Congress Considering Emergency Management Bills

2 04 2011

A small number of bills in Congress deal with disaster planning or recovery efforts.

* Reacting to the earthquake in Japan, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) introduced the Critical Infrastructure Earthquake Preparedness Act of 2011 (HR 1132) on March 16. The bill would direct the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to create a grant program specifically for improving the ability of hospitals and airports to withstand earthquakes. Communities on active fault lines could be eligible for funding under his measure. Cohen’s own district in Tennessee is located along the New Madrid Fault Line, and in a press release on the bill, he notes that Memphis could obtain funds to reinforce its airport under this bill. It has not had committee or floor action.

* HR 570 is the Dental Emergency Responder Act of 2011, and passed the House on March 8. The bill, from Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R-Texas), would clarify that dentists could be considered as voluntary disaster-response public health workers under the federal disaster-response framework. The bill has not had Senate action.

* HR 175 is the Smart Housing in Disasters Act of 2011, and was introduced on Jan. 5, by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who is the ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee. The bill would direct the administrator of FEMA to develop “lifecycle plans and tracking procedures” for housing provided after a disaster. It has not had committee or floor action.

* HR 57 is the Disaster Recovery Improvement Act and was introduced on Jan. 5, by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.). It would amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to require swifter decisions on appeals of decisions pertaining to eligibility for, and amounts of, federal disaster assistance; direct the president to implement certain regulations pertaining to the repair of public facilities damaged by disasters; direct FEMA to revise the evaluation process for governors’ requests for major disaster declarations; and authorize the president to provide assistance for pets and service animals during emergencies. It has not had committee or floor consideration.

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