This bill would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to temporarily increase the threshold for what constitutes a small disaster relief project under the Public Assistance Grant Program from $123,000 to $500,000. In effect, this would allow more projects to be designated as small disaster recovery projects and get expedited assistance. The threshold increase would sunset on September 30, 2021 at which point FEMA would have the ability to adjust the threshold through regulatory action.
Under current law, FEMA’s disaster recovery projects under $130,100 are run in a similar manner to an insurance settlement — they review the damage, estimate the cost, and issue a repair grant. Local governments then assume responsibility for keeping the recovery project funded by the grant on time and on budget in exchange for greater flexibility in how they rebuild and enhance projects with their own funds. That process would be unchanged by this bill except for the grant threshold being increased to $500,000.
FEMA would be required to provide a report reviewing the program to specified congressional committees by May 1, 2021 that includes an assessment of cost-effectiveness, speed of recovery, capacity of the grantees, past performance, and accountability measures.