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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Velázquez introduces bipartisan Strengthening Capacity for Disaster Resilient Territories Act

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón

By The Star Staff

U.S. Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) has introduced the bipartisan Strengthening Capacity for Disaster Resilient Territories Act.

The bill, introduced last week, would require the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to create a program to identify and address specific capability gaps and challenges that the U.S. territories, including government entities, NGOs, and other grant recipients, experience while conducting recovery activities after a major disaster.

“Our territories face numerous inequities because of their status including how the federal government assists these jurisdictions in responding to natural disasters,” Velázquez said. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation, which will help FEMA identify and address the vulnerabilities our territories face and ultimately help the territories better prepare and recover from future natural disasters.”

The U.S. territories’ geographic, economic, social and institutional vulnerabilities make them particularly prone to natural disasters. As extreme weather events have increased in frequency and strength, U.S. territories, notably Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in recent years, have faced long and difficult disaster recovery processes.

The Strengthening Capacity for Disaster Resilient Territories Act would allow FEMA to build on its efforts to bring equity to disaster recovery efforts by creating a new program requiring the administrator to periodically identify the limitations of public and private entities in the U.S. territories in performing recovery activities -- specifically, those activities related to essential assistance, repair, restoration, and replacement of damaged facilities, debris removal, federal emergency assistance, and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. Under the bill, the FEMA administrator would also be required to develop training and best practices to support the administration of recovery projects and help identify disaster recovery shortcomings.

The bill is also cosponsored by Reps. Nanette Díaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Al Green (D-Texas), Daniel Goldman (D-N.Y.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Dina Titus (D-Nev.).

Additionally, the legislation is supported by three territorial delegates: Jenniffer González Colón (R-P.R.), Stacey Plaskett (D-U.S.V.I.) and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-NMI). The bill is also endorsed by Climate Strong Islands Network, Right to Democracy and The Resiliency Law Center.

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