U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) announced new legislation Friday that aims to address disaster responses nationwide.
The new legislation is comprised of two bills: the Fire Suppression and Response Funding Assurance Act and the Hazard and Flooding Mitigation Funding Assurance Act. Both bills seek to improve the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA’s, response to natural disasters such as flooding and wildfires, according to a press release from Padilla.
The Fire Suppression and Response Funding Assurance Act states that the existing FEMA Fire Management Assistance Grants will be expanded to include that the federal cost share of the grant program for disaster mitigation must be 75% of the “eligible cost” of the assistance. The bill does not mandate grant increases, notes the press release, but allows “flexibility” in funding if necessary to develop hazard mitigation plans and rebuild after a disaster if necessary.
The Flooding Mitigation Funding Assurance Act establishes the same guidelines in the existing FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.
“As the effects of climate change increase the frequency of severe weather events, we must do more to mitigate disasters like wildfires and floods,” Padilla said in the press release. “My bills will give the federal government the flexibility required to meet the needs of a crisis and better support local governments by allowing for higher cost sharing of federal aid. This will help the most at-risk communities throughout the country prepare for and recover from disasters.”
The bills come as many Californians have been left reeling in the wake of multiple serious storms in late December and January.
Berkeley Tenants Union chair Paola Laverde said any funding to help improve disaster response in the city is “very welcomed.”
“The City needs to be prepared for not if, but when the next disaster occurs,” Laverde said in an email. “The City was fortunate that the mudslide in the hills during the January rains did (not) destroy any homes or injure anyone.”
Berkeley also announced Friday that homeowners, renters and businesses would be able to apply for FEMA grants to cover expenses incurred by these storms.
Eligible people may receive up to $37,900 for damages to a “primary residence” and up to $37,900 for various other needs caused by the storms, according to a city press release. Additionally, large loans with long payment plans and low interest rates will also be available.
These resources were allocated to the Alameda County area by FEMA and the national Small Business Administration after the county was added to a statewide “major disaster declaration,” notes the release.
Though there is “never” enough funding after such disasters, Laverde said, the bills can help the city pay for disaster relief programs.
Berkeley City Councilmember Rigel Robinson said California is “lucky” to have Padilla to help bring resources to local government.
“The wildfires and storms of recent years and months are a constant reminder of the rising stakes of climate change,” Robinson said in an email. “Natural disasters will get worse and more frequent, and it will fall on local governments to adapt, rebuild, and recover. California knows this perhaps better than any other state in our union.”