taxiway that is temporarily out of service.  Overall, this is a win-win for airports and taxpayers alike.  I’m looking forward to seeing this bill result in more efficient use of taxpayer funds, better flight options, and improved aviation safety.”

Airports Council International – North America and the American Association of Airport Executives joint letter of support for H.R. 468Excerpt: “Reducing the time it takes to complete airport infrastructure projects helps minimize disruptions that negatively impact airlines, our passengers, and other airport customers. Completing projects early will be particularly helpful to airports in northern tier states with short construction cycles.”

James V. Christianson, Vice President, Government Relations, Associated General Contractors of America (AGC): “AGC of America fully supports H.R. 468, the Expedited Delivery of Airport Infrastructure Act of 2021.  Just like the benefit they have provided to the Federal-aid Highway Program for over 20 years, the usage of early completion incentives provided for in this bill would allow for more timely and efficient completion of crucial airport construction projects that benefit the traveling public.”

National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) letter of support for H.R. 468.  Excerpt: “This bill would give airports the needed flexibility other modes of transportation currently have to reduce the time projects are completed, thereby minimizing the disruptions to airport operations and enabling airports to focus on other critical projects.”

Notice to Airman Improvement Act of 2021 (H.R. 1262)

H.R. 1262 is bipartisan legislation that will enhance aviation safety by improving the presentation, accuracy, and completeness of information included in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs), which provide essential, real-time information to pilots about potential hazards in the airspace or at an airport.

U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN), sponsor of H.R. 1262: “During my time on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have heard from a number of pilots who have expressed concerns over the inefficiencies of the NOTAM system.  Modern aviation is incredibly safe, but in order to keep it that way, we must constantly work to update and improve upon safety protocols.  That’s why I am proud to lead legislation that will help modernize this critical safety system, and I am glad to have seen it garner bipartisan support from my colleagues in the House.”

Jim Coon, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs and Advocacy for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA): “AOPA strongly supports the Notice to Airmen Improvement Act of 2021.  Improving long overdue changes to these safety of flight notifications will be very welcomed by pilots.”

Ed Bolen, President and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA): “NOTAMs have always been an authoritative source of timely and relevant information critical to aviation safety.  We welcome this legislation, which aims to enhance not only the availability of that information, but to improve the way it is presented, to the benefit of our pilot community.”

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