U.S. congressional actions to provide disaster assistance

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In late August 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, resulting in several thousand casualties and massive destruction of many cities and towns, most notably New Orleans, Louisiana. Following the disaster, the federal government was widely criticized for failing to respond to the crisis quickly or aggressively enough. Congress, however, did approve billions of dollars in aid following the storm and its aftermath. Other measures were also considered dealing more broadly with disaster relief. This page deals with those bills, all four of which remain stuck in the Senate in 2007.

Contents

110th Congress

House

Bill to help deliver funds for public housing

On March 21, the House passed a bill designed to help deliver federal funds for the purpose of housing to victims of Hurricane Katrina. [1]

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Direct $1.2 billion of already appropriated funds to the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) for the community development fund of the Department of Housing and Human Development. Around $5 million of the funds would go to private developers who would, under Louisiana law, develop property and help put it back on the market. [2]
  • The HUD Secretary would be directed to provide an independent study of public housing residents of New Orleans and their eventual return to a repaired public housing or comparable dwelling unit. [3]
  • Previous public housing households would be granted the right to return. Those households could not be prevented from occupying a replacement dwelling unit. The local authorities would also be prohibited from demolishing or disposing of any public housing dwelling unit operated or administered by that authority. [4]

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), passed 302-125. [5] It remains stuck in the Senate.



Bill to extend GO Zones

On March 26, 2007, the House considered a bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend and expand certain rules with respect to housing in the GO (Gulf Opportunity) Zones. These were established following Hurricane Katrina in order to waive many procedural hurdles in getting funds into the Gulf region and qualifying recipients of the funds. The bill would extend these zones until December 31, 2010. [6]

In addition, the bill would order a study of the practices employed by state and local governments in allocating tax incentives provided by the Gulf Opportunity Act of 2005.[7]

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), passed in the House by voice vote. [8] It remains stuck in the Senate.


Bill to extend benefits for small businesses

On March 26, 2007, the House considered a bill to extend a federal development program for small businesses affected by Hurricane Katrina and its aftereffects in 2005. The program provides participating small businesses with business and technical support from organizations, particularly in applying for federal contracts. The program would be extended for eighteen months. The Small Business Administration estimated that 145 small businesses would accept the extension.[9]

The House passed the bill, sponsored by Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), by a voice vote.[10]


Bill to improve disaster relief programs for small businesses

On April 19, 2007, the House considered a bill, sponsored by Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), aimed at better preparing the Small Business Administration (SBA) for responding to disasters impacting small businesses. The bill would direct the Administrator to develop, implement and maintain a comprehensive written disaster plan to include disasters most likely to occur in any given SBA region, an assessment of a disaster and the most likely demand for SBA help in the aftermath. The SBA plan would also be required to outline the SBA’s needs for information technology, telecommunications, human resources, office space needed to meet demand, and how it would coordinate with other federal agencies. The Administrator would also need to appoint a Director for Disaster Planning and a Director for Disaster Lending.[11]

In addition, an annual disaster simulation exercise would be ordered once each year. A disaster reserve corps would be created and implemented within the SBA and would consist of at least 1,000 individuals who would not ordinarily have the duties of a full-time officer or employee, but would be able to assume duties related to disaster response when necessary.[12]

The House passed the bill, 267-158.[13]



Minnesota bridge repair

On August 3, 2007, the House considered a bill which authorized repair and reconstruction of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The bridge had collapsed on August 1, 2007.[14]

The bill sets the federal share of the project at 100%. It authorizes an appropriation of the $250 million to be available until spent. The limit of the federal spending in such a matter is set at $100 million, but the bill waives that limitation.[15] The funds may be used by the Minnesota State DOT for actual and necessary costs of maintenance and operation of additional public transportation services.[16]

The bill, sponsored by Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), passed 421-0.[17]



Articles and resources

See also

References

  1. Robert McElroy, "Hurricane Katrina Aid Continues," TheWeekInCongress, March 22, 2007.
  2. Robert McElroy, "Hurricane Katrina Aid Continues," TheWeekInCongress, March 22, 2007.
  3. Robert McElroy, "Hurricane Katrina Aid Continues," TheWeekInCongress, March 22, 2007.
  4. Robert McElroy, "Hurricane Katrina Aid Continues," TheWeekInCongress, March 22, 2007.
  5. Robert McElroy, "Hurricane Katrina Aid Continues," TheWeekInCongress, March 22, 2007.
  6. Robert McElroy, “Managing America: Disaster Relief,” TheWeekInCongress, March 29, 2007.
  7. Robert McElroy, “Managing America: Disaster Relief,” TheWeekInCongress, March 29, 2007.
  8. Robert McElroy, “Managing America: Disaster Relief,” TheWeekInCongress, March 29, 2007.
  9. Robert McElroy, “Managing America: Disaster Relief,” TheWeekInCongress, March 29, 2007.
  10. Robert McElroy, “Managing America: Disaster Relief,” TheWeekInCongress, March 29, 2007.
  11. Robert McElroy, "Managing America: Disaster Relief," TheWeekInCongress, April 20, 2007.
  12. Robert McElroy, "Managing America: Disaster Relief," TheWeekInCongress, April 20, 2007.
  13. Robert McElroy, "Managing America: Disaster Relief," TheWeekInCongress, April 20, 2007.
  14. Robert McElroy, "Managing America: Disaster Aid," TheWeekInCongress, August 7, 2007.
  15. Robert McElroy, "Managing America: Disaster Aid," TheWeekInCongress, August 7, 2007.
  16. Robert McElroy, "Managing America: Disaster Aid," TheWeekInCongress, August 7, 2007.
  17. Robert McElroy, "Managing America: Disaster Aid," TheWeekInCongress, August 7, 2007.

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