A bipartisan bill by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) to expedite disaster recovery projects across the Nation, particularly in small and rural areas, has prompted the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to update what it considers to be a "small project" for communities seeking disaster assistance.
The Small Project Efficient and Effective Disaster (SPEED) Recovery Act (H.R. 5641), which overwhelmingly passed the House in April by a vote of 414 to 11, updates the threshold for what FEMA deems a "small project" in providing assistance. Small projects do not face the same administrative burdens and paperwork required for larger, more complex projects. Communities can move forward with small projects in a much more expedited manner.
Yesterday, FEMA announced that it was updating the small project threshold to $1 million, in accordance with the SPEED Recovery Act.
"I am pleased FEMA has taken this action that was laid out in the SPEED Recovery Act. Updating what qualifies as a "small project' will help significantly reduce the red tape many communities have to deal with to secure disaster assistance. This is especially helpful for small and rural communities that simply do not have the same types of resources as large and urban areas to navigate the bureaucracy," said Graves. "However, this much-needed change will not be permanent unless the SPEED Recovery Act is signed into law. The House passed the SPEED Recovery Act overwhelmingly earlier this year, and just yesterday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs also approved the bill. Sending this disaster recovery bill to the President's desk ensures the updates will be made permanent and not subject to any changes in administration."
Historically, the number of disaster projects that qualified as small projects with simplified procedures accounted for 95% of such projects. However, because the threshold for a "small project" has not kept pace with inflation and modern construction costs, a much larger percentage of projects (nearly 25% of all recovery projects) now fall outside of the scope of a "small project." This has added unnecessary paperwork and burdens for both communities and FEMA
The SPEED Recovery Act will give communities more control in the rebuilding process for smaller projects, and it will once again ensure that approximately 95% of projects qualify as "small projects." Notably, while "small projects" constitute a large percentage of total projects, they only represent about 10% of federal disaster funding costs, and the bill's proposed adjustment represents minimal risk to the taxpayer. FEMA will then be able to focus more of its staff and time on addressing larger, more complex projects.