Missouri is no stranger to natural disasters. From flash floods and ice storms to tornadoes, we’ve suffered 30 declared natural disasters since 2000. When disaster strikes, your Missouri Electric Cooperatives rely on help — and funding — from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The Stafford Act
FEMA wouldn’t exist without the Stafford Act. The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act was signed into law in 1988 creating the system that we use today during disaster recovery.
Once the President declares a natural disaster, that declaration “triggers financial and physical assistance” through FEMA (source). FEMA emergency assistance helps your Cooperatives to keep electricity costs down while we ensure smooth disaster recovery.
Legislation to Reathorize FEMA
On February 29, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives passed common sense legislation, by voice vote and without opposition, to reauthorize FEMA. That legislation was called the FEMA Disaster Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 1471).
Read More: FEMA Bill to Speed Aid Clears House
Senate introduced its version of the bill, the Disaster Management Act of 2016 (S. 2969), on May 23, 2016. The Senate bill was pulled from a scheduled markup at the last minute, however, due to negotiations on a potential amendment on deobligation.
Keeping Electricity Prices Low After a Disaster
The Cooperative Action Network says that the House’s FEMA Disaster Reform Act “provides the first ever reauthorization of FEMA and establishes a study to develop recommendations for reducing costs while improving our nation’s emergency management capabilities and federal disaster programs.”
The House bill will expedite the disbursement of relief funds by FEMA to your Electric Cooperatives by raising the small project eligibility threshold for public assistance from $35,000 to $1 million.
NRECA interim CEO Jeffrey Connor explains to Electric Co-op Today why that threshold matters to rural power customers:
“Electric co-ops rely on reimbursement by FEMA’s Public Assistance Program after severe disasters, such as floods, hurricanes and ice storms, to contain recovery costs. Without FEMA reimbursement assistance, many electric cooperatives in disaster-stricken areas would have to turn to their members to pay a larger share for restoring service (source).”
The Senate bill includes a pilot project on raising the threshold for simplified procedures to a range between $500,000 and $1 million.
Our Stance on the FEMA Disaster Reform Act of 2015
NRECA and your Missouri Electric Cooperatives want to turn your lights back on as quickly and safely as possible after a disaster, and FEMA relief funds help us to do that without raising your rates.
We encourage the U.S. Senate to take up S. 2969 and go to conference with the “FEMA Disaster Reform Act of 2015” (H.R. 1471) to strengthen and re-authorize FEMA. We hope that you, our Member-Owners, will do the same.
FEMA is an effective tool and should remain available for enabling your Missouri Electric Cooperatives to quickly restore electric service to homes and businesses after floods, sever storms, tornadoes, ice storms, and other natural disasters in our state.