Congressman Al Green Announces Passage of Green-Wagner Bill

Jul 16, 2019 Issues: Financial Services

(Washington, D.C.) – On Tuesday, July 16, 2019, Congressman Al Green released the following statement, announcing the unanimous passage of his bill H.R. 3702, the Reforming Disaster Recovery Act of 2019, by the full Financial Services Committee:

“Too often, when we have a natural disaster, we find that there’s a lot of finger-pointing. It starts at the top with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) having to propose, finalize, and issue a new set of rules of the road for virtually every natural disaster. And this is done after each and every natural disaster. We start all over again.

“In March 2019, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which I chair, held a hearing styled ‘The Administration of Disaster Recovery Funds in the Wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.’ During this hearing, I expressed my discontent with the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) for its lack of standardization and codification by Congress. To combat those inefficiencies, my colleague Representative Ann Wagner (R-MO) and I collaborated to develop the Green-Wagner bill (H.R. 3702, the Reforming Disaster Recovery Act of 2019). This bill will ensure the efficient and equitable distribution of disaster relief funds for vulnerable communities in need of recovery assistance."

The Green-Wagner bill for the first time codifies in federal law the fundamental requirements and policy objectives of the CDBG-DR program.  Since 1993, the HUD has been charged with administering CDBG-DR under individual appropriations by Congress following severe disasters.  In that time, however, there has been no federal legal framework that defines even the basic ground rules for the distribution and use of these funds, which are now approaching $90 billion in the aggregate.

This bipartisan reform is supported by a full spectrum of stakeholders, including low income housing advocates, watchdog groups, grantees who are responsible for delivering CDBG-DR funds to individual disaster victims, and current and former federal administrators of the program.   Specifically, the bill will:

Provide for consistency in the disaster recovery process.  Once enacted, the bill directs HUD to establish generally-applicable procedures and program requirements for all future disasters.

Ensure the timely and efficient distribution of relief funds to disaster victims.  By setting reasonable timeframes for government approvals, the bill eliminates long delays that plague the program currently.

End bureaucratic delays and impediments to the prompt and fair distribution of disaster relief. By codifying the ground rules in federal statute, the bill will eliminate the need under current appropriations for HUD to reinvent the wheel after every disaster, as it must now. It is because of this broken process that grantees have yet to receive billions of dollars in funds Congress appropriated for disaster mitigation in 2017, in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. 

Safeguard against misuse of program resources at all levels.  The bill protects taxpayer dollars against the risk of fraud or misuse by dedicating substantial resources to fund oversight of funded activities.

Congressman Green says, “I must thank Representative Wagner and my committee colleagues for their bipartisan support for this legislation. I am proud to announce the unanimous passage of H.R. 3702 at the committee level and look forward to it being taken up and passing on the House Floor, progressing to the Senate, as well as being fully enacted into law.”