Peters Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Boost Disaster Response Assistance for State & Local Governments

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced a bipartisan bill to provide greater assistance to communities facing ongoing disaster response challenges from the Coronavirus pandemic, severe flooding or other disasters this year. Peters’ bill would eliminate the cost-share payments required of state and local governments who are seeking federal assistance from major disaster declarations. Pandemic response efforts have already strained state and local government resources, and severe flooding across Mid-Michigan will place additional burdens on already struggling communities.

“Communities in Michigan and across the country are facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, and they need the full resources and support the federal government can help provide as we tackle this emergency together. That’s why I have been calling on the Administration to make this change and relieve this burden on state and local governments,” said Peters. “On top of the public health and economic crisis we’re in, communities in Mid-Michigan are being evacuated from their homes by historic flooding. Michiganders need help, and this legislation will ensure that every community will be able to get the federal aid they need to address terrible disasters like these.”

Peters’ Local Community Emergency Relief Act of 2020 would help ensure that the State of Michigan and local communities will still be able to provide aid and assistance in the event of a disaster during these difficult times. Under current law, emergency work performed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is authorized at 75% federal funding, with state, tribal, and local entities responsible for the remaining 25%. Peters’ bill would require FEMA to provide a 100 percent cost share for all federal emergency declarations and major disaster declarations during calendar year 2020.

Earlier this week, two dams in Central Michigan were breached by floodwaters, forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents in Edenville, Sanford, and the surrounding areas. President Trump has approved Governor Whitmer’s request for a federal emergency declaration for additional federal support for disaster response efforts. In her request to President Trump, Whitmer noted that the cost of the damage could be as high as $890 million – a tremendous burden to a state budget already strained by Coronavirus response efforts. As of April 15, 2020, the Michigan State Emergency Operations Center had expended more than $234 million on pandemic response, and some preliminary estimates suggested that state revenue could be reduced by billions of dollars in FY 2020 and 2021.

The new legislation follows repeated efforts by Peters and his colleagues to waive all cost-share requirements for states responding to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. In April, the nation’s governors requested that FEMA’s cost share be raised to 100 percent, which was quickly echoed by Michigan lawmakers. Despite these repeated calls, the Trump Administration has yet to proactively make this change.