WASHINGTON D.C. – Senator Mark Pryor and Congressman Mike Ross (AR-04) today announced the nearly 10,000 new and vacant manufactured homes in Hope, AR may finally be sent to disaster victims in the Gulf Coast, or be sold or donated to localities and non-profit organizations if two Senate amendments become law.
Pryor and Ross have been working together to cut red tape and put the thousands of unused manufactured homes to good use. The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee this morning accepted two of Pryor’s amendments to force FEMA to stop stalling and instead start sending the vacant manufactured homes to where they are needed most. The provisions were incorporated into the Hurricane Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006, which passed the Committee unanimously.
First, the Committee passed Pryor’s amendment that mirrors the Hope Housing Act of 2006, legislation he and Ross introduced in March to waive the FEMA regulation prohibiting manufactured homes from being located in floodplains. This one-time fix is only applicable to the manufactured homes built for evacuees of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The Arkansas members said although FEMA ordered the homes and has the ability to waive their self-imposed regulation, it has refused.
“FEMA is wrong to withhold these homes from families struggling to rebuild their lives and communities. It shouldn’t take an act of Congress to deliver these homes to the families they were built to help, but it has,” Pryor said. “The sooner this bill passes, the sooner hurricane evacuees will have a place to live where they can then begin to rebuild their lives, communities and local economies. It’s been too long already.”
“I’m proud to have worked with Sen. Pryor to ensure the evacuees’ best interests are kept in mind as they try to put their lives back together,” Ross said. “There are still 9,933 manufactured homes sitting in Hope, AR, that could be used by people in Louisiana and Mississippi who lost everything they owned in last year’s hurricanes. While it’s unfortunate it has taken months to cut the bureaucratic red tape so these trailers can finally be put to use, I’m pleased we are one step closer to this goal.”
Second, the Committee accepted Pryor’s amendment to allow FEMA to sell or donate leftover manufactured homes to localities and non-profit organizations that would use the homes for the public good. Currently, non-profits may only receive surplus homes from FEMA to house disaster victims. Under Pryor’s provision, the homes could be used by a non-profit for any purpose that serves the public good. Ross plans to introduce comparable legislation in the House of Representatives in the coming weeks.
“If FEMA can’t place a home with a family, it should be allowed to sell or donate it to a charity that can put it to good use. Letting the homes sit and deteriorate at the airport should not be an option,” Pryor said.
“Sen. Pryor’s amendment will provide much needed clarity for FEMA to better assist the victims of natural disasters, but at the same time will hold FEMA accountable to the American people by allowing the remaining manufactured homes not needed by storm victims to be put to good use,” Ross said.
Pryor said although he believes FEMA would function better as an independent, cabinet-level agency, he voted to pass the underlying legislation because it includes strong language to ensure FEMA has qualified leadership throughout the agency, adequate communication equipment and better coordination among local, regional and federal operations. He said he is particularly pleased the legislation includes a requirement that FEMA identify and establish advance contracts for services and goods, such as manufactured homes. He added this system, used under former FEMA Director James Lee Witt, will cut down on the buying frenzy that occurs after disasters and prevent wasteful spending.
“We know FEMA can prepare and respond to catastrophes without wasting millions of taxpayer dollars,” Pryor said. “Moving FEMA out from under the Department of Homeland Security would bring positive reforms more efficiently, however, I do believe this legislation provides the agency with strict direction on better planning and response efforts.”