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S. 3092 (117th): FIRE Act


The text of the bill below is as of Sep 12, 2022 (Reported by Senate Committee).


II

Calendar No. 482

117th CONGRESS

2d Session

S. 3092

[Report No. 117–144]

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

October 27, 2021

(for himself, Mr. Wyden, Mr. Merkley, Mrs. Feinstein, Mrs. Murray, Ms. Rosen, Mr. Heinrich, and Mr. Luján) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

September 12, 2022

Reported by (for Mr. Peters), with an amendment

Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert the part printed in italic

A BILL

To amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to improve the provision of certain disaster assistance, and for other purposes.

1.

Short title

This Act may be cited as the FEMA Improvement, Reform, and Efficiency Act of 2021 or the FIRE Act.

2.

Definitions

In this Act—

(1)

the term Administrator means the Administrator of the Agency;

(2)

the term Agency means the Federal Emergency Management Agency;

(3)

the term emergency means an emergency declared or determined to exist by the President under section 501 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5191);

(4)

the terms Indian tribal government, local government, and State have the meanings given such terms in section 102 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5122); and

(5)

the term major disaster means a major disaster declared by the President under section 401 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5170).

3.

Authority for relocation projects

(a)

Eligibility for assistance

An eligible applicant seeking public mitigation assistance under section 406 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5172) or section 1366 of the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 4104c) may be eligible to receive such assistance for the relocation of an eligible structure if the entity—

(1)

demonstrates that—

(A)

the structure is at risk from future damage, based on the most recently conducted hazard map or State or local expert risk assessment, regardless of whether the risk is of repetitive or heavy damage;

(B)

the overall relocation project reduces the risk to the structure and is cost effective; and

(C)

the overall relocation project does not increase risk to adjacent structures;

(2)

complies with all other eligibility requirements for relocation projects; and

(3)

complies with Federal requirements for the project.

(b)

Applicability

Subsection (a) shall apply to a major disaster declared by the President on or after the date of enactment of this Act.

4.

Red flag warnings and predisaster actions

Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator, in coordination with the National Weather Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shall—

(1)

conduct a study of, develop recommendations for, and initiate a process for the use of Red Flag Warnings and similar weather alert and notification methods, including the use of emerging technologies, to establish—

(A)

plans and actions, consistent with law, that can be implemented prior to a wildfire event, including pre-impact disaster declarations and surge operations, that can limit the impact, duration, or severity of the fire; and

(B)

mechanisms to increase interagency collaboration to expedite the delivery of disaster assistance; and

(2)

submit to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives a comprehensive report regarding the study described in paragraph (1), including any recommendations of the Administrator, and the activities of the Administrator to carry out paragraph (1).

5.

Assistance for wildfire damage

Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall brief the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate regarding—

(1)

the application for assistance and consistency of assistance provided by the Agency in response to wildfires; and

(2)

the kinds of damage that result from wildfires.

6.

GAO report on gaps

Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall submit to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives a report that examines—

(1)

gaps in the policies of the Agency related to wildfires, when compared to other hazards;

(2)

disparities in regulations and guidance issued by the Administrator, including any oversight of the programs of the Agency, when addressing impacts of wildfires and other hazards;

(3)

ways to shorten the period of time between the initiating of and the distribution of assistance, reimbursements, and grants;

(4)

the effectiveness of the programs of the Agency in addressing wildfire hazards;

(5)

ways to improve the ability of the Agency to assist States, local governments, and Indian tribal governments to prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate against wildfire hazards;

(6)

revising the application process for assistance relating to wildfires to more effectively assess uninsured and underinsured losses and serious needs; and

(7)

with respect to the community development block grant disaster recovery and mitigation programs authorized under title I of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 (42 U.S.C. 5301 et seq.)—

(A)

establishing clear triggers for the appropriation of funds related to those programs based on the declaration of a major disaster that reaches identified thresholds; and

(B)

amending title I of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 (42 U.S.C. 5301 et seq.) to permanently establish the requirements for those programs and allow for the development of pre-disaster action plans.

7.

Crisis counseling cultural competency

Section 416 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5183) is amended—

(1)

by striking The President and inserting the following:

(a)

In general

The President

; and

(2)

by adding at the end the following:

(b)

Cultural competency

The President shall, in consultation with affected States, local governments, and Indian tribal governments and cultural experts, ensure that any individual providing professional counseling services to victims of a major disaster as authorized under subsection (a), including those working for nonprofit partners and recovery organizations, is appropriately trained to address—

(1)

cultural competency and respectful care practices; and

(2)

impacts from major disasters in communities, and to individuals, with socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

.

8.

Case management cultural competency

Section 426 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5189d) is amended—

(1)

by striking The President and inserting the following:

(a)

In general

The President

; and

(2)

by adding at the end the following:

(b)

Cultural competency

The President shall, in consultation with affected States, local governments, and Indian tribal governments and cultural experts, ensure that any individual providing case management services to victims of a major disaster as authorized under subsection (a), including those working for nonprofit partners and recovery organizations, is appropriately trained to address—

(1)

cultural competency and respectful care practices; and

(2)

impacts from major disasters in communities, and to individuals, with socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

.

9.

Study and plan for disaster housing assistance

(a)

Study

Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall—

(1)

conduct a study and develop a plan, consistent with law, under which the Agency will address providing housing assistance to survivors of major disasters or emergencies when presented with challenges such as—

(A)

the lack of proof of ownership or ownership documentation;

(B)

the presence of multiple families within a single household; and

(C)

the near loss of a community, with the majority of homes destroyed in that community, including as a result of a wildfire, earthquake, or other event causing a major disaster; and

(2)

make recommendations for legislative changes needed to address—

(A)

the unmet needs of survivors of major disasters or emergencies who are unable to document or prove ownership of the household;

(B)

the presence of multiple families within a single household; and

(C)

the near loss of a community, with the majority of homes destroyed in that community, including as a result of a wildfire, earthquake, or other event causing a major disaster.

(b)

Comprehensive report

The Administrator shall submit to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives a report that provides a detailed discussion of the plans developed under subsection (a)(1) and the recommendations of the Administrator under subsection (a)(2).

(c)

Briefing

Not later than 30 days after submission of the report and recommendations under subsection (b), the Administrator shall brief the committees described in subsection (b) on the findings and any recommendations made pursuant to this section.

10.

Reimbursement

Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall brief the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate regarding the extent to which the Agency is using housing solutions proposed by a State or local government to reduce the time or cost required to implement housing solutions after a major disaster.

11.

Wildfire insurance study by the national academies

(a)

Study

(1)

In general

Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall seek to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study of—

(A)

potential solutions to address the availability and affordability of insurance for wildfire perils in all regions of the United States, including consideration of a national all natural hazards insurance program;

(B)

the ability of States, communities, and individuals to mitigate wildfire risks, including the affordability and feasibility of such mitigation activities;

(C)

the current and potential future effects of land use policies and building codes on the potential solutions;

(D)

the reasons why many properties at risk of wildfire lack insurance coverage;

(E)

the role of insurers in providing incentives for wildfire risk mitigation efforts;

(F)

the state of catastrophic insurance and reinsurance markets and the approaches in providing insurance protection to different sectors of the population of the United States;

(G)

the role of the Federal Government and State and local governments in providing incentives for feasible wildfire risk mitigation efforts and the cost of providing assistance in the absence of insurance;

(H)

the state of modeling and mapping wildfire risk and solutions for accurately and adequately identifying future wildfire risk;

(I)

approaches to insuring wildfire risk in the United States; and

(J)

such other issues that may be necessary or appropriate for the report.

(2)

Consultation

The agreement to conduct the study described in subsection (a), shall require that, in conducting the study, the National Academy of Sciences shall consult with State insurance regulators, consumer organizations, representatives of the insurance and reinsurance industry, policyholders, and other organizations and experts, as appropriate.

(b)

Submission

Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall submit to Congress the results of the study commissioned under subsection (a).

(c)

Authorization of appropriations

There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as are necessary to carry out this section.

12.

Increased cap for emergency declarations based on regional cost of living

Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall brief the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate regarding the benefits and drawbacks of establishing a maximum amount for assistance provided for an emergency that is based on the cost of living in the region in which the emergency occurs.

13.

Facilitating disposal of temporary transportable housing units to survivors

Section 408(d)(2)(B)(i) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5174(d)(2)(B)(i)) is amended by inserting , with priority given to a survivor of a major disaster who suffered a property loss as a result of the major disaster after any person.

14.

Deadline on code enforcement and floodplain management cost eligibility

Section 406(a)(2)(D) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5172(a)(2)(D)) is amended—

(1)

by striking period of not more than 180 days and all that follows and inserting the following:

period of—

(i)

except as provided in clause (ii), not more than 1 year after the major disaster is declared; or

(ii)

for flooding and other natural catastrophes, including a major disaster declared in relation to a fire or earthquake, not more than 1 year after the date on which incident occurs or the major disaster is declared.

.

15.

Permit applications for Tribal upgrades to Emergency Operations Centers

Section 614(a) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5196c(a)) is amended by inserting and Indian tribal governments after grants to States.

1.

Short title

This Act may be cited as the FEMA Improvement, Reform, and Efficiency Act of 2022 or the FIRE Act.

2.

Definitions

In this Act—

(1)

the term Administrator means the Administrator of the Agency;

(2)

the term Agency means the Federal Emergency Management Agency;

(3)

the term appropriate committees of Congress means—

(A)

the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate; and

(B)

the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives;

(4)

the term emergency means an emergency declared or determined to exist by the President under section 501 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5191);

(5)

the terms Indian tribal government, local government, and State have the meanings given such terms in section 102 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5122); and

(6)

the term major disaster means a major disaster declared by the President under section 401 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5170).

3.

Report on relocation assistance

(a)

In general

Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall submit a report regarding the use of relocation assistance under sections 203, 404, and 406 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5133, 5170c, 5172) for wildfire risk to the appropriate committees of Congress.

(b)

Contents

The report submitted under subsection (a) shall include the following:

(1)

Any information on relocation projects that have been carried out due to fire risks or denied by the Agency, including the number and value of projects either carried out or denied.

(2)

A discussion of the possible benefits or disadvantages of providing relocation assistance that may reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of loss due to wildfires.

(3)

A discussion of how the Agency may optimize relocation assistance when entire States or geographic areas are considered subject to a fire risk.

(4)

An analysis of whether other mitigation measures are more cost-effective than relocation assistance when the applicant is applying to move from a high-risk to a medium-risk or low-risk area with respect to wildfires.

(5)

An analysis of the need for the Federal Government to produce wildfire maps that identify high-risk, moderate-risk, and low-risk wildfire zones.

(6)

An analysis of whether other mitigation measures promote greater resilience to wildfires when compared to relocation or, if additional data is required in order to carry out such an analysis, a discussion of the additional data required.

(7)

A discussion of the ability of States, local governments, and Indian tribal governments to demonstrate fire risk, and whether the level of this ability impacts the ability of States, local governments, or Indian tribal governments to access relocation assistance, including an assessment of existing fire mapping products and capabilities and recommendations on redressing any gaps in the ability of the Agency to assist States, local governments, and Indian tribal governments in demonstrating fire risk.

(8)

An evaluation of—

(A)

the scope of the data available to the Agency regarding historical wildfire losses;

(B)

how such data is utilized in benefit-cost analysis determinations by the Agency;

(C)

what additional data, if any, may be pertinent to such determinations; and

(D)

what, if any, alternative methods may be relevant to the determination of cost effectiveness.

(9)

A discussion of the extent to which the decision process for relocation assistance appropriately considers the change in future risks for wildfires due to a changing climate.

(10)

An analysis of whether statutes and regulations regarding relocation assistance by the Agency present barriers for States, local governments, or Indian tribal governments trying to access funding to reduce wildfire risk.

(11)

An analysis of—

(A)

how, if at all, the Agency has modified policies and procedures to determine the eligibility of proposed relocation or mitigation projects with respect to wildfires;

(B)

the cost effectiveness of such projects, in light of the increasing losses and obligations for wildfires in recent years; and

(C)

the effectiveness of any modifications described in subparagraph (A).

(12)

An analysis of how, if at all, recent changes in the availability of fire insurance has resulted in modifications of policy or procedure with respect to determining the cost efficacy of relocation assistance for wildfires.

(13)

An analysis of how to define repetitive loss and repetitively damaged properties in the context of wildfires.

(14)

A discussion of whether any legislative, regulatory, or policy changes are necessary for the Agency to better implement relocation assistance to reduce risk from wildfires.

(15)

Other related issues that the Administrator determines appropriate.

4.

Red flag warnings and predisaster actions

Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator, in coordination with the National Weather Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shall—

(1)

conduct a study of, develop recommendations for, and initiate a process for the use of Red Flag Warnings and similar weather alert and notification methods, including the use of emerging technologies, to establish—

(A)

plans and actions, consistent with law, that can be implemented prior to a wildfire event, including pre-impact disaster declarations and surge operations, that can limit the impact, duration, or severity of the fire; and

(B)

mechanisms to increase interagency collaboration to expedite the delivery of disaster assistance; and

(2)

submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a comprehensive report regarding the study described in paragraph (1), including any recommendations of the Administrator, and the activities of the Administrator to carry out paragraph (1).

5.

Assistance for wildfire damage

Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall brief the appropriate committees of Congress regarding—

(1)

the application for assistance and consistency of assistance provided by the Agency in response to wildfires; and

(2)

the kinds of damage that result from wildfires.

6.

GAO report on gaps

Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report that examines—

(1)

gaps in the policies of the Agency related to wildfires, when compared to other hazards;

(2)

disparities in regulations and guidance issued by the Administrator, including any oversight of the programs of the Agency, when addressing impacts of wildfires and other hazards;

(3)

ways to shorten the period of time between the initiating of and the distribution of assistance, reimbursements, and grants;

(4)

the effectiveness of the programs of the Agency in addressing wildfire hazards;

(5)

ways to improve the ability of the Agency to assist States, local governments, and Indian tribal governments to prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate against wildfire hazards;

(6)

revising the application process for assistance relating to wildfires to more effectively assess uninsured and underinsured losses and serious needs; and

(7)

ways to improve the disaster assistance programs of agencies other than the Agency.

7.

Crisis counseling cultural competency

Section 416 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5183) is amended—

(1)

by striking The President and inserting the following:

(a)

In general

The President

; and

(2)

by adding at the end the following:

(b)

Cultural competency

The President shall, in consultation with affected States, local governments, and Indian tribal governments and cultural experts, ensure that any individual providing professional counseling services to victims of a major disaster as authorized under subsection (a), including those working for nonprofit partners and recovery organizations, is appropriately trained to address—

(1)

cultural competency and respectful care practices; and

(2)

impacts from major disasters in communities, and to individuals, with socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

.

8.

Case management cultural competency

Section 426 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5189d) is amended—

(1)

by striking The President and inserting the following:

(a)

In general

The President

; and

(2)

by adding at the end the following:

(b)

Cultural competency

The President shall, in consultation with affected States, local governments, and Indian tribal governments and cultural experts, ensure that any individual providing case management services to victims of a major disaster as authorized under subsection (a), including those working for nonprofit partners and recovery organizations, is appropriately trained to address—

(1)

cultural competency and respectful care practices; and

(2)

impacts from major disasters in communities, and to individuals, with socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

.

9.

Study and plan for disaster housing assistance

(a)

Study

Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall—

(1)

conduct a study and develop a plan, consistent with law, under which the Agency will address providing housing assistance to survivors of major disasters or emergencies when presented with challenges such as—

(A)

the lack of proof of ownership or ownership documentation;

(B)

the presence of multiple families within a single household; and

(C)

the near loss of a community, with the majority of homes destroyed in that community, including as a result of a wildfire, earthquake, or other event causing a major disaster; and

(2)

make recommendations for legislative changes needed to address—

(A)

the unmet needs of survivors of major disasters or emergencies who are unable to document or prove ownership of the household;

(B)

the presence of multiple families within a single household; and

(C)

the near loss of a community, with the majority of homes destroyed in that community, including as a result of a wildfire, earthquake, or other event causing a major disaster.

(b)

Comprehensive report

The Administrator shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report that provides a detailed discussion of the plans developed under subsection (a)(1) and the recommendations of the Administrator under subsection (a)(2).

(c)

Briefing

Not later than 30 days after submission of the report and recommendations under subsection (b), the Administrator shall brief the appropriate committees of Congress on the findings and any recommendations made pursuant to this section.

10.

Reimbursement

Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall brief the appropriate committees of Congress regarding the extent to which the Agency is using housing solutions proposed by a State or local government to reduce the time or cost required to implement housing solutions after a major disaster.

11.

Wildfire insurance study by the national academies

(a)

Study

(1)

In general

Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall seek to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study of—

(A)

potential solutions to address the availability and affordability of insurance for wildfire perils in all regions of the United States, including consideration of a national all natural hazards insurance program;

(B)

the ability of States, communities, and individuals to mitigate wildfire risks, including the affordability and feasibility of such mitigation activities;

(C)

the current and potential future effects of land use policies and building codes on the potential solutions;

(D)

the reasons why many properties at risk of wildfire lack insurance coverage;

(E)

the role of insurers in providing incentives for wildfire risk mitigation efforts;

(F)

the state of catastrophic insurance and reinsurance markets and the approaches in providing insurance protection to different sectors of the population of the United States;

(G)

the role of the Federal Government and State and local governments in providing incentives for feasible wildfire risk mitigation efforts and the cost of providing assistance in the absence of insurance;

(H)

the state of modeling and mapping wildfire risk and solutions for accurately and adequately identifying future wildfire risk;

(I)

approaches to insuring wildfire risk in the United States; and

(J)

such other issues that may be necessary or appropriate for the report.

(2)

Consultation

The agreement to conduct the study described in subsection (a) shall require that, in conducting the study, the National Academy of Sciences shall consult with State insurance regulators, consumer organizations, representatives of the insurance and reinsurance industry, policyholders, and other organizations and experts, as appropriate.

(b)

Submission

Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall submit to Congress the results of the study commissioned under subsection (a).

12.

Increased cap for emergency declarations based on regional cost of living

Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall brief the appropriate committees of Congress regarding the benefits and drawbacks of establishing a maximum amount for assistance provided for an emergency that is based on the cost of living in the region in which the emergency occurs.

13.

Facilitating disposal of temporary transportable housing units to survivors

Section 408(d)(2)(B)(i) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5174(d)(2)(B)(i)) is amended by inserting , with priority given to a survivor of a major disaster who suffered a property loss as a result of the major disaster after any person.

14.

Deadline on code enforcement and management cost eligibility

Section 406(a)(2)(D) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5172(a)(2)(D)) is amended by striking 180 days and inserting 1 year.

15.

Permit applications for Tribal upgrades to Emergency Operations Centers

Section 614(a) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5196c(a)) is amended by inserting and Indian tribal governments after grants to States.

September 12, 2022

Reported with an amendment