WASHINGTON, DC – Seeking to speed recovery efforts to Florida communities, today Congressman Neal Dunn (FL-02) led 10 members of the Florida delegation in requesting the President use his authority to waive certain federal procurement rules in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Current regulations prohibit “local preference” and sole-source contracting, which can dramatically slow rebuilding.
“As we write to you, counties we represent are conducting damage assessment processes and preparing applications for the Public Assistance Program funds you released for Hurricane Irma recovery,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the President. “While municipalities tirelessly work to rebuild infrastructure and restore critical services, the risks to public health and safety do not permit delays resulting from federal red-tape.”
The Administration has the ability to waive these rules in existing law. After the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season, where hurricanes Charley, Francis, Ivan, and Jeanne battered Florida over the course of two months, FEMA used its authority in the immediate aftermath to waive the contracting prohibitions for many applicants. At the time, no guidance was given to municipalities regarding when slow, burdensome federal bidding rules would be waived. Instead, municipalities were left to justify their contracting practices once Public Assistance Program-funded projects were audited by FEMA – often times years after the work is performed. This led to inconsistent application of the waivers, and it caused municipalities to face millions of dollars of claw-backs, in some cases a decade after the storms.
FEMA Public Assistance Program funding claw-backs of this nature became so pervasive that the House acted in March 2017 to pass H.R. 1678, legislation introduced by four members of the Florida delegation to place a statute of limitation on FEMA funding de-obligations except in cases of fraud.
The members of the Florida delegation who are aware of this problem want to avoid the same hardship befalling municipalities once again by requesting affirmative and consistent waivers state-wide. A full waiver of prohibitions on sole-source and locally sourced contracts would speed assistance to affected communities and save taxpayers money.
“Given your experience as a builder, you understand that these contracting strategies may, in exigent circumstances, save taxpayer dollars and valuable recovery time,” added the lawmakers.
Along with Dr. Dunn, the letter was signed by Florida Representatives Ted Yoho (FL-03), John Rutherford (FL-04), Daniel Webster (FL-11), Dennis Ross (FL-15), Tom Rooney (FL-17), Francis Rooney (FL-19), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25), Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27).