Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Passed House amended (02/29/2016)

FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act of 2015

TITLE I--FEMA REAUTHORIZATION

(Sec. 101) This bill reauthorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through FY2018.

TITLE II--COMPREHENSIVE STUDY OF DISASTER COSTS AND LOSSES

(Sec. 201) FEMA shall commence, through the National Advisory Council, a comprehensive study related to disaster costs and losses. The Council shall evaluate, and report on, disaster losses and costs and develop recommendations for reducing such losses and costs.

TITLE III--STAFFORD ACT AND OTHER PROGRAMS

(Sec. 301) The bill amends the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act) to: (1) continue the administration of the National Urban Search and Rescue Response System (USAR Response System), and (2) reauthorize the USAR Response System through FY2018.

(Sec. 303) FEMA shall provide a plan for the development of consistent guidance to applicants on FEMA disaster funding, the maintenance of records and transfer of information, relieving administrative burdens, and the implementation of new technology tools during disaster response and recovery operations in the field.

(Sec. 304) The bill amends the Stafford Act to raise the public assistance small projects threshold from $35,000 to $1 million.

(Sec. 305) The bill amends the Stafford Act to establish fixed rates to reimburse states and local governments for direct and indirect administrative costs incurred to implement disaster recovery projects.

(Sec. 306) Debts owed to the United States for disaster assistance may be waived if such assistance was distributed based on an error by FEMA, there was no fault on behalf of the debtor, and the collection of the debt would be against equity and good conscience.

(Sec. 307) The statute of limitations for initiating a new administrative action to recover debts owed to the United States for disaster assistance is three years, unless there is evidence of civil or criminal fraud.

(Sec. 308) FEMA shall: (1) provide technical assistance to common interest communities that provide essential services of a governmental nature, and (2) provide recommendations on how common areas of condominiums and housing cooperatives may be eligible for disaster assistance.

(Sec. 309) FEMA shall give greater weight and consideration to severe localized impacts when making major disaster declaration recommendations to the President.

(Sec. 310) A state shall be deemed to have met FEMA's proof of insurance requirements for an individual property owner when title to such property has been encumbered requiring the purchase and maintenance of insurance.

(Sec. 311) FEMA shall not expand its statutory authorities as they related to floodplain management or mapping unless the requirement to do so is explicitly and specifically stated in statute. FEMA's authorities may not be construed to impute the privately-funded actions of private parties on private land to FEMA for the purpose of extending the requirement.

(Sec. 312) FEMA shall be responsible for efforts to reduce the loss of life and property and to protect the Nation from an earthquake, tsunami, or a combined earthquake and tsunami event.

(Sec. 313) The President shall establish a Federal Interagency Task Force to develop a comprehensive strategy and recommendations on preparation and planning for, mitigating against, responding to, recovering from, and more successfully adapting to an earthquake, tsunami, or a combined earthquake and tsunami event in the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

The Task Force shall enter into an agreement with the National Academies for developing recommendations for a federal research strategy to advance scientific understanding of a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and resulting tsunami preparedness.

FEMA shall report to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on the comprehensive strategy and recommendations on administrative actions to further the strategy.

(Sec. 314) The President may provide hazard mitigation assistance in any area affected by a fire for which assistance was provided, whether or not a major disaster is declared.

(Sec. 315) Recipients of hazard mitigation assistance under the Stafford Act may use such assistance to help reduce the risk of future damage, hardship, loss, or suffering in any area affected by a wildfire or earthquake hazards.