Florida Congressional lawmakers introduce ‘Federal Disaster Responsibility Act’

by | Sep 7, 2023



  • Sen. Rick Scott and U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack have introduced the “Federal Disaster Responsibility Act” in Congress, addressing disaster relief, tax relief, and emergency funding following Hurricane Idalia.
  • The proposed legislation allocates $16.5 billion to fully fund FEMA’s disaster relief program, includes block grants for agricultural producers, and offers tax relief for disaster-affected families.
  • Before its filing, Scott urged for swift approval of the measure last week in order to provide aid to storm-afflicted regions of Florida.

Sen. Rick Scott and U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack introduced the “Federal Disaster Responsibility Act” to Congress in their respective chambers this week, which addresses issues related to disaster relief, tax relief, and emergency funding following the landfall of Hurricane Idalia last week.

If adopted, the measure would primarily allocate $16.5 billion to fully fund FEMA’s disaster relief program. The Act also encompasses elements of the Block Grant Assistance legislation, which seeks to grant the U.S. Department of Agriculture the authority to issue block grants to Florida’s citrus growers and agricultural producers across the nation.

The legislation also puts forth an expanded version of the Hurricane Tax Relief Act that would offer tax relief to families affected by disasters, modifying the deduction for personal casualty losses in disaster areas.

“When disaster strikes, families can’t be left wondering whether the federal government is going to show up or if they’ll be strung along while Washington uses them as a bargaining chip in a massive spending bill,” said Scott. “Congress has passed all of the provisions in this bill before, and it needs to do its job and get that done again. Let’s put American families first and immediately pass the Federal Disaster Responsibility Act.”

The bill further designates the allocated funds as an emergency requirement, streamlining the disbursement and implementation of funds while amending the Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act to place focus on agricultural programs. The motion would permit the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide assistance for losses through block grants to states.

“My Florida colleagues and I are committed to ensuring federal resources are available to everyone affected, which includes shoring up the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund, which does not have the funds necessary to help with Idalia’s recovery and other national natural disasters,” said Cammack. “The Federal Disaster Responsibility Act will help get Floridians back on their feet and make sure we continue to support the areas devastated by this catastrophic storm.”

Scott announced the details of his legislation — which was sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio — prior to Idalia’s impact on Florida’s Big Bend region last week, pressing the Senate to immediately address his proposal.

Scott took the occasion to rebuke the Biden administration for intertwining domestic aid with foreign assistance for Ukraine, which he contended undermines the immediate needs of disaster-stricken American communities and exacerbates the challenges faced by those requiring federal assistance.

“Unfortunately, while I’ve spent the months leading up to this storm fighting to make sure the federal government shows up, President Biden and politicians in Washington have been playing games with FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund and insisting that this critical domestic aid be tied to foreign aid for Ukraine,” said Scott, adding that “The moment the Senate reconvenes I will be introducing this bill and demanding an immediate vote. I will not allow Washington to continue playing games with disaster aid and the lives of those needing our help.”

Despite the reproach, President Joe Biden visited Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia and praised Scott for his cooperation in hurricane response efforts. This praise came after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declined to meet with the president, citing “security preparations.”

During his visit, Biden and Scott exchanged compliments, with Scott acknowledging the president’s quick action in declaring a state of emergency and Biden commending Scott for providing essential information. The two leaders have harbored a contentious relationship, particularly regarding Scott’s policy proposals, but the display of cooperation in a time of crisis marked a departure from recent policy-based clashes.

“The President did a great job with the early declaration before the storm hit,” said Scott. “And with how fast [he] approved through FEMA the individual assistance and the public assistance is a big deal. I want to thank you for doing that very quickly.”

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