Weather

How ASFPM got Congress to approve mutual aid in the DRRA

by | Dec 20, 2018 | ASFPM, News & Views

From the Chair

Maria
Cox Lamm, CFM &

South
Carolina State Floodplain Manager

From
Congress to the local floodplain manager

ASFPM
works on many levels to assist local floodplain managers. I had the pleasure of
being part of a very important law change. As many of you know, Substantial
Damage assessments and post-disaster floodplain management recovery duties have
been considered non-reimbursable under the Public Assistance program since FEMA
policy RR9523.2 passed in 1998. Before then, costs were reimbursable, including
costs for floodplain managers helping other floodplain managers in
disaster-affected communities (also called mutual aid).

Overturning
this policy has been a priority for ASFPM for some time. After my state, South
Carolina, saw extensive flooding in 2015 and we used the Emergency Management
Assistance Compact (which is the mechanism for requesting interstate mutual
aid) for assistance, we ended up with a huge bill! I became an advocate for
overturning the policy with this great real-world example. So, with my state’s
experience in hand I joined the ASFPM policy team and we hit the ground
running.

We
approached FEMA to discuss overturning the policy after Hurricane Harvey. Once
the ruling came down from FEMA that the policy would stand, we changed our
approach. We moved to get Congress involved. This is where my experiences from
years of repetitive flooding came in very handy. As we discussed the issues it
became very apparent that knowing the issues all the way down, from the state
to the local level, was vital to senators and representatives. As we continued
to share our knowledge with all who would listen, we started to get movement.

In the
end, Section 1206 of the DRRA was written and addressed the long-standing issue
of reimbursement for these important activities. Now that the law has been
passed, we are all awaiting the implementation guidelines that FEMA will
provide.

This
change will have huge, positive implications at the local level for floodplain
managers. If you are in a community that has seen repetitive flooding, it is
possible that some if not all the cost associated with post-disaster floodplain
management activities will be reimbursed. Specifically, Section 1206 states
that building code and floodplain
ordinance administration and enforcement including inspections for substantial
damage compliance are eligible for reimbursement. As you know, the work
doesn’t end with the substantial damage determination. There are permits to be
processed, inspections to be done on repairs, and certificates of occupancy to
be issued. This also means that costs for others to aid a community should now
be reimbursable. What great news for all of us floodplain managers!

Working
on this important legislation is one of the highlights of my relationship with
ASFPM. With all the repetitive flooding my state has endured since 2015, it is
nice to know the stories and examples from my local governments and my personal
experiences at the state coordinating office have made a difference. This is
truly an example of how, through our national professional organization – ASFPM
– one can make an impact that extends far beyond their day-to-day lives. So I
encourage everyone to get involved and share your experiences.

Author