Sunday, April 17, 2005

Updated: Victimized Twice - Once by Mother Nature, Once by Federal Government

UPDATE: According to the Times Picayune, this bill was passed and signed by President Bush on Friday, just in time. Good job, Rep. Jindal!

Rep. Bobby Jindal and Sen. David Vitter are working overtime trying to get an emergency bill co-sponsored by Jindal and Florida Rep. Mark Foley through the Senate. The bill would stop a recent IRS ruling that taxes some Federal Emergency Management Agency grants.

Under the new ruling, homeowners in areas declared federal disaster zones receive the grant tax free. However, residents in mitigated areas that are not declared federal disasters are forced to include the grant as part of their income. This process inflates personal income by thousands of dollars, placing homeowners in tax brackets they can't afford, Vitter and Jindal said.

Palm Lake resident Barbara DaBella received more than $100,000 in FEMA grants after six separate floods wrecked her house. "We were devastated when we learned about the taxes," DaBella said. "No one knew the cost, otherwise we would have figured out some other way to pay."

The bill was passed unanimously in the House. So, what is the hold up in the Senate?

Sen. Max Baucus, ranking Democrat on the Committee on Finance, has not given his approval for the legislation to go to the Senate floor for a vote, stalling the time sensitive process.

"If Max Bauchus just gets out the way we can have the bill ready Monday and have the president sign it by Tuesday, three days before April 15," Vitter said.

Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein have been asked to mediate in the process to push the bill through by next week's deadline, Vitter said.

If there is such bipartisan support, which there seems to be, what is stopping this? Let's hope that Jindal and Vitter are supportive. If anyone is from Montana, please contact Baucus and ask him to support H.R. 387.