Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) introduced the Federal Disaster Assistance Act and the Disaster Loan Forgiveness Act to improve and expand federal disaster loan programs that provide critical resources and assistance to communities significantly impacted by natural disasters and other emergencies. More specifically, the Federal Disaster Assistance Act would improve Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster programs to better address the impacts of highly localized disasters. The Disaster Loan Forgiveness Act would give the Small Business Administration (SBA) the authority to forgive certain disaster loans for low-income individuals and families, as well as small businesses and small non-profit organizations. 

“For many Americans whose homes and businesses are destroyed in disasters, they are forced to face the devastation without any federal assistance or resources from emergency response agencies like FEMA and the SBA because the event did not qualify for a federal major disaster declaration. To add to these already stressful and dire situations, some certain SBA disaster loans are often denied to low-income families, veterans, and seniors because of unfeasible and unfair income thresholds,” said Congresswoman Brownley.

“This was precisely the situation that occurred in my community when a 10,000 year, highly localized rain event devastated very low-income neighborhoods in Oxnard and Port Hueneme, California. I know that my district is not alone in facing these challenges. That is why I introduced these bills that will ensure that all Americans can better access federal disaster loan assistance during critical times of need.

“As we face an increase in these rare disasters and isolated incidents across the nation, we need to improve the federal emergency response systems to better respond to the changes in these phenomena. Following the devastation of a disaster, many families, businesses, and local governments need significant resources to recover and rebuild our communities, and the federal government should play a supporting role in these relief efforts.”

Specifically, the Federal Disaster Assistance Act would:

  • Extend the ability to request a Stafford Act declaration to affected counties when the governor does not seek such assistance.
  • Require FEMA to monitor and analyze incidents that significantly impact underserved communities, but for which governors or tribal chief executives did not request emergency or major disaster declarations.
  • Require FEMA to amend its regulations to include additional quantitative measures in the evaluation of requests for federal assistance, including vulnerable populations, low-income communities, unemployment, lack of insurance, and other factors that impact vulnerable and disadvantaged communities’ ability to recover.
  • Require FEMA to consider the impacts of covered emergencies and disasters with highly localized impacts on vulnerable and disadvantaged communities, that impact vulnerable and disadvantaged communities’ ability to recover.
  • Require FEMA to review its current regulation and guidance detailing the Public Assistance and Individual Assistance factors to ensure FEMA’s evaluation includes sufficient equity-related considerations, such as considerations related to income, unemployment, and the poverty level, and direct FEMA to evaluate the potential effect of applying greater weight to equity-related considerations.
  • Direct FEMA to identify the minimum data and information needed to evaluate a state or tribe’s declaration request and provide a recommendation to the President. 
  • Require FEMA to identify conditions underserved communities would need to meet to be appropriate for a simplified declaration request submission. Potential considerations could relate to community population size, population demographics, whether the community is an underserved community, or the financial and/or staff capacity of the affected community.

Additionally, the Disaster Loan Forgiveness Act would give SBA the authority to forgive:

  • Real Property Disaster Loans ($200,000 maximum) and Personal Property Disaster Loans ($40,000 maximum):
    • Up to 100% forgiveness for individuals or households who are at or below 400% of the federal poverty level.
    • Up to 50% forgiveness for those above 400% of the federal poverty level, but below $250,000 in income.
  • Business Physical Disaster Loans to small businesses and small nonprofits, up to 50% of the amount borrowed for qualified expenses.

Read the full text of the Federal Disaster Assistance Act, here. Read the full text of the Disaster Loan Forgiveness Act, here


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