Capitol Update
by Senator Howard Marklein
August 30, 2019


Streamlining the Disaster Assistance Process in Wisconsin
Marklein, Kurtz legislation will help small, rural communities when disaster strikes

On the anniversary of the horrible flooding that struck our communities in 2018, Representative Tony Kurtz (R-Wonewoc) and I introduced the Disaster Assistance Streamlining Bill to reform processes for disaster assistance to expedite funding and support for small, rural communities. We made our announcement at the intersection of N. Webb Avenue and 2nd Street in Reedsburg. It is an intersection that was completely underwater at this time last year.
We introduced this legislation after hearing from town leaders who were having difficulty receiving the funding and support they needed after the floods last year. We quickly discovered inconsistencies and gaps in the process and have written this bill to streamline it so that communities get the help they need to recover.
This bill:

  • Requires Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) to provide training to ALL local units of government on how to sign-up for the System for Award Management (SAM) program that is a requirement for receiving funds from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through WEM. 
  • Directs WEM to complete its due diligence to make sure all local units of government have created a SAM account by 6/30/21.
  • Streamlines the reimbursement process by requiring WEM to issue FEMA payments to municipalities within 14 days of receipt of funds and required forms.
  • Further streamlines the process by providing an option to submit information to WEM electronically and to receive reimbursements via electronic funds transfer or direct deposit.

During our press conference, Rep. Kurtz said, “one community that was particularly hard hit during the flooding last year was the Town of Glendale in Monroe County, which received 8.5 inches of rain in one day in August. Because of the severity of the flooding, Glendale, like many other communities, was eligible for disaster assistance through FEMA and WEM.  However, the assistance process is long, convoluted, and arcane. In addition, frequent changes to the procedures make it difficult to quickly reimburse communities for disaster clean-up and repair costs. The long delay forces many communities to take out loans for repairs. Every day money is delayed is another day a community pays interest on the loan, straining local budgets.”
We discovered that a new federal regulation requires a community requesting funds to register in the SAM system before it can even submit an application for federal funds. But many communities are not registered and do not know that they need to register. The Department of Military Affairs told us that for the last 2 disasters, 32% of potential recipients have not registered in SAM and are therefore ineligible to receive any disaster assistance from FEMA or WEM. In fact, some municipalities that were impacted last year still haven’t registered and WEM has not told them that they need to.
This bill requires WEM to be more helpful and better assist small municipalities in the recovery process. Our communities should not be held back by red tape when they are working so hard to help residents recover. We are optimistic that this legislation will move swiftly through the legislative process.
For more information and to connect with me, visit my website http://legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/17/marklein and subscribe to my weekly E-Update by sending an email to Sen.Marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov. Do not hesitate to call 800-978-8008 if you have any questions or need assistance with any state-related matters.
Marklein represents the 17th Senate District, which includes all or parts Grant, Green, Iowa, Juneau, Lafayette, Monroe, Richland, Sauk and Vernon counties. Marklein serves on the legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee and is Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Revenue & Financial Institutions.