Victims of past hurricanes are still waiting to receive funding that Congress approved in 2017.  This bill aims to fix that.

After a year that saw Iowa devastated by flooding, the House passed a bill that aims to ensure victims of future floods and other natural disasters receive federal relief funds in a more timely manner. 

The bipartisan Reforming Disaster Recovery Act aims to modernize the federal government’s federal disaster recovery programs to deliver aid to disaster victims quickly and efficiently while also increasing oversight of how taxpayer dollars are spent to protect against misuse. 

The bill passed in a 290-118 vote. 

Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA), a co-sponsor of the legislation and a member of the House Financial Services Committee, underscored the need for the bill after its passage. 

“Following the devastating flooding that hit Southwest Iowa, I heard countless stories of constituents who couldn’t get access to the resources they needed because of Washington dysfunction. That’s unacceptable,” Axne said in a statement. “This legislation will streamline federal recovery programs in order to ensure that Iowans receive the resources they need to recover as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

The bill allows Congress to allocate additional funding to the Community Development Block Grant program in the form of Disaster Recovery grants, which can then be used to provide funding to areas where the President has declared a major disaster. 

If the bill becomes law, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will have to standardize the grant application process and establish new rules governing how the agency responds to grant requests, among other things. The goal is that standardized rules will mean HUD no longer has to handle delivering disaster relief funding on a case-by-case basis after each individual disaster.

Under the current system, it can take years for those affected by natural disasters to receive aid. Many victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria have still yet to receive billions of dollars in funds that Congress approved in 2017. 

The Reforming Disaster Recovery Act will now move over to the Republican-controlled Senate, where its future is uncertain.