WASHINGTON, DC— Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Susan Collins and Ranking Member Joseph Lieberman, today held a mark up on bills to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Among the bills that were approved today by the Committee include Senators Collins’ and Lieberman’s proposal to assign a special Inspector General to oversee Katrina Related expenditures, to ensure that funds appropriated for disaster response are spent effectively, as well as legislation they recently introduced to help ensure that our nation’s first responders have the most up-to-date communications systems possible with the ability to communicate with one another during emergencies.
In addition, the Committee approved a Collins-Lieberman bill that would provide the President with the authority to waive caps on how much federal disaster assistance would be available to households affected by Hurricane Katrina and it would extend disaster unemployment benefits to those who were affected by the hurricane.
A summary of the bills that were approved by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee follows:
• S 1725, The Assure Emergency and Interoperable Communications for First Responders Act of 2005. This legislation was introduced by Senators Collins and Lieberman earlier this week and will help ensure that our nation’s first responders have the most-up-to-date communications systems possible with the ability to communicate with one another during emergencies. The bill would provide $400 million in grant dollars to states and communities the first year, with gradual increases over the next five years, to assist in the sustainability and compatibility of communications systems.
• S. 1738, The Inspector General For Relief and Reconstruction Act. This legislation, introduced by Senators Collins and Lieberman would help ensure that the billions of taxpayer dollars appropriated for recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina are spent effectively and would establish a strong deterrent to waste, fraud, and abuse.
• A bill to provide relief for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The legislation includes provisions that would provide the President with the authority to waive the cap on how much disaster assistance would be available to households affected by Hurricane Katrina; would provide the President the authority to reduce the required state cost-share, down to 10 percent required under the Stafford Act for certain kinds of disaster assistance to households; would extend disaster unemployment benefits; and would allow communities to be reimbursed for buying supplies, such as linens, cots, and toiletries, that are purchased to help hurricane victims.
• S. 939, the Disaster Recovery Act of 2005. Requires the Secretary of Homeland Security, acting through the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to pay an eligible disaster relief applicant 50 percent of the Federal share of assistance for which the applicant is eligible for debris removal under public assistance programs of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, within 60 days after the applicant files a claim. It would give the President the discretion to pay for debris removal from private property that is necessary for safe and sanitary living conditions.
• S. 1736, A bill to allow employees of the judicial branch to establish an emergency leave transfer program in the event of a major disaster or emergency
• S. 572, the Homeland Security Food and Agriculture Act of 2005. Amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish a program to protect the U.S. agriculture and food supply from agroterrorist acts. Sets forth related responsibilities for the Secretary and the Undersecretary for Emergency Response and Preparedness. Directs the Office of State and Local Coordination and Preparedness to make grants for State and local animal health care officials’ participation in community emergency planning efforts.
• S. 1700, to establish an Office of the Hurricane Katrina Recovery Chief Financial Officer
The Committee also approved the following nominations: Stewart A. Baker to be Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; John R. Fisher to be Associate Judge, District of Columbia Court of Appeals; Colleen D. Kiko to be General Counsel, Federal Labor Relations Authority; and Juliet J. McKenna to be Associate Judge, District of Columbia Superior Court.