July 06, 2021

Congressman Neguse Introduces Legislation to Support Homeowners in the Wake of Western Wildfires

Washington, D.C. —Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO) – along with Congresswoman María Salazar (R-FL), Congresswoman Elaine Luria (D-VA), Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), and Congressman Garret Graves (R-LA) – has introduced H.R. 4215, the bipartisan Rebuilding Communities After Disasters Act, legislation which will ensure homeowners have adequate resources to recover from natural disasters.

“In 2020, Colorado experienced record-setting wildfires with two of the largest in state history burning in the 2nd District. These fires damaged homes, impacted small business operations and forced many in our communities to evacuate with very little notice. As wildfires, flooding and other extreme weather events become more frequent, it is pivotal that our communities have what they need to recover, rebuild and repair,” said Congressman Joe Neguse, Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus. “I’m proud to help introduce the Rebuilding Communities After Disaster Act alongside Congresswoman Salazar to bring needed federal resources to our families and homeowners in the wake of devastating western wildfires. As our communities continue to face the Herculean challenge of these disasters, we will continue to do all we can to find creative solutions, expand resources and equip Colorado.”

Specifically, the Rebuilding Communities After Disaster Act increases the maximum loan amount for Small Business Administration (SBA) physical damage disaster loans from $200,000 to $400,000 for home repair, and from $40,000 to $75,000 to replace household and personal belongings, bringing loan limits in line with today’s home prices to help homeowners fully recover from disasters. The limits on these loans have not been increased since 1994, when the average home price in the United States was $106,000— a price that has risen to over $250,000. The bill would also require the SBA to market these loans to homeowners in a declared disaster area through all media platforms and to provide a yearly report to Congress on the progress of the loan program.

Congressman Neguse has previously introduced the Wildfire Recovery Act and Climate Resilient Communities Act to help communities in Colorado rebuild in the wake of record-setting wildfires and intense flooding. 

“We are in the midst of hurricane season, and in South Florida, we know all too well how these storms can absolutely devastate our homes,” said Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar. “We must do everything possible so that our coastal communities have access to the all resources provided by the SBA to safely rebuild their homes in the event of a disaster. The Disaster Assistance Loans must be modernized to reflect the rising costs of homes across our communities.”

“In Coastal Virginia, recurrent flooding and extreme weather put homes and property at significant risk of destruction,” said Congresswoman Elaine Luria. “We must ensure local homeowners receive the assistance they need to repair or replace property following natural disasters. I am proud to co-lead the Rebuilding Communities After Disasters Act, which would significantly increase aid to help residents of vulnerable communities recover from the impacts of our changing climate.”

“This bill will have an immediate impact on families and small businesses impacted by disasters. Many families in Houston have experienced the heartbreak and frustration of attempting to rebuild, only to encounter outdated and burdensome relief programs. Modernizing the SBA Disaster Loan Program and increasing the program’s loan limit will go a long way to ensure we are ready for future disasters and will remove barriers for families to rebuild their lives,” Congressman Dan Crenshaw said.

“In the aftermath of disasters, we often find our own federal government fails to be helpful – re-victimizing our citizens. Current disaster loan limits fail to address real needs. It is not helpful to offer loans to rebuild part of your home. This legislation increases loan limits for disaster victims to help provide a real solution to rebuilding and recovering. This is a good step forward, but we should never abandon the goal of actually protecting our citizens and preventing disasters from occurring,” Congressman Garret Graves said.

Through its Office of Disaster Assistance (ODA), the SBA has been a major source of assistance for the restoration of commerce and households in areas stricken by natural and human-caused disasters since the agency’s creation in 1953. Through its disaster loan program, SBA offers low-interest, long-term loans for physical and economic damages to businesses to help repair, rebuild, and recover from economic losses after a declared disaster. The majority of the agency’s disaster loans, however (over 80%) are made to individuals and households (renters and property owners) to help repair and replace homes and personal property.

This bill was introduced with 35 original co-sponsors including:

Ed Case (D-HI), Brian Mast (R-FL), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Carlos Gimenez (R-FL), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), Charlie Crist (D-FL), Rick Crawford (R-AR), Randy Weber (R-TX), Nancy Mace (R-SC), Troy Nehls (R-TX), Austin Scott (R-GA), Jerry Carl (R-AL), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Ashley Hinson (R-IA), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA), Carol Miller (R-WV), Dave Rouzer (R-NC), Julia Letlow (R-LA), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Clay Higgins (R-LA), Tom Rice (R-SC), Brian Babin (R-TX), Buddy Carter (R-GA), Michael Cloud (R-TX), Rep. David Valadao (R-CA), Greg Murphy (R-NC), Tracey Mann (R-KS), Cliff Bentz (R-OR), Michael Guest (R-MS), and Jenniffer Gonzalez Colon (R-PR).

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