tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN September 9, 2016 8:00am-10:01am EDT
>> secretary clinton the secretary carry have any discussion with regard to freedom of information request? >> certainly had a number of them. >> the other three? you said you never talked about it. >> you added john kerry. >> i did have a conversation with john kerry about records preservation and processing. when i was asked to do this job. i can tell you he has great interest in looking into procedures and practices. >> i am not sure how long the others were viewed in your current office when mrs. clinton was secretary of state in the department. >> i was in the department but not in my current position when secretary clinton was in office. >> anything about freedom of information requests?
>> no. >> okay. for mister kennedy again. you state the only way the state would have known, turning over emails responsible for statements on the topic, is that true that you are at the mercy of statements whether everything was turned over? >> currently there are three kinds of records in the state department, what we call paper records, memorandums, telegraphic records and email records. telegraphic records and paper records are maintained centrally and that is what we are doing now outlined with the capstone program and the new program we are putting in place by december 31st. we have all records captured.
>> obviously you don't know if you have all records, they were destroyed. >> i am talking about your question was about the present time, putting a system in, you will not be able to destroy any mail records. it goes to your machine and central or preparatory. and extract it. >> there was nothing at the time to make sure these records were maintained when secretary clinton was secretary. >> to 2014, the change of the federal records act, that was not a requirement but as i said if i might quickly, we never talked in this hearing about two major sources of records in the
state department, memo random record dance telegraphic records are centrally archived and locked down. >> given our concern, special concerns regarding secretary clinton the most important records are the records that show correspondence with people outside the building. >> many of those are in telegraphic and paper archives. they are chronically maintained. >> the emails she had going back and forth with people outside the building. >> no question we needed to improve records, we are now up to 1 billion emails per year and that is a huge challenge. >> one more question. it seems some requests are more important than others.
obviously when it deals with the secretary, particularly the secretary, it turns out these financial dealings that concern her and the immediate family, don't you feel these requests ought to make sure requests directly affecting the secretary should follow the time? >> that is hard to do when the statute i have to respond to every single request within 20 days so to avoid more lawsuits we grieve these as first in and first out and least able to assert to the courts we are trying to move through this in a logical and measured progression. >> we are almost done. >> a few more questions. ambassador kennedy, when was the first time secretary clinton used a personal email address?
your microphone please. >> that came late in the process. mister chairman. i think it came to me in 2000, and 2014. >> the state department inspector general reports as in august 2011 we discussed an email with cheryl mills and others, the secretary's blackberry wasn't functioning, quote, possibly because her personal email server is down. that raise any red flags for you? >> none whatsoever. i knew the critter clinton had a personal blackberry and had been asked. they had asked about personal blackberries and i was told she had a personal blackberry for keeping in touch with her family so i was aware she had a personal blackberry. >> what about a personal email server? >> if i remember the exact email
you are referring to, that was in there but the main reason i was on that list regarding failure of the telephone system, i had been working on the telephone system and this email came back talking about the telephone system and something about the server and never focused on that because i was desperately working to make sure classified and unclassified phone systems were restored. >> you received emails from her personal account, you never noticed that during her entire tenure that -- >> i received over a four your period a few, there were a few dozen exchanges, that was a small number but since i never received an email from secretary
albright -- >> anybody but secretary clinton? >> for context receiving a few emails, many of them related to things asked at a cocktail party or on weekends including how to put someone in contact, it did not strike me as abnormal to get an email from the secretary of state in the evening or on a weekend from her personal blackberry. >> from her personal email or personal blackberry? >> i knew she had a blackberry. >> i asked about her email. >> that is how she send email. >> i am talking about the email address, dot.com. >> that comes on a blackberry too. you can get -- >> i want to be precise. you can have a blackberry with a.gov account. >> and the dot.com or dot.edu.
>> i'm not asking about the blackberry. that was problematic. i am asking about sending and receiving emails, interacting with the secretary of state on official business, one here from december 22nd from hdr 22 to you and a couple others. i got a chock full of examples, going back and forth on official business, using a dot.com and you never noticed that? >> i didn't say that. >> in 2014 she had left office. >> she had a personal email server. >> there are servers on the there are devices and there is email. i am talking about her email address. >> as i said a minute ago, i said i had probably three dozen
exchanges with the secretary over 48 months that were with personal -- i have admitted to that. >> personal what? >> her personal email address, her personal blackberry. >> that did not raise any flags? you never noticed that? >> i noticed it but i did not find it consequential. the small number of emails over 48 months, i never received any emails, if i had gotten hundreds and hundreds of emails from her i would have taken -- >> what is the threshold that raise the flag? don't you know on official business you are not supposed to be using a dot.com address? >> the rules in place during the secretary's tenure is you print a copy of it or you can send it to your personal storage device somewhere. i had no reason to know that
these were not being recorded somewhere. i had no reason to know. >> i think you did. this is one of the big errors on this, no one spoke up -- let me go back. there were some people that spoke up. there were some people that question did and it is in the record. time is short. let me ask, ambassador. explain to me the role played with secretary clinton. >> monica hanley was part of a cross between scheduling and advanced, worked on the secretary's travel, moved with her when she went to events outside the building. >> she was personal assistant to the secretary. she still work at the state department? >> she does not. >> do you recall when she left the state department? >> she was a noncareer employee.
>> let me ask switching gears here, is it legal or illegal to share classified information with somebody who does not have security clearance? >> it is an appropriate. it may be illegal as well. i am not a lawyer. >> would it concern you that if somebody had access to classified information, did not have proper security clearance? >> yes. >> did monica hanley lose her security clearance when she left the employment of the state department? >> yes. >> is that the regular routine leaving the employment of the state department they should lose security? >> security clearances are not lost. they no longer have one. loss is administrative action. termination of your employment terminates access to classified information with some exceptions. >> do you recall what level of
clearance she had at the state department? >> top-secret. >> could you provide to this committee the time she had the security clearance and when it was taken away? >> it was never taken away. >> the time her security clearance endeded. >> we can provide -- >> i would like to know what level of security clearance she had along the way. does the state department have any official relationship with the clinton foundation? >> i don't believe. i would have to check. i don't think it had an official relationship. we don't usually have official relationships with foundations. we deal extensively with huge
numbers of charitable foundations. >> there is no relationship between the clinton foundation and the state department to provide services or products or personnel for the secretary to do her official business at the state department. >> i am not aware of any. >> let me yield, recognize the ranking member. >> what would be following up the chairman's question, you said there are exceptions when a person is no longer employed, they would maintain -- >> there is a presidential executive order that permits former presidential appointees to retain a security clearance for the purposes of reviewing material they saw, generated or
handled during their tenure. i was trying to be precise in response to the chairman's question. >> one of the things that is interesting about all of this is there seems to be a belief by many on this committee that there has been intentional stalling with obstruction to providing documents. we listen to you carefully. i am not accusing you of that. you ratchet up your budget. that you deal with more.
you talk about priorities and the rule. talk about that because i don't want american people -- i want you to have an opportunity to say how you feel about your office, your employees out there. >> thank you very much. you take our responsibility very seriously, we were very pleased in 2013 where we managed to close more cases than we received. we almost did the same thing, we got in 20,000 cases and closed 18,000. they started to take off, 24,837 requests which was up from the
year before. and growing exponentially, put additional resources into it. it keeps growing. we get great support to committees of appropriations. down 25% in constant dollar terms from five years ago, it is up 300%. and putting resources into it, i cannot find a way -- working with ambassador jacobs, new technologies, more personnel. we have an obligation under the law and to the american people as mister russell talked about.
we are carrying it to the maximum extent possible but with these many documents, one last thing, a request to a government agency that does not handle classified information does not operate in 275 locations around the world with multiple responsibilities. and easy push. the question about -- mister palmer's question about timing, they can churn those out quickly. we get very complex national security documents requests, those materials contain material references to other agencies. we have to coordinate with the intelligence community, the defense department, department of energy, department of justice, the province of homeland security, it takes a long time to do those and we
reached the 20 day rule and we get sued which as the chairman points out causes more businesses -- i don't think -- i hate to admit it, i don't like to admit failure, i don't think we will ever be able to admit that we will be able to turn out complex documents. >> you are trying to obstruct? >> absolutely not. we have put more and more people as i mentioned, working with 64 people, pushed it to 81, then 93 and depending on the budget for fy 17 push it up to 118 and we are deploying new technologies, better training for our personnel. we can automate the process especially on emails. as i mentioned to the chairman a few minutes ago our telegraphic records and memorandum records are much more easily searchable
because they are in a searchable format. emails need a lot of work and that is what ambassador jacobs is directing. >> i was listening to you, trying to figure out when you said we did a great thing with a beer and celebrate. it doesn't sound like work by the way. >> i take incredible pride, confidence and dedication, in order to get 53,000 pages of secretary clinton's records out. we had people working in 10, 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, infringing on holidays. we have an obligation to the american people, we will do everything we can to meet it but there are certain structural, mechanical, software limitations
we are facing. there is the colloquy i had with congresswoman norton about our requirement to protect foreign government information and yet i don't have the exemption the department of defense or department of energy has. we have to classify every one of those documents, a specific time-consuming action but if you market with the correct fee designation for foreign government information would take a huge burden off of the state department in terms of returning to routine requests. it would also take away the impression that there were 2000 emails that were classified and confidential, somewhere between 60%, 70% were classified confidential because that was
the only way undercurrent statute to protect foreign information other than the department of energy. >> thank you for your response. i last said it jokingly, i said it to emphasize that we are grateful for what you do. you hear a lot of complaints and we do appreciate it. >> it is an honor. >> i point out we heard about classification system, i think if we don't do anything else we try to help with the system of classification because it is so serious and can create all kinds of problems. we address these issues the best we can.
>> i think the ranking member. we need to work collaboratively on not only the classification process but also security clearance. you have millions of people in security clearance. i harken back to what senator patrick moynihan spearheaded 20 years ago, he basically issued a report, bipartisan report that said when everything is classified nothing is classified. everybody has a pretty clearance, nobody has security clearance. that is a long-term project i would like the committee to engage in. one last thing impact the four of you. you have this trove, tens of thousands, you look at federal records that are dumped on your lap, you also look at all the
requests, congressional requests, subpoenas, media requests, how do you take those and cross reference it with information for federal records, should have been looted, you want to throw them on the internet, and you hunt and peck through 55,000 or go back to a subpoena and say that was not the response it could have been. it was incomplete because it should have included the email or calendar or whatever it might be. how do you take this set, tens of thousands more than that, how do you cross reference with thousands of requests into the state department over since 2009? >> there are two ways to do
that, mister chairman. we could go back and go through every previous request that i think would grind to a halt, the requests and efforts we are making now. i believe the right solution is what we are doing. we are putting all of the emails up on searchable website. if you ask about then a do and we said we don't have records we can go to a special portion of our website which has 53,000 records, would find then a do. >> you don't talk about record albums, i am just teasing, keep going. >> then a do is my favorite country because it is not a country and i can use it as an example. >> you are a big music fan of particular artists from the 70s.
>> i think that is the way for us to be good stewards of the taxpayers dollars, and responders to the american people. >> why not do that all the time? forget about subpoenas. good luck. >> because there is foreign government information, privacy act information, national security act information in that material. >> any plans to go back and redo, what about subpoenas? >> we respond. >> if you respond to a subpoena, i don't have something exact since 2011, you just got the record in 2016, are you going to go back and look at that subpoena? >> we would consult with the department of justice about what we need to do to be in
compliance with congress. >> that is what i am saying. there is this universe, four buckets, i hope i am not missing something. you have congressional inquiries and media requests which come in a variety of forms. i would appreciate what is your game plan to deal with, didn't ask for this but this is the consequence of hillary clinton's convenience that you have to deal with it. what are you going to do, how do you prioritize? if someone has a subpoena, a company or individual or attorney there is a subpoena out there, will you go back and cross reference that? i am not expecting you to do it off-the-cuff. i would just appreciate if the state department would say this is how we are going to deal with it. if not for those buckets, tell me what it is but off the top of
my head all i am asking for is a game plan to deal with that. i don't think it is good enough to say we are throwing everything on the internet. >> we review congressional document requests. and 186,000 pages. >> we will work with you in the office. we talk to the department of justice to see what steps we take, video we take care of themselves. >> they will be glad to hear that should if there was a media requests. >> the media requests would be a foia request and we made it very clear.
>> what is a reasonable time to get the committee a game plan on how to deal with it? >> the legal question about subpoenas, it would be a couple weeks. >> i can certainly try, and talk to legal advisor. >> i will start waving the red flag. and here you by the end of the month. >> when i have to go outside the state department i make no guarantees. >> what do you mean outside the state department? >> the department of justice, outside the state department. they are not under my control. >> i need a good faith effort. thousands of people waiting and wondering how this affects their categories from members of congress and all that. i need a response and a game
>> c-span, created by america's cable television companies and brought to you as a public service by your cable or satellite provider. >> we are live on this friday morning as the house subcommittee is reviewing the a response to the recent flooding in louisiana. live coverage here on c-span2 should get underway in just a moment. [inaudible conversations]
>> once again we're live here on capitol hill for a house oversight and government reform subcommittee hearing on the recent flooding that has taken place in louisiana, and the federal response to the flooding. we will hear from a fema regional administrator, the state's governor john bel edwards who is in the room speaking with the committee chair, jason chaffetz. we do expect it to get underway, committee chair chaffetz in the center of your screen. we again expected to start momentarily live here on c-span2. [inaudible conversations]
to the flooding that took place in louisiana. this hearing is being held by the house oversight and government reform committee chaired by jason chaffetz right there to the right of your screen. we expected to start in just a moment. quickly we want to tell you about some of the other programming on the c-span networks today. live coverage of the values voters summit. coverage of the evening session starting at 2:05 eastern with donald trump speaking to the gathering.
>> good morning. i would like to call the subcommittee on transportation and the public assets to order. and this morning's hearing which is part of the committee on oversight and government reform will focus on oversight of the federal emergency management agencies response to the baton rouge and louisiana flood disaster. pleased to welcome everyone. without objection the chair is authorized to declare a recess at any time. and the chair is also very pleased to note the present of our colleagues from louisiana, congressman graves of the sixth district, and also congressman cedric richmond of the second district, both of whom represent the affected area.
we appreciate again your purchase abating in today's hearing, and welcome your participation today along with the witnesses that have been assembled. the order of business will be that first of ask unanimous consent agreement with our minority that congressman graves and richmond will be able to provide witness testimony at the beginning of our hearing and then participate in the member questions along with our remaining witnesses later in the hearing. without objection, so ordered. i ask also unanimous consent that congressman graves enrichment be allowed to fully participate in today's hearing. also without objection, so ordered. the balance of the order of
business today will be opening statements by myself, the ranking member, ms. duckworth will also leave the record open for additional period of time. i guess we'll go for one week. without objection. and other members may submit statements. so with that i will open with an opening statement, and as i said we will proceed with the order described, then we recognize and swear in our witnesses and will proceed with a hearing in that order and have questions after all of the witnesses have been hurt. so with that, again, welcome everyone to this important oversight hearing. i had the opportunity to be part of a call from our leadership on our side of the aisle a little
s. than two weeks ago. and in that conversation we talked about the most important issues facing the congress and the month we will be in september prior to the recess you're on top of the agenda was dealing with the emergency situation and the federal response in the baton rouge flood disaster area. and the issue was brought to the conference and leadership attention by congressman graves. that conversation took place on thursday. on friday we made plans to visit the affected area, and with the cooperation and direction of chairman chaffetz, went down and personally spent most of sunday and all of monday touring the
area, visiting the affected sites. both on the ground and from the air, meeting with local officials to assess where we were. chairman chaffetz has also agreed, because of the emergency nature of the situation we find ourselves in, to have this subcommittee hearing at this point. i think that's very important that we conduct immediate and thorough oversight, particularly and a disaster of this magnitude. as we all know on august 11, 2016, we had a natural disaster in the baton rouge area of louisiana that brought torrential rains, probably by one and a thousand year storm.
that storm and the water which inundated tens of thousands, in fact, we estimate, right now we have over 143,000 claims. that storm did incredible damage in a very unique manner. the damage estimates are incalculable right now, but i can tell you that more than a quarter of a million people have been displaced from their home, and many people are still in shelters. i think yesterday i got the report of over 800 still in shelters. when i was there a week ago there were 2000. this is a unique natural disaster in its applications, again, of its size and scope. it also is unique in that most of the country is not paying attention to again one of the
most impactful natural disasters we've had in our country probably since hurricane katrina. we've got some photos, too, that we brought back. the devastation is sprawling and endless. it's community after his community, subdivision after subdivision. you can see people, the contents of their homes in the streets. the louisiana folks are the finest folks i have ever met in the face of a disaster who have helped neighbors and friends and family. both the content and part of the structure that begin were damaged are all in the street. but this goes on mile after
mile, neighborhood after neighborhood, town after town. about 80% of the homeowners did not have flood insurance because their homes were not located in a federally identified area that alerted them or considered that those areas would flood, according to the maps produced by the federal government. after meeting with dozens of state officials, business leaders and federal officials, my investigation at our work down there in that visit discovered some of the response by fema was not acceptable. and we, unfortunately, learned from this disaster in that visit some huge deficits in our federal response. we went through hurricane
katrina and some other disasters. we had a $2.7 billion yes the with trailers, some of which were found to have formaldehyde but we spent all that money, time, and fema was to be able to address a natural disaster, one of this nature, with some housing. when i arrived more than two weeks afterwards, there was one unit -- put that photo back up -- there was one module unit that had been constructed. go back one more. if you look behind the debris, that was a single fema module unit, 143,000 homes uninhabitable, and 2.1 weeks later that was the only unit. there were 73 units that were
not deployed in a field that i visited. and i was told another 40 in another field, even though 250 sites have been approved for receiving those units. we also found many problems with those units because first the cost is about $60,000, and then it was about $20,000 to transport and direct those structures. so we had one up, not an acceptable response. fema should've learned from the mistakes of katrina. unfortunately, they were not ready for this disaster. they did not have housing. as of friday i was told there were 17 of those units now up. again, 143,000 homes uninhabitable, more than a quarter of a million people displaced, and three weeks later possibly 17 units. i'm told it may be a lower number, but that is not
acceptable federal response. the constant theme unfortunate has been fema's non-responsible, responsiveness and sometimes providing contradictory information. when we visited denham springs, i met with the mayor, and we will hear from him your denham springs probably 80% of the structures were effected in the town. probably 50% of their business area was destroyed. probably will never come back. they did not have a disaster recovery center until 19 days after the flood. i met with the mayor and the mayor, actually his contact, point of contact, was on a slip of paper. he showed me. finally, got a contact almost three weeks after the disaster in one of the most hard hit cities in louisiana.
that's not an acceptable response from fema. and then emergency water, we heard repeated stories of fema water which is supposed to be located to go in days, four to five days to actually get there. only through the good graces and assistance of neighbors and friends did they have fresh water at some of the sites. we need to determine how many left over, wasted funds will frm hurricanehurricane sandy we coue and put towards baton rouge. we need to carefully examine all of the things that went wrong with fema and corrected them for the future. no community or state should endure what occurred in federal response to the natural disaster in the baton rouge area.
i encourage all those dealing with fema two, when i was there, to make certain that they have taken names, god commitment in writing for everything they're going to do. because they have already seen hundreds of people come in from all around the country making commitments, and these people will soon be gone. and already we've had the confusion of fema giving certain commitments to individuals and other folks at different levels of fema coming in and giving a counter opinion. so we are not in a very good situation. we've got to do better, and i know both sides of the aisle are committed to helping the situation. let me yield to ms. duckworth and then i want to yield a couple minutes to our chair. >> of course. thank you, mr. chairman.
i would like to thank you for holding this hearing today. it's an important because it's an opportunity to make sure that the federal government and the particular fema is doing everything it can to help the victims of this flood in louisiana. this hearing is also an opportunity to examine how fema's response for natural disasters has evolved since hurricane said in 2012, and how much has improved since the disaster response to hurricane katrina in 2005. for torrential rains that hit louisiana over the last few weeks have been described as the one in a thousand your event. some areas receive as much as two feet of water during the rains come and river levels rise to record highs, rose to record highs. in some cases reaching as high as 60. flooding more than 1000 homes and forcing thousands of families to fully. fema deserves credit for being prepared to respond quickly to this massive natural disaster at the command president obama for x. but in the major disaster declaration on the very same day that governor edwards requested.
while fema must continue working to prove its emergency preparedness and response effort it is important to recognize that in a short space of weeks since the flooding fema israelis over $450 million to of individual flood victims, placed 2770 families in hotels and motels, and deployed 333 manufactured housing units to the region. as governor edwards noted from the very beginning of this event fema has been by our side and responded to all of our request. of course, government is only one component of a comprehensive response. americans of all walks of life have stepped forward to help the victims of flooding in louisiana. i know from experience that engaging with our communities and helping others fosters a sense of shared sacrifice at a time when our politics needs more focuse focused on tearing t in bringing us together, that shared sacrifice love is rekindled the national unity that is made is the strongest
nation in the world. this is when most need to come together in service to one another. i've been inspired by hundreds of american members to deploy to the flooded areas to assist with recovery operations. devoting time helping others is why i joined forces as congress than john lewis and my fellow combat veteran seth moulder introduced the 21st century american service act which seeks to ensure that all young americans have an opportunity to serve their country to civilian national service to the efforts of fema court and america corp. to support shelter operations, survivor call centers and disaster survivor assistance teams is a real world example of a national service can be a force for good in force for good an argument is an integral change in american life. of the fortuitous test of our witnesses and thank you, mr. chairman, for holding this hearing. >> thank the gentleman. chairman chaffetz.
>> thank you. chairman mica, i want to thank you for your leadership on this, going down and visiting louisiana, taking time away from your family and your schedule for one of the worst disasters that we have had. governor, mayors, thank you so much for being here, for the fema representative, we appreciate you being here but you've got to get your act together. this response so far what i've been able to see, the pictures, it ain't good enough. elijah e. cummings talks with this a lot in our committee. we spend billions of dollars. everybody comes in and testified that everything is good and we are ready, and then went it really, really rains, they might say we get what 16 inches of rain, maybe in an entire year? y'all got 30 plus inches in 36 hours i'm told. you've got tens of thousands of people who's every bit of what they have in their homes is sitting out in the front yard. they can't even touch the poison that they have.
and you've got a dozen of this anand a dozen of that. it doesn't cut it. so i hope we are having a candid discussion as possible, but response we've seen thus far is not acceptable. and we will keep dragging you out there in front of this committee because we hear it's all good. and then when it happens, it ain't so good. these are real people's lives. they should not be a partisan issue. it's not a partisan issue. but when you have such a catastrophic failure in trying to protect the people who need to help the most, and we are closing in on a month later, come on. so we expect some real answers, some real dates, and we're going to watch this every so step of the way. your first three weeks, fema, not so good. and it's not acceptable. i appreciate you having this hearing, and i want to have some real candid talk about what the
reality is happening and how we are actually going to solve it. thank you. i yield back. >> in accordance with our unanimous request of recognize mr. graves, the gentleman from louisiana. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to thank you for hosting this year. congresswoman duckworth, you as well. chairman chaffetz. i appreciate you all bringing attention to this issue. look, you all are aware of the statistics. last time i talked to fema, this flood event has received one half of the national media attention that the south carolina floods recede. never a good idea to compare disasters because they are such personal tragedy. it is amazing that there's been such a lack of urgency and knowledge and understanding of what's happened. this is a 1000 year flood event. a 1000 year flood event. this is something, i'm going to rip a line from mayor shelton. this if it could happen in any city. i understand folks, it's not
about state. i don't care. is not affecting my constituency. it does. because what happens here, the president of a lackadaisical attitude everybody has profound effect on what happened to our constituents. we have a disaster, whether it's an earthquake, a flood, hurricane. no matter what it is, a terrorist attack, it's going to have a profound effect because he to let things slide, let folks take a lackadaisical approach, it will be the same thing in your state. i've tried tee mccabe with other members of congress. chairman chaffetz just talk about the fact it was 31 inches of rain and comparing it to other places. the national american rainfall, the average rainfall for this country is less than that. we got it in 36 hours. put that in perspective. 7 trillion gallons of water. 7 trillion. the reality is the stafford act is entirely insufficient to respond to this disaster the it is entirely insufficient to you
can play tens of thousands of times over where people in south louisiana are upside down in the mortgage, their jobs are underwater literally. their cars have floated out. they'vthey have lost their clos. they have nothing. and we have got to increased urgency of the response. this is been an amazing community watching what's happened in south louisiana. anybody at home talks about the cajun navy. we didn't sit around and wait for people to come rescue us. we got together and rescued our own people. people trashing their votes, putting their lives o on the lie and is to get risk to the rescue one another. we have a cajun shelters and for people who have their own businesses, churches and everything to shelter people. cajun chefs popped up on their barbecue grills, cooking for tens of thousands and the cajun army got together, and the cajun army did an amazing job going through and stripping and gadding tens of thousands of homes in south louisiana. let me be clear.
this was a because anyone directed them or because they were paid. they did it because that's what our community is about. now we are in this position where the volunteerism, the generosity, the selflessness, it can't give us any further. we are to the point where we need help. for housing unit progress is absolutely unacceptable. the fact that no one can come out in two weeks and say that this is a trivial to climate change, fascinating to me. i could imagine that scientific calculation. this is a trivial to climate change but they can't tell john doe on whether he's going to get a house or not, whether you have a place to live, still living in a motorhome, still living in a car. it is amazing what can happen when you prioritize things. you have a political agenda, you can make something happen. talking about urgency again, in two weeks yazidis, and too complex complications duty from this is a result of climate change. yet in 30 years the nested army corps of engineers can't deliver
the project is offered by this congress in 1986. i do know how many times we will continue stupidity of spending billions of dollars after storm instead of millions reforming our communities more resilient. it is absolutely absurd and this has a profound impact on the individual lives of many, many folks in south louisiana. the power that these two mayors represent the 86% of the homes in 91% of the businesses were flooded. think about that. 86% of the homes and 91% of the businesses. it is devastated communities. it has absolute devastated. it's crippled them. mr. robinson, i appreciate you being here and we've worked together for a long time. and get i really do appreciate you being here. this is projected to be the fourth most costly flood event
in united states' history. i'm really scratching my head as to why mr. fugate is not here today. i don't understand that i don't understand why he does not hear your this is a huge event. stafford act as i said before, we're going to sideboards off the stafford act at the white house needs to send a request including the unmet needs package to help address this to help us recover. we need a more robust flood protection project funded to help lower the base flood elevation in this region. these things need to happen any to happen right now. i will yield back. i want to very quickly note we are joined by a number of folks that have been down in the trenches, in addition to the spam coming together and the mayors, lieutenant governor billy nungesser. whenever commissioner of agriculture, state senator chairman of the homeland security committee, a number of other leaders from the state of
louisiana and and folks have been in the trenches and i was in their efforts to help recover, and looking for to work with my friend congressman richmond on a full recovery package. yield back. >> thank you mr. gray's. according to our unanimous consent request, recognize the children from louisiana, mr. richmond. >> thank you, chairman mica, for convenience hearing, thank you for taking the time to come down to louisiana. let me thank representative duckworth u.s. recently been to louisiana our commitment to making sure the people of louisiana recover quickly. let me just thank our governor, our mayors, and regional administrator robinson for being here today. because what you will do is to shut like to what is happening on the ground. and my district took a hit in this store. not as much as other
congressional districts, but i lived through katrina and rita. when we start talking damage and start talking about things, the one thing we have to remember, in katrina we lost 1500 lives. and we learned a very valuable lesson, and that was the fema we had during katrina and rita was a fema that just didn't work, i translated to make any sense. it's gotten a little bit better a lot of the rules, and i just want to be clear about this, because of what the mayors to understand a lot of the rules that fema is operating under our rules that are set up by this united states congress. and that stafford act, which is just a colossal mess, is our stafford act. and when i got here, when i was elected i took my memories of katrina and rita and introduced a fema reform act which has not seen the light of day because it just has not been a priority.
so i would hope that both sides can come together, especially after south carolina, west virginia, and all of the other disasters that fema has to respond to so that we can make things make sense. and i think that you have to give a fema administrator the ability to waive the provisions of the stafford act when there is -- two-way -- was a different way that could create substantial savings but it makes no sense to me that we would spend 60-$80,000 to bring in a trailer when the 60-$80,000 could make that homeowner whole. but we can't because the stafford act says that we cannot put any money into permanent housing. that's not a fema problem. that's a congress problem. and let me just take a moment to thank the president for his
continued communication and his declaration. and many people talk about the fact that we got a 9020 yesterday in terms of percentage. but the speed in which the disaster declaration was given is attributed to a couple of people, one of which is the governor, who could've chosen to do paperwork and send it in. but he decided to take our fema representative on a flyover of denton springs, central to all of the areas that were affected so that when he sent the letter up, to educate back the same day to get a disaster declaration, which then opened the doors for relief. the problem is, the relief that our citizens want and the relief that they need and the relief that they deserve is tied up in
red tape, and we have an obligation to come together as republicans and democrats to help ease that red tape. i just want us to understand what's happening. we talk about the american dream. people work hard their whole lives to invest in a home, which is the best way to transfer wealth to your next generation and leave a legacy. you work very hard. you get that home. you have your peace of the american dream. you put your family photos in there. you put your wedding get into. you put your kids report cards and happy birthday notes and the father's day and mother's day notes. and in one day you lose everything you've ever had. and you can't replace it, but it's upon government to at least help to replace the bricks and mortars that the value that that home carries in terms of the wealth it leads to the next generation.
we should come together as a congress to pass a supplemental -- and look, the president should send us a supplemental. but the delegation has to be on board. and i'm saying right now that our louisiana delegation should unanimously request from the president a supplemental. that way it's crystal clear that our delegation supports it, the president supports it, and we can help move it through congress. thank you, mr. chair. >> thank you, mr. richmond, and also mr. gray's. i can't imagine what the two of you have been through. again, i've never seen anything like it in my 24 years, and i've been to disasters in the dakotas, iowa. of course, before in louisiana and florida, i have to comment, you mentioned everything these people own. i was with mr. graves and moving
into white house that had been gutted, jamaica the photograph. i was all that was left as water damage photographs. it almost brings you to tears because then you see in the front yard the rest of their possessions. just an unbelievable situation of which the public and the congress doesn't seem like it's really on the radar screen. i am pleased this morning to welcome a distinguished panel of witnesses. incidentally, we're going to hold the record open for a week, as i said, for other members who would like to that statement of we will turn out to our panel of witnesses, and i will recognize them. let me introduce. first welcome honorable john edwards, governor of louisiana. mr. tony robinson, regional administrator of the federal emergency management agency.
the honorable jr. shelton, mayor of central, louisiana. the honorable gerard landry, mayor of denham springs, and also the honorable rick ramsey, mayor of walker, louisiana. welcome all of you. i don't know if you testified before. we ask you to try to keep your test went to about five minutes. and we upon request a feature or a member will submit additional data or information into the record. it will be made a part of the record. this is an investigation into oversight subcommittee of congress, and we do swear in all of our witnesses, so if you will please stand to be sworn. raise your right hand. [witnesses were sworn in] >> let the record reflect that
all of the witnesses answered in the affirmative. and with that, again, i welcome all the witnesses. and by the recognize a distinguished governor john edwards of louisiana. welcome, sir, and your recognized. you have to pull that up real close so we can hear. >> i didn't have the button on, star trek good morning, chairman mica, thank you for the opportunity to be here, ranking member duckworth, members of the subcommittee. appreciate the fact that chairman chaffetz was here and also want to thank august enrichment and congressman graves. i want to thank you for the opportunity to be a today to serve as a voice for the incredible people of louisiana who happened to be the most resilient people. i know. am also proud to be joined by lieutenant governor not guess or and commissioner mike strain. first, i want to thank you for taking the time to travel to
louisiana to witness the devastation firsthand. it really is hard to imagine what the people of louisiana going through without seeing it for yourself and we thank you for bringing attention to this disaster. last month an unnamed storm dropped over 7 trillion gallons of rain in south louisiana. flooding more than 100,000 homes and claiming 13 lives. roughly 30,000 search and rescues were performed with 11,000 citizens being sheltered at the peak of flood. there were 19,900 louisiana businesses, ma and 278,500 louisiana workers disrupted by this flood. to put the two historic nature of this flood into perspective, south louisiana received more than rein in 40 hours in the mississippi river discharge into the gulf of mexico in 18 days.
it was a once in a thousand years of storm if income left three times as much rain in louisiana as hurricane katrina did 11 years ago. while the storm did not have a name, every person that it affected does. homes or businesses that it never flooded before were suddenly underwater. many families lost everything. not just their homes. they lost priceless possessions that no amount of assistance can ever replace. the entire community's were uprooted. children were left without schools return to, thousands of small businesses, the cornerstones of these communities in southwest louisiana were destroyed. as of this morning more than 140,000 households had registered for assistance with fema. our early entities to early estimates show a minimum of $8.7 billion in losses have been sustained in the state of louisiana in housing and
economic impact, and that does not include public infrastructure damage. to put a dollar amount on the devastation thus far, the federal government has distributed nearly a half billion dollars in housing assistance to the people in my state whose homes were severely damaged. and the flood waters did not discriminate. neighborhoods of all shapes and sizes were left uninhabitable. the stories this them with you live in the more populated baton rouge or rural lake arthur where the residents stepped up and built a flood wall all on their own. miles upon miles assure destruction it's hard to imagine, and it's heartbreaking to see it, as you travel the streets of south louisiana. we called it debris when it's out on the side of the road, but that's people's lives. those are the most precious possessions that they had. as the floodwaters rose i requested federal disaster declaration for the affected parishes.
within hours that initial request was granted by president obama come as too for those parishes and within the next 48 hours, 20 louisiana parishes receive major federal disaster declarations. at times we were working both response and recovery simultaneously as waters receded in some places, yet cost more flooding in others. 26 parishes granted in this declaration joint an additional 36 parishes declared a major disaster for flooding that happened this past march. right now 56 of louisiana's 64 parishes have received a federal disaster declaration for flooding-based on both the march ended august events. recover from the disaster of this magnitude takes time and certainly an abundance of resources, and i'm grateful for the help we have already received from fema and our federal partners and the outpouring of generosity from
people across the country. the efforts of local government, and these three mayors, certainly have performed extremely well, but also the faith-based community has been outstanding. and the people of come from all over the country to volunteer to help has truly made a difference. i don't want to thank the federal government for a quick response. we received word from the president yesterday that the federal portion of the cost of sugar letter to public assistance will be adjusted to 90% of the cost instead of the customary 75%. we certainly appreciate that. and for the moment we begin monitoring the storm the federal government has been alongside us as partners. fema representatives were at the governors office of women's good an emergency protection as the rain started falling. and with our emergency preparedness team to streamline our disaster response coordination with the federal government. i've had the opportunity to meet with administrator fugate on three separate occasions since
the storm happened. i of all side an opportunity to meet with tony robinson was sitting to my left, and you'll hear from him in a minute, and together he and i and a team of folks traveled to just about every parish affected by the flooding oath while we were in response and as we transition into the recovery. so i'm thankful for the quick response that we received, but i am under no illusion that the response has been perfect. and i like you urge fema to wrap up the delivery of manufactured housing units in louisiana. while the response in terms of receiving manufactured housing units after the storm has been the quickest in terms of any of the louisiana flooding disaster, it has not been fast enough for our families who lost their homes and have no place to go. nearly one month after this flooding began, 662 families have been approved for manufactured housing.
however, only 40 manufactured housing is going in the process of being installed. i'm asking fema to explore ways in which they can expedite this process to ensure that those who have been impacted by the flood can transition more quickly into a stable living environment. i recognize that this is not a fema of 11 years ago. we can always learn how to best serve those in need. we can always improve our response to disasters and we can always strive to make times of disaster easier on the people who impacted. flood waters in recent touched places that have never flooded before. and are not in flood zones. this has put many of our local communities and homeowners who in compliance before the flood in the untenable position of not being able to rebuild their own houses can't even though the flood maps will not even be change of result of this event. 80% of homeowners whose homes were damaged did not have flood insurance. louisiana has learned from
aftermath from other whether or slate super something had effectively mobilized in response recoveries we work to address the housing needs of individuals and families displaced by the flood. our state have supplemented an innovative housing program called shelter home. this program enables eligible individuals or families whose homes were damaged to take shelter in their own homes while they rebuild if the zones can be made safe, habitable and secure with $15,000 of work. and the people wanted to go home. the folks of this program is simple. pashtun focus. we wanted to go back to their communities, churches, schools, less of implement a while it doesn't get them home and doesn't fully repaired home, it does help the families get a jumpstart on their full recovery. we are operating this program in partnership with the federal government and we've had more than 17,500 homeowners register for the program in two weeks
since we launched it, indicating a real desire to return home and to a sense of normalcy. it is within this framework that we traveled to the nation's capital yesterday to seek much-needed assistance for our state's recovery efforts. i'm calling on congress respectfully requesting congress to support a supplemental appropriation of $2 billion for committee develop block grant funds to allow for public investment in housing, economic development and resilience infrastructure. louisiana's housing needs projected to exceed $1.2 billion alone. with an outlook of $3 billion in economic loss including $110 million in losses to the farmington committee of limited estimate of 8.7 going to in damages a genetically public infrastructure losses. the $2 billion request is a necessary step to rebuilding louisiana and simple we cannot
recover without it. i'm also asking congress to put the $724 million backlog of federal highway administration emergency relief funding to ensure that our state can effectively manage the rebuilding of infrastructure crippled by the flood. rising floodwaters forced the closure of over 200 highways, statewide including every single interest in our state except for one. there were approximately 30 state roads were washed out as a result of the flood. by clearing the funded backlog louisiana would be able to receive $14 million from a march flood, and $25 million from the august flood to voters our most critical infrastructure needs. and although this was a 1000 10u flood event it is imperative we protect our state and citizens for more extreme weather events in the future, and to that end i join with congressman graves in requesting $125 million in funding for the corps of engineers to fully fund the diversion project which has been on the books in underway for 20 years.
the completion of this project coupled with the completion of the any river basins that will allow our state to rebuild communities in safer and more resilient manner. i also believe it's critically important address the social service needs of louisiana downs, particularly chillicothe suffered through the trauma of this disaster. the build of our state to provide quality mental health and support services to affected populations is crucial, and to that end i'm requesting a supplement appropriation of $92 million in social service block grant funding to provide services to the vulnerable individuals and families affected by this disaster the louisiana will move forward. the resilient spirit of our people will never cease to amaze me, but we still need help to truly and fully recover. we had a long road ahead of us to meet the needs of our citizens, our communities, our economy and our infrastructure. i look forward to working with congress with the support of louisiana's congressional delegation as well as with this administration and the next to
ensure that our great state fully recovers from historic and unprecedented flooding that has turned too many lives upside down. thank you very much. >> thank you, governor. we will go now to mr. tony robinson, the regional administrator for fema. you are recognized. >> good morning chairman mica, ranking member duckworth and members of the subcommittee my name is tony robinson and the regional administrator for region six which was louisiana, arkansas, texas, oklahoma, new mexico. i welcome this opportunity to discuss translational in response and recovery efforts took place in and around the baton rouge, louisiana, area between august 11 and august 31 that i also welcome this opportunity to publicly commend this to a local elected officials sitting at the witness table today as well as local first responders. is a dedicated public servants who are working tirelessly to serve the needs of their communities and appreciate all that they have done and will continue to do.
on august 14 governor edward requested and the president quickly print major disaster declaration under the authority of the stafford act to provide assistance in three broad categories, public assistance, individual assistance, and the hazard mitigation grant program. yesterday the president of the 90% cost share for all cost for this disaster. present announcement is another step in the initiation ongoing response to the flooding. fan fest public assistance and individual assistance programs are made available in areas designated as part of major disaster declaration. during the response recovery phase of the disaster fema works to support the state, as a state works to support his local governments. for example, if a committee identified a shortfall in its capability to support its residents in the wake of disaster, the committee called on the state identify resources to go back gap. if however the state determines it doesn't have the resources to
the gap as identified, the state in terms to fema to draw upon federal resources to fill that gap. even so, fema's moving aggressively to make sure it is properly positioned. on august 12 and advance the government and its request for federal assistance, fema deployed teams to louisiana to court it was the local officials on life-saving of life-sustaining operations. in support of survivors, fema deliver more than 2 million liters of water, 1.3 million meals, 17,700 cops, 12,500 blankets and 2000 tarps. at the request of state and local officials fema deployed a search and rescue task force to talk about local search and rescue operations. also issued a mission assignment for national disaster medical assistance teams to support the state's medical shelter operation. along with the state, fema privatizing housing options for survivors as we continue to work with the statement housing task force to identify options that
meet unique needs of disaster survivors. there are several options available. agenda and has become a state on august 24th the governor announced the shoulder home program that with funding support from fema will allow residents to qualify to safely live in their own homes as tempera shoulders while the plan and carry out permanent repairs. the stafford act prescribes individual assistance programs provide funding to assist survivors which repairs to the home, rental assistance or other needs like cleaning costs. as of september 7, fema has provided more than $587 of assistance in this of which 494 million was provided in the form of housing assistance and more than 138,000 households. fema the second is a transitional children program on august 192 a lot eligible disaster survivors to be temporarily housed in participating hotels or motels. flood insurance is one of the best was to protect homeowners.
i was going to read the speech but decided to speak from the heart and let you know what happened in our city. the city was incorporated 11 years ago. we are young city, 20,926. of those citizens, approximately 25,000 were impacted during this flood. we have 11,000 residentss in the city. we estimate 90% of those homes were damaged significantly. i'm talking damage of at least two feet of water on the floor.
congressman richmond said it best when he said this is not about property. this is about lives. what you see in pictures that have been handed to you of debris out there, it is not debris, it is people's lives. can you imagine if you were 60, 70 years old and you lost everything you had? how you start over again? quite honestly we have mental health problems taking place in these municipalities that are represented here today. we have suicides, mental breakdowns, families being torn apart. they don't know how they are going to get back on their feet. let's talk about the response from fema. i understand the hierarchy, fema is to work with the state governmental agencies and i want to complement our governor and our state for the work they have done. i have no complaints whatsoever.
this gets drilled to local municipalities because that is where problems are. i should not go to the governor's off is with individual problems presented to me by my citizens. we should have constant contact. 21 days following this event. and do you think that chain is placed upon her. i blame the system. disaster recovery centers, there was an announcement, there is a vast recovery center, i went ballistic on the radio. a parish was going to have one
disaster recovery center. with in the day i had a call from fema saying we would have one. it is only because i complained about it. there would be more disaster recovery centers set up but information being given to the public made it feel like only one was going to be there. the disaster recovery center is the first contact anyone has with fema representatives. they were asked a series of questions and after hearing the questions, they are set up to exclude people instead of categorizing their needs. let me give an example. if someone were to say to them in the interview do you have a place to live and say i am saying with my in-laws, he immediately put to the side, saying they don't have a housing need. we all know that is not acceptable. instead, the question should be how long will you be able to stay there?
maybe a week. we will be back with you in a week and see if you still have housing need to. in this time of turmoil and unrest to have to come back to ask for housing. they don't need to be put off to the side and ask the questions. we had a town hall meeting that was set up by fema. we were elated about that, we have 1200 persons come to a church to hear questions being answered by fema. they weren't answered. had it not been representatives from the governor's office there would have been very little substantive answers. the very first comment a representative from fema said to this group of 1200 citizens seeking help was if we tell you
know, come back and ask us again. that is telling those citizens we are trying to put you off, trying to wear you down instead of we are going to try to help you and figure out your needs. trying to exclude instead of include. the mh you or mobile housing unit issue, that should never have been and issue. i want to give statistics not many people know. in east baton rouge parish or county, we had 33,000 homes flood that are not in the flood zone. we had 31,800 flood in the flood zone. you heard me right. we had more flooding outside the
floodplain than we did inside. but the policy was mh you does not go in a flood zone. but we are going to put them in the flood areas that out flooded even the flood zones. that policy should have been eradicated from the very beginning. this goes to the deck i was saying time and time again. instead of having these one template, of every disaster, you need to have templates for each type of disaster. to trigger that puts a certain team into place for certain events. back to the idea this is not an event like him earthquake that might only happen in california or tornadoes in oklahoma or kansas. this is a rain event that could happen in your hometown and we are get this right or it will be
you sitting on this table giving testimony. there is one issue that described me, something we face with now, the major issue, all these citizens have to rebuild and raise their stamps. that is the number one question right now. but yet in the local newspaper there were two articles written in which fema was stating we are not telling them to raise their slabs. it is the local municipalities and ordinances, what they left out his local ordinances and municipalities have to agree, have to be meeting and regulations from fema so quit putting the blame on the local people. we want them back on the homes. we want them to help. it is astounding that i am
sitting here today. congress, could send millions and billions of dollars overseas, my own citizens have to beg, plead for help, those citizens who put that money in the coffers that can be sent overseas. you were given some pictures from the city of central. i ask that you look at it. there is a picture of a typical street, where you see the degree that is 6 or 7 or 8 feet tall. in addition there are family pictures and look at those. they are broken. they are hopeful, they are shaken, the city of central will take care of our citizens with or without federal government help. i am here today pleading with
you, please, help these people through these lives, american families looking for help. thank you. >> i will recognize the honorable general landry. you are recognized. >> good morning, chairman. thank you for the invitation to share some information today. it is true that 90% of homes in my city received water, 90%, hard to comprehend, of the 4200 homes, approaching 3000 had 18 inches, that triggers the mitigation fees we are so concerned about going forward. it is such an unprecedented event when you have 25 to 30 inches of rain in 72 hours, talking trillions of gallons of
water coming upon us. it is unbelievable what we have gone through. we talk about so many, 70% of folks did not have flood insurance. we never had that issue that bad. the crest of the river was 5 feet above the highest recorded flood stage we ever had in 1983. how do you prepare for that? folks in my community don't live there without flood insurance because they want to live dangerously or because they can't afford it. they didn't need it. this is such a unique and rare event that is occurring. it devastated all of us. we can go into great detail about the response from fema which i documented a lot of that in my brief that i submitted to you, the biggest single issue, there are two big issues.
one is the inconsistency of the information given to wes and our citizens, the mitigation piece. we talk about mobile housing units and how we need those desperately so seniors can get back to their homes and kids can get back to school because it starts again in a week or two. they need to go back home and live in a trailer of all things so they can put their houses back together again. it starts off with you need a trailer so we will get you one. the next day or two someone says you can't have it because you are in a flood zone. you can't put one in a flood zone. who needs one more than anybody else than somebody who just got flooded? there is no rhyme or reason there. we were instructed last week fema has relaxed the guidelines, we can now have mobile homes in a flood zone. you heard me talk about mister
myers, 19-year-old war veteran, he came to me today and said we changed our mind again. where is the consistency and the message to our people. you want to know why our people are frustrated? they don't know who to turn to. they cannot get consistent information to make an intelligent decision. to say i am disappointed and frustrated and angry is an understatement. my community, unlike mister shelton's, it is very old. we have been around since 1828 when mister denham came and discovered some springs. it was at that point the community started to flourish and we have large families. the lineage of generation after generation, such a strong sense of community, we hold together, this disaster is about real people, not images you see on tv and don't connect with.
we are definitely all in this together. my community has an antique history, going back to the 1900s, we have football. everybody has football. we have football. we have season tickets and sell out of season tickets every year to high school football. that is the kind of community we have. our citizens love our steady -- our state. i try to be there. i -- another 90-year-old, mister hewitt underwood, he served our country in the second world war and the coast guard. has always attended every veterans function, a proud man and his home had 57 inches of water. he has a bride of 59 years, they want to just go back home but with the possibility of having to elevate their home, the cost
of $100,000, can't afford that. the home is only worth $100,000, has to give the rest of his life in peace and enjoy his kids and grandkids, to show how dedicated he was, some of the possessions he had, they were able to remove them from the home before the flood and after the floods, to go and retrieve some of those. when he walked into his storage room the first place he went was the drawer where he kept his medals, all his service medals in the second world war. that is how much he served his country, how much he loves his country but now the country is not serving him. with ridiculous guidelines and procedures fema subjected him and his family and everybody else in my community and these other communities is uncalled for. it is unbelievable. you have to be on the ground to
understand what our folks are going through. i would challenge anybody from fema headquarters to come to my city, walk the streets and see what your folks are telling my people. i had a 70-year-old gentlemen in my office yesterday in tears who was out of town during the flood event, came home, drove into his driveway, saw the devastation, his wife had a heart attack. she is in hammond in the hospital, her sister is taking care of her while this poor guy is back at home trying to take care of his possessions, trying to get out his house and a fema representative says you got to tear your house down. it is devastating it devastated him. he came to me and said what am i supposed to do? we sat down and talked and talked and we are okay. the response from fema is uncalled for. in closing, my biggest challenge
to you is to make fema change the mitigation piece. 3000 homes had 18 inches of water and this substantially damaged, they want us to elevate them, that will be the death of my city. i received an email of a guy, four of his neighbors said they are leaving, he is strongly considering doing the same. that does not need to go into effect, please suspend it, use some common sense was the fact is you make somebody raise their house on a 1000 year event, a rain of such epic proportions nobody could ever comprehend what was going to happen, so do not, please i ask you, do not make us raise our homes. thank you very much. >> thank you. we now here, thank you for rating patiently, mayor rick
ramsey of walker, louisiana. you are recognized. >> thank you, thank you for coming to louisiana and viewing the devastation we have been going through the last three weeks. it is extremely important. i want to reiterate what my two mayoral colleagues have said. i agree with every point they made on fema. my experience with fema representatives on the ground is they are carrying people who feel the hurt and needs of the citizens of the area. the problem is their hands are tied. the bureaucratic maze they have to weave their way through to get anything done is impossible. the other issue is from what i have seen probably 50% or more are rookies that have no experience with the previous disaster or part-time employees with no previous experience.
we had a large group brought in from puerto rico that has no idea what louisiana is about or what we are going through in this area. they are good people, trying. their hands are tied. they cannot do anything. there are too many rules, too much effort to make this a cookie-cutter approach. i have heard 100 times look how much we had improved since katrina. in all due respect i think this is not katrina. this is a blue-collar community where people work, they go outside and wants to come back and fix their homes and get back to work. that is what these two mayors are saying. the same thing in the city of walker. i think we are getting no national attention because there is a misconception about louisiana. we are not below sea level. we don't all border on the ocean. my city is east of denham springs, 6 miles from the coast, 32 to 40 feet above sea level.
i can give statistics on wikipedia, i know that is not a scientific basis but san francisco at 11 feet, boston 20, new york city 13, portland 27, philadelphia 21, washington dc at 16 feet above sea level. my city flooded at 32 to 40 feet above sea level. the problem is our flooding was different this time. yes, we had a catastrophic rain event. we were prepared for a heavy rain event, we had a good meteorologist in baton rouge. he called and told us be prepared for a 1983 event. we were. our canals were clean. our culverts were empty. everything was ready. we expected double-digit rains. it is not unexpected in our area. we get a lot of double-digit rains in louisiana. we have endured allison, rita,
katrina, unnamed storm of 2013, 17 inches of rain is not unusual. we got 27. that is unusual but that was over a 7-day period. our drainage was holding. lake poncha train was at low levels because there was a westerly wind, our drainage was holding. saturday afternoon when the rain stopped, the 13th, water felt three to four inches in walker, people quit worrying. they went into their homes, drank a beer, watched tv, they were celebrating. at 10:00, 11:00 at night the water came. a wall of water came down interstate 12. 5 to 6 feet in depth. this interstate was just completed two years ago. it is the city's contention we raise the flood elevation in our city by 5 to 6 feet, areas that
would not have flooded flooded. yes, it is 1000 year flood. we would have had minor to moderate flooding. we had catastrophic flooding. we had homes built above the base flood elevation that took three feet of water. my personal home had five feet of water. built in 73 and never flooded. through every rain event since 1979, never flooded. this is unacceptable. we have a situation in southern louisiana where a barricade is being built across our interstate system. good intentions. it was to save lives. we have lots of collisions on the interstate. we lost 13 lives in flooding. in the city of walker a 67-year-old man put a rifle to his temple and killed himself after the flooding. the mother took a knife and cut her throat of an 8-year-old daughter and killed herself
after the flooding. did the flooding cause that directly? no, i can't say that. was a contributing factor? no doubt. i think everybody agrees with that. i have submitted some drives to your group. i would love you to review them. the videos that show this. we are not a group that likes to go out and ask for help. the hardest and i have had to do with ask people to help me in my home. louisiana people take care of themselves. this has been devastating. i am looking forward to be even worse was the biggest problem i have right now. i don't know if i am stepping on you all's toes or expanding on it. as i understand you claim a
flood event, your flood insurance goes to 100%. if it goes to 100% and you have flooded, you are going to be paying from what i have seen locally for people who sold their house is anywhere from 800 to $2000 a month flood insurance per month depending on your home but that is going to bankrupt that area, banks, mortgage companies, people who walk away their homes, they cannot afford mortgage and flood insurance at that rate. we have got to reform that, give assurances to people that they won't have to elevate their homes, give assurances to people that there flood insurance is not going to become so onerous that they cannot afford to pay a mortgage. if it is true, 1000 year flood we heard, exempt them, do not penalize them for being flooded at a time when this shouldn't
have happened. i could go on his everybody could. i have over gone my time. every personal story you could want, talk to us afterwards and we will tell you about it. i am sorry i went off on a tangent on the issue of the interstate that there is no doubt in our minds, i had a renowned meteorologist tell me anyone who looks at those pictures says that flooding is insane. thank you. >> i think each of you for being with us. i came back in shock. this is about people and families and their lives that are disrupted beyond anything we could imagine. the human toll is one of the greatest i have seen anything. i have been on the panel longer than anyone, flooded in the
dakotas, iowa, missouri, mississippi, louisiana, many incidents in florida, never seen anything quite like this. we do need the flexibility with federal programs to be able to address this type of disaster and others yet to come. we got to learn from the mistakes of katrina but it doesn't appear we have come that far. i have questions and i will lead off with those at this point. first, mister robinson representing fema, last week we had 143,000 claims. is that correct? is that up or down? >> as of yesterday, 140,000 claims.
>> how many of those have received any funds? >> 40,000 when i was there last week. >> have to get back to the record. $590 billion. i have the dollars that have been provided. >> they told me 40,000 which was a third of them had received something and i need to know the average amount of money which you can divide by the amount of money given. >> the staff behind him, give him that information. i think that is very important to come to the committee. >> as of this morning the average was $8000 but i would like to know -- >> reverse that and give is the map. most disturbing to me, we went through this fiasco with trailers that had formaldehyde but had to have shelter for
people. we have a quarter of 1 million people in this place. wrong questions are asked, they are living with family, some of them are driving from the new orleans area shelter, a situation that is not acceptable. when i asked see what shelter fema provided this is more than two weeks out, put up the one unit, i was told there were 17. press accounts told me last weekend there were only five up and the others were on their way. do you know how many modular units are up? >> last night we had 110 on-site. >> that is not the question i asked. how many are actually there and
occupied, functioning for people? >> i have to get back to you. >> that is not acceptable either. the one unit two weeks later, the most essential thing is housing. we had one unit, $60,000 for this one unit or more, that is a bigger unit and that was the only one actually deployed and livable. we had 73 on the lot i visited. they are lined up there. they told me they had 260 approved but they were not deployed. was there a contract in place to deploy and erect these? they said yes. something is dramatically wrong. a month out on sunday, we have these units sitting there.
only a handful deployed. a quarter of 1 million people displaced. the other thing is these units are useless for 95% of the location. they don't fit in people's driveways. the only place they can be deployed is, the only place they can be deployed is in a rural area. we have 1000s, i am told, on the way. what are people going to do in the meantime? this is not an acceptable solution. i talked to the administrator, it is not acceptable. campers or portable units, has any attempt been made to get that kind of equipment so they can put them on site, stay there and repair their homes. >> the governor mentioned working with his program to do shelter in place. >> i have questions about that. do we have other types of
housing that can be located at the site to do the shelter, they got to have a place to stay and live when doing the repairs. >> the rental assistance program. >> rent is available. has there been an effort to get some types of units made available? a call to the industry to help with? >> they can get these houses back according to the program to shelter in place, but they have to have a temporary place to stay. >> a survivor can rent. >> that is not my question. is there a program, something online that tells them about ineligibility? >> our programs were 18 months. we look at hud approved units. >> that doesn't answer my question. the other thing i heard when i
was there, it took a long time to get the shelter, the incident with the 11th, the 24th, is that the date you finalize the shelter in place program? you testified to that. >> i am told it was the 24th. >> just before i got there. why hasn't anything been done? the state has not approved a plan. i got there sunday. on thursday you had approved a plan. >> i would not characterize it, nothing had been done before that. >> when i go to fema, when we have to wait on the state to have their plan, that plan, there was some delay according -- when you have a disaster, within a week you get the
assessment, this was a couple weeks. i am telling you what i heard about excuses for them not deploying. >> the shelter at home program is a state plan but it is underwritten. >> by the federal government. they have to have your plan. the excuses they gave me, my job to hammer you. it is to hammer the fed. they tell me the state had not responded in timely fashion. >> i would like to comment on that. we have developed that program jointly. it was with administered a few gate's first visit that we first discussed doing something like shelter. ..