Sen. Marklein, Rep. Kurtz: Announce disaster assistance streamlining bill on anniversary of historic flooding

CONTACT: Senator Howard Marklein, 608-266-0703
Representative Tony Kurtz, 608-266-8531

MADISON— State Senator Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) and State Representative Tony Kurtz (R-Wonewoc) announced their Disaster Assistance Streamlining Bill on the anniversary of the 2018 flood that widely impacted communities in their districts today.

The bill they have introduced streamlines processes for disaster assistance to expedite funding and support for small, rural communities. This bill:
Requires Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) to provide training to ALL local units of government on how to sign-up for the System for Award Management (SAM) program that is a requirement for receiving funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through WEM.
Directs WEM to complete its due diligence to make sure all local units of government have created a SAM account by 6/30/21.
Streamlines the reimbursement process by requiring WEM to issue FEMA payments to municipalities within 14 days of receipt of funds and required forms.
Further streamlines the process by providing an option to submit information to WEM electronically and to receive reimbursements via electronic funds transfer or direct deposit.
“We introduced this legislation after hearing from town leaders who were having difficulty receiving the funding and support they needed after the floods last year,” Marklein said. “We quickly discovered inconsistencies and gaps in the process and have written this bill to streamline it so that communities get the help they need to recover.”

“One community that was particularly hard hit during the flooding last year was the Town of Glendale in Monroe County, which received 8.5 inches of rain in one day in August,” Kurtz said. “Because of the severity of the flooding, Glendale, like many other communities, was eligible for disaster assistance through FEMA and WEM. However, the assistance process is long, convoluted, and arcane. In addition, frequent changes to the procedures make it difficult to quickly reimburse communities for disaster clean-up and repair costs. The long delay forces many communities to take out loans for repairs. Every day money is delayed is another day a community pays interest on the loan, straining local budgets.”

“The Town of Glendale was made aware of the slow process of reimbursement of FEMA funds and asked Senator Marklein and Rep Kurtz to assist in making the process quicker,” Raye Walz, Chair, Town of Glendale said. “This bill will enable all communities affected by disasters to receive FEMA funding and recover from disasters quicker.”

“We discovered that a new federal regulation requires a community requesting funds to register in the SAM system before it can even submit an application for federal funds. But many communities are not registered and do not know that they need to register,” Marklein said. “The Department of Military Affairs told us that for the last 2 disasters, 32% of potential recipients have not registered in SAM and are therefore ineligible to receive any disaster assistance from FEMA or WEM. In fact, some municipalities that were impacted last year still haven’t registered and WEM has not told them that they need to.”

“This bill mandates WEM to be more helpful, streamline their processes and better assist small municipalities in the recovery process,” Kurtz said. “It is unfortunate that we have to force the agency to act, but we will do it so that communities like ours do not have to struggle through red tape when they are working hard to recover.”

“This legislation will be positive for municipalities in Wisconsin,” Joshua Kowalke, Director of Emergency Management for the City of Reedsburg said. “The Public Assistance process is a lengthy process and leaves municipalities without reimbursement for a long time. Streamlining this process will have a positive impact on any municipality that is affected by a disaster.”

The Disaster Assistance Streamlining bill was introduced as Senate Bill (SB) 369 and Assembly Bill (AB) 380. Marklein and Kurtz are optimistic that this legislation will move swiftly through the legislative process.

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