Congressman Dunn introduces bill to support local governments and electric cooperatives

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Neal Dunn, M.D. (Florida-02) and Congressman Darren Soto (Florida-09) introduced the FEMA Loan Interest Payment Relief Act (H.R. 8701) requiring the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reimburse local governments and electric cooperatives for interest incurred on loans used to restore essential functions after natural disasters. The interest paid on emergency loans is often a cost passed on to taxpayers and ratepayers alike.

“In Florida’s Second Congressional District, our local governments and electric cooperatives have waited years for full reimbursement of Hurricane Michael related costs from FEMA. Local governments and electric co-ops take out loans to restore services; however, while they are waiting for the funding, they incur interest. These interest payments are costing them millions of dollars. We can’t have them on the hook for that,” said Congressman Dunn. “I also believe that this will incentivize the federal government to obligate these funds in a timelier manner moving forward.”

“States and municipalities rely on FEMA to rebuild and recover after a disaster strikes. As Central Floridians continue to struggle to get back on their feet from recent hurricanes, we simply cannot expect local governments and electric cooperatives to pay millions of dollars in loan interest they incurred while waiting for federal assistance. It must be reimbursed by FEMA,” said Congressman Soto.

Communities in Florida’s Panhandle were severely impacted by Hurricane Michael in 2018.  This resulted in two electric co-ops sustaining nearly 100% destruction. This emergency funding was essential in helping these co-ops get back to serving their members.

“As electric cooperatives across the nation work to recover from devastation caused by hurricanes, wildfires, winter storms and other natural disasters, they frequently rely on FEMA funding to turn the lights back on as quickly and safely as possible.  This important legislation will make a meaningful difference in the ability of not-for-profit electric co-ops to pay for recovery efforts by allowing additional costs incurred during recovery to be reimbursed by FEMA.  Congressmen Dunn and Soto recognize the crucial role that electric cooperatives play in their communities and America’s electric cooperatives thank them for easing the rebuilding process after Mother Nature strikes.” – Jim Matheson, CEO of National Rural Electric Cooperative Association

“We brought in over 1,600 utility workers to help rebuild our system, costing us $84 million in emergency loans and $3.2 million in interest so far – nearly $200 per member for interest alone.  This legislation will bring much needed relief to our consumer-members continuing to rebuild from Hurricane Michael while we continue to struggle through a pandemic.” – John Bartley, CEO/General Manager of Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative

“This legislation will help ease the burden of emergency loans while co-ops await FEMA reimbursement after natural disasters.  Federal reimbursements of our $74 million loan and $2.7 million in interest in a timely manner means limiting the long-term impact on our rural community after a historically devastating hurricane.” – Ty Peel, Executive Vice President and CEO of West Florida Electric Cooperative

“Over the last four years, Florida’s electric cooperatives have paid nearly $13 million in interest alone on emergency loans, and due to recent storms, the interest will continue to accumulate. On behalf of Florida’s electric co-ops, we sincerely appreciate Congressmen Dunn and Soto’s efforts to bring relief to communities here and across the country.” – Mike Bjorklund, General Manager of the Florida Electric Cooperatives Association.