Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler's FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act (H.R. 1471) passed out of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and will be introduced for vote in the Senate sometime after the current recess, according to Casey Harper, a spokesman for Hartzler.
Pulaski County residents are likely to be paying close attention to what happens with this particular bill due to issues residents and governments have faced in recent flooding and the floods of 2015 and 2013.
The Pulaski County Commission says it still hasn't received funds from projects that came out of the 2013 flood due to issues with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Hartzler sent out a press release late last week discussing the next steps for H.R. 1471 and the bill itself.
“This bill requires FEMA to focus efforts on its core mission – helping people recover from disasters,”Hartzler said in her press release.
The language of the bill will require FEMA to do a "comprehensive study related to disaster costs and losses" through the National Advisory Council.
H.R. 1471 makes a number of changes to how FEMA is currently structured and requires the agency "to create an action plan to improve field transition," according to Hartzler's press release.
The language of the bill calls for FEMA to "provide a plan for the develpment of consistent guidance to applicants on FEMA disaster funding, the maintenance of records and transfer of information, relieving administrative burdens, and the implementation of new technology tools during disaster response and recovery operations in the field."
FEMA says it's already making changes. During the community forum hosted by the Daily Guide and Stonebrooke in July, FEMA discussed some of the ways they're trying to implement changes in order to be better prepared.
“In past disasters in Missouri, there have been repeated incidents of lost or misplaced paperwork, poor coordination between state and federal agencies, and general lack of information from FEMA officials. There are still pending cases from 2013 following the floods in my district. The people deserve better, and this bill delivers,” Hartzler, who toured the flood damage in Pulaski County earlier this year, said in her press release.
The bill will also amend the Stafford Act to raise public assistance small projects from $35,000 to $1 million. Public assistance is the assistance provided to state and local governments such as cities and counties, like the Pulaski County Commission.
Hartzler said in her press release that the bill would require FEMA to conduct "appropriate record maintenance and transfer of documents to new teams during staff transitions" which has been a complaint of county officials during the 2013 and 2015 floods.
The bill passed the House of Representatives in a remarkable 408 to zero vote back in March and a representative from Hartzler's office said that the new Senate session starts in September, so Pulaski County residents hoping for a vote soon could see that hope realized.