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Senate Passes Katrina Debris Removal Reimbursement Bill

Lott Achieves Bill’s Passage by Unanimous Consent 

From Sen. Trent Lott - 10/27/05  GCN

In response to a unanimous consent request by U.S. Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, the Senate today, without objection, passed a hurricane disasters debris removal bill which further extends the period of time that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) must reimburse local governments for removal of debris remaining from Hurricane Katrina.

The bill, S. 939, included a Lott amendment which extends to 180 days the period of time for 100 percent reimbursement of local government expenses for debris removal for major disasters declared between August 25, when Hurricane Katrina hit Florida, and December 31, 2005.

Currently the Stafford Act, dealing with major natural disasters, requires a reimbursement level of at least 75 percent for debris removal and does not limit the duration for this reimbursement, Senator Lott said.  FEMA regulations set a standard 100 percent reimbursement for 60 days and 75 percent reimbursement after that, he said.

On Saturday, October 22, President Bush approved an extension for Katrina cleanup for Mississippi through a 90-day duration at a 100 percent reimbursement level.

The bill passed by the Senate Thursday also requires FEMA to reimburse local governments at least 50 percent of their eligible public assistance for debris removal, not later than 60 days after an eligible claim was filed.  It further clarifies that at the president’s discretion, permissible debris removal includes clearing, removing and disposing fo debris from any emergency access road.  Also at the president’s discretion, it includes reimbursement for removal of debris and wreckage from an owner-occupied private residential property, utilities and residential infrastructure – such as private access roads – to facilitate a safe and sanitary living condition, Lott said. 

Senator Lott praised the Senate’s quick action and the work of Florida Senators Mel Martinez and Bill Nelson, who introduced the underlying bill.  The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

“The degree of destruction wrought, especially by Katrina, and the amount of debris still needing to be removed from our disaster counties makes this extension necessary,” Senator Lott said.  “We will not stop until we provide the opportunity for every Mississippian to rebuild and get back on their feet.”

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