Florida’s two U.S. senators–Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson–have teamed up on a proposal to stop the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from penalizing victims of natural disasters who apply for but decide not to accept disaster loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA). 

Rubio introduced the “Disaster Assistance Simplification Act” this week with Nelson as a cosponsor. Other cosponsors include Republicans U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas and John Kennedy of Louisiana. 

Under current law, applicants who apply for SBA disaster loans but do not accept them are penalized when HUD issues Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) disaster relief funds. 

Back in September, Rubio urged U.S. HUD Sec. Ben Carson to change that policy after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria impacted Florida and other states in the Sun Belt, 

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Rubio returned to that theme on Thursday as he made his case for the bill. 

 “Hurricane Irma caused catastrophic destruction throughout Florida, and disrupted the lives of millions of Americans,” said Rubio. “The current disaster assistance process is unsynchronized and burdensome for victims of natural disasters. By penalizing victims who don’t take assistance, our laws discourage victims from applying for SBA disaster loans. As many Americans continue to rebuild and recover from the storm, removing bureaucratic hurdles is imperative to ensuring that no victim is penalized for weighing their hurricane recovery options.”

 “When people are struggling to recover in the wake of a massive storm, time is of the essence,” said Nelson. “This bill will make it easier for people to get the help they need, when they need it – without having to worry about government red tape.”

The bill was sent to the U.S. Senate Banking, Housing  and Urban Development Committee this week. So far, there is no companion bill over in the U.S. House.


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