Mayor Sylvester Turner thanks Congresswoman Fletcher and Congressman Olson for passing the HELP Act to expedite recovery process after disasters

Mayor Sylvester Turner today applauded Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher (TX-07) and Congressman Pete Olson (TX-22) for passing a bipartisan bill that could have a significant impact in the city of Houston.

H.R. 2548, the Hazard Eligibility and Local Projects (HELP) Act, would help municipalities like Houston and local agencies expedite certain disaster mitigation projects by removing unnecessary delays and streamlining the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) hazard mitigation grant program.

“Project delivery matters. It is what I am focused on, and the HELP Act comes directly from obstacles we have faced in Houston. Every level of government must work together to mitigate flooding,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “On behalf of the citizens of Houston, I thank Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher and Congressman Pete Olson for keeping the focus on resilience.”

The city is in the process of applying for more than $350 million in Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program (HMGP) funding as a result of Hurricane Harvey.
Congresswoman Fletcher’s bill would allow land acquisition and simple construction projects exempt from environmental review to begin immediately without risk of losing a potential federal match.

This will significantly cut down on the time it takes to move forward with many HMGP projects and allow local municipalities to leverage funds in a quicker and more efficient manner.  In the case of buyouts, the quicker the city can make an individual an offer after a flooding event, the more likely they are to accept.

“FEMA’s policy of potentially disqualifying grant applicants because they move forward with recovery projects isn’t what our constituents expect, especially in response to a disaster,” said Steve Costello, Chief Recovery Officer for the City of Houston. “Working together at all levels of government, need to cut delays in project delivery. This is one small fix that will bring lasting change to our region.”

Congresswoman Fletcher’s bill would change the statute so that all acquisition projects are automatically authorized for pre-award costs.

The H.R. 2548, the Hazard Eligibility and Local Projects (HELP) Act bill now moves to the United States Senate.