What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Friday, August 03, 2007

Law eases FEMA grant match rules


Posted on Fri, Aug. 03, 2007

H.R. 3247

With the second anniversary of Katrina approaching, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved legislation that will significantly ease state matching requirements to federal rebuilding funds.

Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Bay St. Louis, led the effort to allow work already done by local communities to strengthen structures and infrastructure against future catastrophes to count toward the 25 percent state match for federal Hazard Mitigation Grants - a boon that could mean as much as $145 million to Mississippi.

"It's a tremendous cost savings," said David Staehling, Biloxi's director of administration. "We're doing a water and sewer infrastructure project, and a large amount is coming from Hazard Mitigation."

FEMA rules now require that "in kind" work be approved in advance to qualify for the 25 percent match. Taylor's amendment would waive that rule to allow work done by the state and localities to count for the state's match requirement under the Stafford Act to access Mississippi's $434 million in FEMA's Hazard Mitigation funding.

The Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Recovery Facilitation Act of 2007 also increases the federal contribution for so-called "alternate" projects from the current level of 75 percent to 90 percent.

Currently, if a school district or local government wants to build an alternate facility that differs from what was destroyed by Katrina, it is only eligible to receive 75 percent of FEMA Public Assistance funds. The bill would increase the federal share to 90 percent.

"That's wonderful," said Staehling. "That'll help a lot of people down here." Biloxi's former public pavilion, for example, cannot be rebuilt because it is in the flood zone. But the city could use the funds under the bill for an alternative project.

"When Mississippi communities moved forward to repair and recover and restore the local economy and community, they sometimes moved projects faster than the paperwork," said Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., who also worked on the bill. "This reform allows FEMA to recognize and account that work after the fact, rather than financially penalizing the state for doing what it needed to do too quickly."

Original posted here.

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