Congressman José E. Serrano

Representing the 15th District of New York

Serrano Leads Bipartisan Letter To Extend FEMA Cost Share Waivers in Puerto Rico post Hurricane Maria

Sep 7, 2018
Press Release

Washington, DC – Congressman José E. Serrano (D-NY), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, today led a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen and Ranking Member Nita Lowey asking the Appropriations Committee to include language in an upcoming Continuing Resolution to extend cost share waivers for FEMA categories A and B in Puerto Rico to ensure that the federal government continues to cover the cost of all emergency activities in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.  In 2007, similar language was incorporated into Public Law 110-28 to extend local cost share waivers for the Gulf Coast states in the aftermath of with Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma, Dennis and Rita. In addition to Representative Serrano, the letter was signed by Representatives González-Colón, Velázquez, Gutiérrez, and Soto.

On August 15, 2018, FEMA announced that it would not continue covering the full cost of these expenses, which will now be an added burden on the local government and hinder recovery efforts.  For Category A, the decision was effective that same day. For category B the decision will go into effect on September 15, 2018.  While the Governor of Puerto Rico has appealed the decision, it is not apparent that FEMA intends to reverse it.

“Significant work remains on the island of Puerto Rico.  According to the government on the island, more than 4 million cubic yards of debris must still be cleaned up. The Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) program still has more than 60,000 work orders to complete, which is more than 50 percent of the total number of work orders. Numerous critical health and safety facilities on the island still rely on generator power to ensure safety and continuity. The current fiscal situation in Puerto Rico, together with these ongoing issues, means that the withdrawal of full federal support for recovery efforts will significantly hinder the ability of Puerto Ricans to rebuild their homes, businesses, and infrastructure,” the members wrote.

FULL TEXT BELOW:

September 6, 2018

Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen

Chairman, Committee on Appropriations

H-305, The Capitol

Washington, DC 20515

 

Representative Nita Lowey

Ranking Member, Committee on Appropriations

1016 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

 

Dear Chairman Frelinghuysen and Ranking Member Lowey,

We write to request the inclusion of language in any upcoming continuing resolution (CR) to prevent the cessation of local cost share waivers for Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) Categories A and B for Puerto Rico.  While FEMA has announced its intention to let these waivers expire,[1] significant work remains undone, Puerto Rico’s fiscal situation is precarious, and federal assistance is still vitally needed.  In 2007, well after Hurricane Katrina, Congress used the appropriations process to extend cost share waivers for the Gulf Coast states, and we believe that the Congress should do the same in the aftermath of this tragedy.

As you may know, on August 15, 2018, FEMA announced that it would not extend 100 percent federal cost share for Puerto Rico for FEMA Categories A and B.  The decision was effective on that day for Category A, and will go into effect on September 15, 2018 for Category B.  The Governor of Puerto Rico, in line with administrative requirements, has appealed that determination, but it is not apparent that FEMA intends to reverse their decision.

Significant work remains on the island of Puerto Rico.  According to the government on the island, more than 4 million cubic yards of debris must still be cleaned up.[2]  The Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) program still has more than 60,000 work orders to complete, which is more than 50 percent of the total number of work orders.[3]  Numerous critical health and safety facilities on the island still rely on generator power to ensure safety and continuity.[4]  The current fiscal situation in Puerto Rico, together with these ongoing issues, means that the withdrawal of full federal support for recovery efforts will significantly hinder the ability of Puerto Ricans to rebuild their homes, businesses, and infrastructure.

To ensure that recovery efforts continue, we believe that any CR should include the following language to ensure that the cost-share waivers remain in place:

“Section xxxx

“(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, including any agreement, the Federal share of assistance, including direct Federal assistance, provided to Puerto Rico in connection with Hurricanes Irma and Maria under sections 403, 406, 407, 408 and 428 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 USC 5170b, 5172, 5173, 5174, 5189f) shall be 100 percent of the eligible costs under such sections.

“(b) APPLICABILITY

“(1) IN GENERAL—The federal share provided by subsection (a) shall apply to disaster assistance applied for before the date of enactment of this Act.

“(2) LIMITATION—In the case of disaster assistance provided under Section 403, 406 and 407 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, the Federal share provided by subsection (a) shall be limited to assistance provided for projects for which a "request for public assistance form" has been submitted.”

This language will help ensure that the federal government maintains its full responsibility for relief and recovery work on the island of Puerto Rico.  The American citizens who are still suffering deserve no less.

Sincerely,

###

Congressman José E. Serrano has represented The Bronx in Congress since 1990.  He is a Senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. 


[1] Brock Long, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Administration, “Letter from FEMA Administrator to Omar Marrero, Governor's Authorized Representative" (August 15, 2018).

[2] Rosselló, Ricardo, Governor of Puerto Rico, “FEMA Appeal Letter,” (August 30,2018), p. 6.

[3] Id. at 5.

[4] Id.