Senate Passes Marco Rubio’s FEMA Contracts Reform Bill

Last week, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s, R-Fla., proposal reforming the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) cleared the U.S. Senate.

Pairing up with U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., and U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., back at the start of April, Rubio introduced the “Federal Advance Contracts Enhancement (FACE) Act” which “would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ensure more effective use and management of its advance contracts for goods and services” and “requires federal preparedness actions to be coordinated with states and localities to prevent gaps in recovery efforts from occurring.”

Rubio weighed in on why he had introduced the proposal.

“As our local communities continue to rebuild and recover from devastating natural disasters, Congress has an important role to implement lessons learned so future federal response is more effective and efficient,” Rubio said. “The FACE Act accomplishes these goals by incorporating detailed recommendations made by the Government Accountability Office to improve FEMA’s management and use of advance contracts to prevent future gaps in recovery efforts from occurring.”

The bill would require FEMA to use recommendations from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on advance contracts to “ensure that federal preparedness actions are coordinated to prevent gaps in recovery efforts from occurring.” If the proposal is passed, FEMA would have to offer Congress updates on the changes.

“Following Hurricane Katrina, Congress required FEMA to establish advance contracts for goods and services to enable the federal government to quickly mobilize resources to affected areas in the aftermath of a disaster. The 2017 disaster season was historically destructive, and FEMA was forced to rely heavily on advance contracts in its response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as the 2017 California wildfires. GAO was asked to review the federal government’s response to the 2017 hurricanes and California wildfires and assess a number of issues,” Rubio’s office noted. “In its report, GAO found a number of issues with FEMA’s handling of advance contracts and made nine recommendations. FEMA concurred with all nine of GAO’s recommendations.”

Rubio was able to get his bill through the Senate by unanimous consent on Thursday and he and his main cosponsors weighed in after the vote.

“While Florida’s nearly through another hurricane season, I am proud to see that the Senate has passed our bipartisan FACE Act,” Rubio said. “Congress must implement lessons learned from past disasters to ensure that gaps in recovery efforts are addressed and future federal response is more effective and efficient. I urge my colleagues in the House to consider this legislation quickly and send it to the president.”

“This bill not only makes it easier for FEMA to serve areas affected by natural disasters, it’s also another step toward making government more efficient, effective, and accountable to the taxpayer,” Johnson said. “I hope my colleagues in the House will join me in supporting this commonsense, bipartisan legislation.”

“Planning ahead for natural disasters can help streamline recovery efforts and save taxpayers in Michigan and across the country millions of dollars in the long run,” Peters said. “As a co-chair of 2019 National Preparedness Month, I’m proud to support the commonsense reforms in this bill that will help ensure communities are prepared when disaster strikes and can quickly access the resources they need for a full and swift recovery.”

The focus now heads to the U.S. House where U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., has a similar proposal that has the backing of U.S. Reps. Peter King, R-NY, Donald Payne, D-NJ, and Mike Rogers, R-Ala. Thompson introduced the bill at the end of June and it is currently before the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management.


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