LaMalfa on FEMA update; High-Speed Refund Act

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded an additional $1,148,738.77 in federal funding for Camp Fire recovery in Butte County. This represents the beginning of the increased federal financial responsibility (moving from the standard 75 percent up to 90 percent) for the costs of fighting the Camp Fire and for our district’s recovery.

On Nov. 9, President Trump granted a Presidential Declaration of a Major Emergency for Butte County. A federal disaster declaration directs FEMA to provide disaster relief efforts with 75 percent of the cost being funded by the federal government.

I have successfully passed language in Congress, while working with FEMA and the administration, to increase the federal government’s share to 90 percent. That funding level represents the same commitment level as the federal response to 9/11, and is not typical in disaster responses. The additional funding received is a reflection of the federal government adjusting a past claim to reflect an increase in the federal cost share from 75 percent to 90 percent.

These increased funds mean our rural county and cities won’t have to slash needed services to cover the costs of disaster recovery and firefighting. Our overgrown forests are a result of poor state and federal land management combined with obstructive laws and over-litigation. Our rural community shouldn’t have to continue to suffer financially because of the failures of government policy.

FEMA also announced $12,117,677.40 in funding for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to reflect the increase to a 90 percent cost share by the federal government.
Now that we’ve successfully increased the federal government’s cost share, I’m happy that FEMA is moving as quickly as possible to deliver the increased funds into Butte County. There is still much to do throughout Butte County and related areas affected to help people fully recover from this disaster, but I’m pleased with the administration for their full attention to our recovery efforts in Northern California, in this and other disasters we’ve all felt.

High-Speed Refund Act
Introduced in Congress, the High-Speed Rail project was sold to voters with false statements and grand promises. All of the basic promises: a $33 billion total price tag, cheap fares, the project would pay for itself, significant private investment, short travel time from San Francisco to Los Angeles and spurs to Sacramento and San Diego, were nothing more than slick campaign promises that were meant to fool the voters into supporting the bonds to fund part of it.

Now, after so many missed deadlines and massive cost increases, we should cut our losses and stop spending on this broken promise. A decade ago, the federal government gave California $3.5 billion of “stimulus” money for specific High-Speed Rail Infrastructure, such as a station in Los Angeles and San Francisco and the high-speed connection between them.

Today, we know none of that infrastructure will be built. After countless blunders, skyrocketing costs and more uncertainty than ever, it’s time to cut our losses and kill California’s misguided high-speed rail project. According to the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s most recent business plan, the total projected cost has now ballooned to around $100 billion, more than triple the initial estimate.

If a family accepted a bid for their home to install a new roof but the price tripled when repairs were to begin, I don’t think anyone would simply accept that. I don’t believe American taxpayers should either. They should not be on the hook for California’s inability to manage or deliver on these deceptive promises. Californians would reject such a proposal now if given the choice again.

That’s why I’ve introduced H.R. 1515, the High-Speed Refund Act, which would require California to refund all federal funding for HSR and repurpose it for highway projects that would actually be both beneficial and economically viable — Northern California projects such as the widening of Highway 70, improving Interstate 5, expanding Highway 395, safety improvements on Highway 49 or widening Highway 99.

This legislation requires that any discretionary grant funds provided by the Department of Transportation for high-speed rail development in California be reimbursed to the federal government.

The High-Speed Refund Act will also increase the authorization for the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant program by $3.5 billion, the same amount of money California owes to federal taxpayers, to ensure it can be reinvested in worthwhile infrastructure projects.