Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-22, New Hartford, is calling on the U.S. Senate to pass a pair of FEMA reform bills to improve FEMA’s disaster declaration process for communities and streamline Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) claims processing.

The bills were passed by the House and have been referred to the Senate and await further action before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

FEMA’s current process for damage assessment disadvantages counties in populous states as too often local communities that sustain significant damages do not qualify for the federal assistance they need and deserve, Tenney said. One of the bills — H.R. 1665 — would direct FEMA to give greater weight and consideration to localized damage when determining eligibility for federal disaster assistance. The FEMA Accountability, Modernization and Transparency Act, H.R. 1679, will require FEMA to develop an online interface for applicants to complete claims, submit photos and other supporting evidence and review the status of their application, while improving coordination between state, local and federal agencies.

“Sen. (Charles E.) Schumer and Sen. (Kirsten) Gillibrand must lead the way in urging the Senate to take up and pass two commonsense bills that will provide important reforms in the FEMA claims processing. As the recent flooding throughout Central New York makes clear, there is much more that Congress can do to improve how FEMA works for both residents and municipalities alike,” Tenney said. “That’s why the House unanimously passed H.R. 1665 which will finally level the playing field for Upstate communities that are disadvantaged by FEMA’s current disaster assessment formula.”

“Additionally, H.R. 1679 will begin to streamline and modernize the FEMA claims process while modernizing information sharing between state, local and federal agencies. Our constituents have struggled from the recent flooding for too long. The Senate must take up these important bills to help provide Central New Yorkers with the relief that they deserve and need,” Tenney said.

In a letter to both Schumer and Gillibrand, Tenney said ”Given the important impact they [H.R. 1665, H.R. 1679] would have for the constituents we both serve, I urge you to do all you can to bring them up for consideration.”

Directly following the flooding earlier this month, Tenney urged Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to conduct the damage assessments needed to request a Federal Disaster Declaration in response to severe flash flooding in Oneida, Madison, and Herkimer counties over the July 4 weekend. In addition, Tenney urged Cuomo to work closely with local officials and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to comprehensively examine this most recent case of flooding.

In July 2013 and July 2014, federal disaster declarations were issued for similar areas after devastating floods caused millions of dollars in damage.

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