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Fema Assistance Relief Act of 2020

Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 17, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GRAVES of Louisiana. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Rouzer), my friend, for yielding.

Look, I understand I am in the minority on this legislation in more ways than one.

Mr. Speaker, years ago, there was a movie called ``Brewster's Millions.'' ``Brewster's Millions'' featured Richard Pryor, John Candy, and others. In that movie, Richard Pryor was tasked with spending $30 million in 30 days in order to get access to $300 million in inheritance. So what he did in that movie is he just went out there and carelessly spent money hand over fist, just spending it irresponsibly and recklessly because it wasn't his money. He didn't have to really care about if it was spent in a wise or principled manner.

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that perhaps we are doing a little bit of that here.

I want to be clear: I agree that our local governments and our State governments deserve relief, but, Mr. Speaker, in 2018, just 2 years ago, we actually passed, we enacted, section 1232 of the Disaster Recovery Relief Act that requires that FEMA look at the cumulative impact of disasters in a region to determine what the cost share should be. So, the law already provides a mechanism to reduce the cost share.

I agree that they have not done a good job implementing it, but I do believe it is important for us to ensure that local and State governments have some concern with the dollars that are being spent, some skin in the game.

Lastly, Mr. Speaker, look, whether it is a State or local or Federal Government, you have three options: you can reduce spending; you can raise taxes; or, you can incur debt. All we are doing is we are probably going to incentivize this irresponsible spending, and we are going to increase the Federal debt. I think that the better way to address this would be forcing FEMA to implement section 1232 of the DRRA law of 2018 the way that we intended, therefore achieving a similar objective.

Mr. Speaker, I urge that we revisit this legislation.

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Mr. GRAVES of Louisiana. Mr. Speaker, I just want to quickly make note for the record that Hurricane Katrina was largely the result of the Federal Government's actions, the devastation that was caused, the loss of life. The Chief of Engineers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acknowledged their fault in that incident. Yes, it was unique.

I also want to make clear that I said that I don't necessarily object to the outcome of the legislation, but I think the way of getting there is inappropriate. We need to have consistent standards on how to achieve the right cost share for different disasters.

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