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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman John Katko (24th District of New York)

WASHINGTON, DC— U.S. Rep. John Katko (R, NY-24) today announced the passage of the Preliminary Damage Assessment Improvement Act of 2020, legislation he introduced in the House. This bipartisan legislation would strengthen the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) ability to provide federal relief to disaster-impacted communities. Last year, following historic  flooding,  Rep. Katko announced the introduction of this measure in Sodus Point, NY, alongside FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor. Rep. Katko was joined by U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham (D, SC-1) in introducing this bill.

Through the preliminary damage assessment (PDA) process, FEMA personnel validates information gathered by state and local authorities regarding the impact and magnitude of a natural disaster. Various factors can impact the duration of this process, however, the average time between when a disaster occurs, and the submission of a corresponding disaster request has been found to be approximately 22 days longer for flooding disasters. To provide more consistent and timely relief to local shoreline communities, Rep. Katko worked with the American Flood Coalition to develop the PDA Improvement Act of 2020. The legislation will enhance FEMA’s PDA process, which often serves as the foundation for delivering disaster relief to impacted communities.

“Given the persistent threat that catastrophic flooding continues to pose to homes, businesses, and infrastructure along Lake Ontario’s southern shore, I’m pleased to announce the passage of my bill, the Preliminary Damage Assessment Improvement Act,” said Rep. Katko. “FEMA is critical in efforts to address flooding along Lake Ontario’s southern shoreline, and in mitigating natural disasters in any other impacted community nationwide.  Consistency and dependability at this agency is key. My bipartisan legislation will ensure that FEMA does its part to support disaster response efforts nationwide and ensure reliable access to federal assistance for impacted communities.”

“Congressman Katko’s bill is going to provide better and faster government assistance for communities hit by disasters and people whose lives have been upended by floods, hurricanes, and other catastrophic events.  I commend him for his leadership and work to improve the speed of FEMA’s response and the recovery process for impacted communities,” said Rep. Sam Graves, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Republican leader. 

Specifically, the Preliminary Damage Assessment Improvement Act of 2020:

  • Establishes standardized training for FEMA personnel to ensure PDAs are reviewed under consistent guidelines.
  • Directs FEMA to provide comprehensive information regarding their PDA procedures, including their efforts to maintain communication with state and local officials in impacted communities throughout the disaster response process.

In Congress, Rep. Katko serves as Ranking Member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management, which conducts oversight of the federal response to emergencies and natural disasters, including FEMA. Rep. Katko has also led congressional efforts in response to rising water levels across the Great Lakes, including advocating for federal relief for impacted communities and working in a bipartisan manner to hold the International Joint Commission (IJC) accountable for flooding on Lake Ontario’s southern shore.