IMPROVEMENTS SOUGHT IN FEDERAL DISASTER RESPONSE
WASHINGTON: Yesterday, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (Manhattan, Queens), Congressman Josè E. Serrano (Bronx), Congressman Anthony Weiner (Brooklyn, Queens) and Congressman Michael McNulty (Albany) introduced legislation to improve the federal government's ability to respond to major disasters and terrorist attacks. Reforms in the Maloney bill stem from a series of complications and delays in the allocation of federal aid and services to New York after the September 11th terrorist attacks.
Specifically, the "Community Protection and Response Act of 2002," (HR5164) amends the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Act to broaden the authority and flexibility available to the administration in responding to the unique and urgent circumstances that arise from disasters of extensive magnitude. Last week, Maloney offered similar legislation as an amendment to the Homeland Security Act of 2002 in the Government Reform Committee. The amendment was unanimously accepted and was included in the final bill passed out of the Committee. Today Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) will offer the language as an amendment to the House Select Committee on Homeland Security.
Explaining the bill's significance, Rep. Maloney said, "The federal government needs the authority and flexibility to respond to large scale terrorist attacks like 9/11, but right now recovery efforts are often delayed by procedural nightmares and rigid standards. People's hearts were in the right place to help New York after 9/11, but the system was not fully prepared for the challenges that come with a disaster of such magnitude. As was the case in New York after 9/11, schools, hospitals, local government, and thousands of individuals could once again get caught in red tape and bureaucratic indecision if reforms are not put in place. People's lives are literally on the line when it comes to disaster response, as is the future economic well-being of entire regions. Homeland Security Director Ridge has said that it's impossible to create a failsafe system against terrorism, so we need to be fully prepared to respond should another strike occur."
Legislative Summary Sheet
Community Protection and Response Act of 2002 (CPR)
Expansion of Definitions in the Stafford Act/Amendments to Existing Statutes
- Expands the definition of "major disaster" to include terrorist attacks, dispersions of radioactive or other contaminants, dispersion of hazardous substances, or other catastrophic event.
- In the event of a homeland security event expands definition to include private for-profit utilities (including power, water, telecommunications and phone services)
- Defines "Homeland Security Event" as a major disaster that poses a significant risk to the people and property of the Nation and it is such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capability of the effective State and local government. Designation requested by Governor and made by President.
- Changes definition of critical services to include education systems, providers of counseling assistance, and providers of assistance to the homeless.
- Removes $5 million restriction for loans as a result of lost taxes or other revenues. Forgives interest in the event of a Homeland Security Event.
- Removes requirement of "direct" impact for assistance.
Homeland Security Events New Authorities Given to the President
After declaration, the President is authorized, but not required, to do the following:
- Establish a coordinating office and appoint a Disaster Recovery Director.
- Reimburse State and local governments to response to high security alerts.
- Provide grants to local governments which may suffer a loss of tax and other revenues.
- Reimburse school systems for lost instructional time, mental health and trauma counseling and clean up cost.
- Authorizes EPA to perform all indoor air testing and undertake remedial actions.
Standards and Reporting
Directs OMB to establish standards for reporting disaster relief efforts regarding each agency that assists in disaster relief efforts following a homeland security event. Reports such data to Congress.
Monitoring of Health Risks
- Instructs President to appoints a special commission to study the authorities available to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) following a homeland security event. Including the monitoring of the environment.
- Works with the EPA and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to develop guidelines regarding health risks for effected areas and instructs the CDC to provide information in the case of biological materials.
- Provides for standardization, rapid collection and analysis, and communication following a homeland security event.
- Authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make awards to private entities to collect health data in the aftermath of an event. These awards can be made in advance of the event for immediate response.
(Prepared by the Office of Rep. Carolyn Maloney)
Text of the HR 5164 (.pdf format)