González Colón bills to improve federal disaster assistance access, transparency clear US House
Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón
By THE STAR STAFF
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed two bipartisan bills sponsored by Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón to promote transparency and improve the disaster recovery process following natural disasters.
The objectives are to be achieved by creating an integrated online portal that will track federal agencies’ aid, and by consolidating information provided by individuals and families when applying for federal assistance.
“The Federal Disaster Assistance Coordination Act [HR 255] and the Post-Disaster Assistance Online Accountability Act [HR 259] promote transparency and quicker access to disaster funding. My district, like many others, has faced multiple hardships during the last few years due to disasters. I saw firsthand and learned from local agencies and stakeholders the many challenges associated with tracking disaster aid and multiple technical requirements for projects and allocations, which delay the recovery process,” González Colón said in a statement. “Both bills will improve accountability and oversight to guarantee that funding is being used as intended. As the sponsor, I am proud of these two bipartisan initiatives and trust they will help improve the federal government’s response to disasters moving forward.”
“I urge my colleagues in the Senate to act and make them the law of the land as part of our efforts to better prepare for disaster response,” she added
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said “I appreciate Congresswoman González Colón’s leadership on these important pieces of legislation, which will lead to more transparency and less red tape in disaster programs.”
“At a time where resources are strained, we need to do everything we can to make federal disaster programs work better for disaster victims,” he said.
HR 255 would establish a process to identify ways to streamline and consolidate the collection of certain disaster information to start the recovery process for individuals and families devastated by natural disasters.
Currently, there is no process in place for sharing those assessments among federal agencies. The bill would establish a federal task force led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in collaboration with the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, to identify ways to reduce duplication and modernize the federal damage assessment process.
HR 259 establishes a single online repository for reporting information about federal disaster assistance, specifically, a subpage for transparency of disaster assistance on the USASpending.gov website.
It would also require agencies that offered disaster assistance, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Small Business Administration, and others, to regularly submit updated information to the Office of Management and Budget and ensure that the best possible data is available in an easily accessible format.