Federal Update: Congress Passes Legislation Addressing Disasters, Water Infrastructure and Opioids

On Oct. 3, the U.S. Senate passed the Disaster Reform Act of 2018 as part of the five-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

November 02, 2018
By Laura V. Garcia
Legislative News

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Disaster Reform

On Oct. 3, the U.S. Senate passed the Disaster Reform Act of 2018 as part of the five-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The bill (HR 302), which was signed by the president, includes several provisions focused on improving pre-disaster planning and mitigation. Additionally, it sets stricter limitations on the ability of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to recoup previously approved funds distributed to local governments for disaster purposes.

Specifically, the bill increases funding for pre-disaster mitigation by authorizing the president to set-aside up to 6 percent of the total amount of federal disaster assistance provided to states and local governments for a National Public Infrastructure Pre-Disaster Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. This helps promote more reliable funding for pre-disaster mitigation grants, which have previously relied on congressional appropriations. It also expands the types of measures eligible for federal hazard mitigation assistance to include certain fire prevention and windstorm measures.

The legislation prohibits FEMA from attempting to recoup certain disaster funding assistance provided to a state or local government after a certain time frame. It also requires FEMA, in certain circumstances, to restore previously de-obligated disaster assistance if the original funding of disaster assistance was due to the eligibility advice provided by FEMA.

Additionally, the bill authorizes higher rates of reimbursement to states and local governments for certain administrative costs when implementing public assistance (12 percent) and hazard mitigation projects (15 percent). It also allows FEMA to develop incentives and penalties to encourage local governments to close out disaster related expenditures and activities on a timely basis. Many of the bill’s provisions will be implemented via agency regulations.

The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has additional information about the legislation on its website.

Water Infrastructure

On Oct. 10, the U.S. Senate passed America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (S 3021), a comprehensive water infrastructure bill that reauthorizes the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) and includes numerous other provisions addressing the country’s water infrastructure needs.

The bill authorizes several water resource projects administered by the Army Corps of Engineers relating to flood control, navigation and other infrastructure matters. Additionally, it requires the Corps to provide expanded opportunities for stakeholders such as local governments to provide input on future and pending projects, as well as budgeting and guidance documents.

The legislation also provides $4.4 billion for the state drinking water revolving fund program, which authorizes funds to improve drinking water. Additional information about the bill, which was signed by the president on Oct. 23, is available on the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee website.

Addressing the Opioid Crisis

On Oct. 24, the president signed the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (HR 6), a comprehensive bill aimed at addressing the opioid crisis. The bill includes numerous provisions of interest to counties, including a reauthorization of funding for drug courts through FY 2022, a reauthorization of the Drug-Free Communities Grant Program, and a reauthorization of the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program, which provides funding for certain law enforcement agencies.

The bill also directs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to issue guidance to states on providing telehealth services for substance use disorders under Medicaid and increases flexibility for health care providers to utilize medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders.

Additional information about the opioid legislation is available in this comprehensive analysis document prepared by the National Association of Counties (NACo).