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How ASFPM got Congress to approve mutual aid in the DRRA
Thursday, December 20, 2018

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.






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