October 15, 2022

A bipartisan bill led by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (MO-06) to expedite disaster recovery projects across the Nation, particularly in small and rural areas, has passed both the House and Senate and has been sent to the President to be signed into law.

The Small Project Efficient and Effective Disaster (SPEED) Recovery Act (H.R. 5641) updates the threshold for what the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) deems a “small project” for communities seeking disaster assistance. Small projects do not face the same administrative burdens and paperwork required for larger, more complex projects. Communities can move forward with small projects in a much more expedited manner.

“The SPEED Recovery Act will help cut the red tape that many communities have to deal with to secure disaster assistance. This legislation is especially helpful for small and rural communities that simply do not have the same types of resources as large and urban areas to navigate the bureaucracy,” said Graves. “This bill will allow smaller recovery projects to move forward quickly, help disaster victims begin to get back on their feet sooner rather than later, and allow FEMA to better focus its resources when larger disasters strike.”

The SPEED Recovery Act updates the small project threshold to $1 million. Historically, the number of disaster projects that qualified as small projects with simplified procedures accounted for 95% of such projects. However, because the threshold for a “small project” has not kept pace with inflation and modern construction costs, a much larger percentage of projects (nearly 25% of all recovery projects) now fall outside of the scope of a “small project.” This has added unnecessary paperwork and burdens for both communities and FEMA.

The SPEED Recovery Act will give communities more control in the rebuilding process for smaller projects, and it will once again ensure that approximately 95% of projects qualify as “small projects.” Notably, while “small projects” constitute a large percentage of total projects, they only represent about 10% of federal disaster funding costs, and the bill’s proposed adjustment represents minimal risk to the taxpayer. FEMA will then be able to focus more of its staff and time on addressing larger, more complex projects.