Thompson, Newhouse Introduce Bipartisan PHONE Act to Help Disaster Survivors

Feb 1, 2021
Press Release
Bill would allow disaster survivors to keep their phone numbers while they rebuild their homes

Washington – Today Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05) and Rep. Dan Newhouse (WA-04) announced the introduction of the bipartisan PHONE Act. This bill allows survivors of natural disasters who lost their homes to keep their phone numbers while they rebuild and at no cost to them. When homes are destroyed, landline phone service may need to be disconnected. If a phone is disconnected too long, the service provider is required to return the phone number to a pool so the number can be assigned to other customers. Introduced in November 2018, this bill was inspired by the experience of Thompson’s constituents who lost their homes in the Atlas and Tubbs fires in October 2017.

“Disaster survivors who lost their homes face a daunting process with miles of red tape and they deserve as much assistance from the Federal government as possible. After I heard that local disaster survivors in our district were having trouble keeping their phone numbers while they rebuilt their homes, I knew Congress needed to do something,” said Thompson. “That’s why I reintroduced the bipartisan PHONE Act with Representative Newhouse to allow disaster survivors to keep their phone numbers and give them that important peace of mind during the recovery process. I will continue working to get this bill signed into law and bring back every Federal dollar and resource to help fire survivors.”

“The people of Central Washington and communities across the West understand the challenges of rebuilding after a natural disaster like a catastrophic wildfire,” said Rep. Newhouse. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation to ensure that families, homeowners, businesses, and farmers can remain connected to the people and resources they need to get back on their feet after a natural disaster.”

You can click here to read the text of the PHONE Act. The bill includes:

  • An automatic 1-year freeze on residential wireline phone number reassignment following a major disaster declaration,
  • The option to extend for an additional year at customer request,
  • And a requirement that states determine if this safeguard is necessary and in the public interest + coordinate with FEMA and consult with wireline service providers to reasonably limit the designation to areas that have sustained Covered Damage.