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tv   FEMA Disaster Relief Funding  CSPAN  November 30, 2017 6:18pm-8:02pm EST

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entitlement programs sunday eight night at 8:00 eastern. the c-span bus is heading to the all the state's capitals. we kicked off in delaware and have visited 50 state capitals. our next stop issal florida. >> earlier today fema administrator brock long testified before the house appropriations sub committee on the request of $40 billion to help areas impacted by hurricanes. this is an hour and 40 minutes.
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>> we'll call this hearing to order. today we are welcoming the administrator of the federal emergency management agency, mr. brock long. we're here to talk about response to recovery to- hurricane irma, maria and harvey and the wild fires. thank you for being here. i want to thank you and the thousands of dedicated fema personnel who have deployed and who continue to work tirelessly to help communities and families get back on their feet in the wake of -- in every instance of these devastating events. congress has passed two
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emergency sup lementals which have provided an additional 26 billion to ensure fema's ability to response to immediate aftermath of disasters. now is the time to shift focus from response to recovery. and while some of these efforts are already underway, there's still a very long road ahead. today we look forward to hearing from you on how this third supplemental request, 23.5 billion will enable communities to start down the long path of long-term recovery. mr. long, please, before i get to you, i want to introduce ms. allen, my ranking member who is a good friend for any comments she may have. >> thank you mr. chairman. gourd mr. administrator, and welcome to your first appearance before the sub committee. i wish it were not necessitated
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by the damaging hurricanes. but we are, nevertheless, eager to spend some time with you to get your perspective on fema's response and recovery activities and the challenges that lie ahead. i know this has been a difficult time for your agency. you were at fema for only a few months when hurricane harvey struck the gulf coast followed close behind by irma and maria. i would be remissed if i did not mention the wild fires that devastated california, my home state. we want to thank the efforts of fema's personnel and make sure the programs are working well to support recovery efforts. particularly in purt rico because of the devastation there and the challenges it was already facing. again we appreciate your joining us this morning and i look forward to a productive
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discussion. >> we are also joined by the full committee ranking member, ms. louie. you are recognized for any recommendations you want to make. >> thank you. administrator long thank you for being here and for all of your hard work assisting the states and u.s. territories that have suffered recently from natural disasters. there have been more than 50 major disaster declarations so far. 20 of them were disasters that occurred since your confirmation including hurricanes harvey, irma and marie. after super storm sandy, it was difficult to garner support for the assistance we needed, and i remember that very, very clearly. there are similar concerns now about the adequacy of funding by
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the administration for this supplemental, particularly with regard to puerto rico, it's my hope that we can have a discussion on how to help those impacted by hurricanes, with assistance on puerto rico, and water and energy and other important infrastructure. programs will only bring it so far and it will be important for us to understand what the limits are and what additional flexibilities might be helpful for recovery beyond the scope of fema programs, we need to understand fema's role in determining unmet needs that will inform assistance from other federal agencies. it simply is not acceptable to
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restore infrastructure and public facilities to predisaster conditions, especially in puerto rico that which suffered unprecedented damages. we must protect ourself from future disasters or we'll find ourself in the same situation forcing taxpayers to pay more. so administrator lorng i want to thank you for being here today and i look forward to the discussion. thank you mr. chairman. >> thank you. >> the people of houston and southeast texas suffered more than we have in many storms in
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my memory. we had 52 inches of rain, homes flood, apartment units, tens of thousands of people in my district are living on the second floor of their homes with the first floor torn out because they don't have anywhere else to go. we all of us are grateful to the work that fema's done to help the people of houston, southeast texas who suffered from this catastrophic rain event and all the volunteers who came from all over the country, one of the silver linings of the storm where people showed up from all over country with food, supplies, water. i'm grateful to the people of louisiana who showed up with boats and food to help pull people out of their houses, i didn't know there was a such a thing as the cajun navy. it's one of the many reasons i'm proud to represent that
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wonderful community of people who all look first to each other, to our family, to our neighbors, our faith and state to help each other. but the federal government's roll is essential. we appreciate the work that fema has done. we are grateful for the help you provided. but a lot more has to be done and without directly addressing the disaster relief fund. i want to say the office of management and budget's request is inadequate. it's embarrassing, deeply upsetting to the people of texas to see the largest housing disaster in the history of the united states, there's not one dime recommended for housing relief. so we are very grateful to sp k speaker ryan for opening up this process to be sure the appropriations committee is the one to open up this discussion. the constitution vests that short in congress and on this committee, we also have and we
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will once again make the decision on what's necessary to heal the people of texas, florida, puerto rico, and the virgin islands for these storms. i thank you mr. chairman for holding these hearings and look forward to working with my colleagues to make sure the people of the united states are made hold. >> administrator long at this time we you're recognized to make a your statement. we have a written company. we ask that you try to limit yourself to five minutes today because we have a lot of questions coming your way. >> yes. thank you. it's an honor to be here today marks the end of the 2017 hurricane season. and it's been the word unprecedented doesn't do it justice. i want to start by thanking members of the committee but also members of congress for quickly considering the first two supplementals and pushing through. it's vital funding and we're in the middle of the third request,
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which i'll get to in a minute. for 97 days we've been actively responding around the clock. and just to not only harvey, irma, maria, as well as the california wild fires. but we're working 31 disasters in 21 jurisdictions right now. my staff is tapped out. they bust their rear ends every day to help those in need. we are doing the best we can do. this has been the longest activation in fema's history. i'm proud to work with the members of fema and we have a long way to go in the spirit of improvement. i have many ideas i've not had a chance to catch my breast ath a come to you with. some i can do on my own authority, some require staffers to act. but harvey to the wildfires
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impacted 27 million people. in a 27-day time period we put 5 million people into the individual assistance program. in that short of a time frame, that's greater than sandy, katrina, and wilma combined. it's a tenfold increase over what we did last year for the entire fiscal year. i can go on where we put 80,000 people in hotels for just texas alone. i can go on with those statistics. the nation needs to stop, take a breath and think about how we collectively become more resilient. not just fema. you mentioned how do we better utilize the whole community. i didn't come up here to do the status quo. i'm ready to change the face of emergency management and the way we tackle resill yen si in this nation. it's going to require your help as well. to date we've received -- since
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august 25th we've received roughly 42 billion. when you include not only the drf funding but the nfip as well as community disaster loan funding now we're asking for 23 1/2 billion dollar. this is a tremendous amount of money. i get it. and this third supplemental we're asking for special provisions that i need the congress to consider. we need outcome based planning, recovery planning when we enter these disasters. we're asking for puerto rico to have an integrated recovery plan with clear outcome so we're not just throwing money at recovery. we have an outcome in mind. i'm also asking for additional authorities particularly around puerto rico. the stafford act allows me to rebuild communities to are a predisaster standard, which would not be prudent in this
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situation. we are facing massive amounts of work in the infrastructure. the average age of the power plants is 41 years old. global globally, the average age is 18 years old as i understand it. so i need additional authorities to put back puerto rico in a resilient or prudent manner so we're not here again having the same committee hearing about not only maria. but the really question for me is, it is time to question what is fema's roll in disaster response and recovery. what can we handle as an agency versus what the rolls and responsibility should be for the state and local governments. let's hit the reset button and carve out what everyone in the government should be responsible for. fema is never designed to be the first and only responder in a disaster. in many cases that's where we find ourselves.
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we have to fix that problem. doing so fixes the whole community issues we face. i have numerous ideas. starting first with recovery is too complex. it's too fragmented. funding comes from too many different federal agencies down to the local and state level and it's difficult to understand what you're entitled to, how to use the funding in concert with one another. it leads to confusion and frustration on your part, the citizen's part, and the disaster survivors' part. this is the time to streamline this down through a local governor to the local level to achieve the governor and the local government's goals and responsibilities, not my goals and roles and responsibilities. okay. we have to increase predisaster mid gags. you have to get hit to have access to hundreds of millions of dollars of mitigation funding. that's reversed, back ward.
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we need to move 404 section money out up front where people can plan out mitigation strategies rather than getting hit and then figuring out mitigation. the formula needs to be changed. we have to be sure state and local governments have the ability to push out life sustaining distribution. it cannot be on the shoulders of fema to push food and water out. every state should have a capability, large states should have their own capability. our support should be to back fill that capability. we have to find ways to have a true preparedness within our citizenry. we don't have it. it's time to hit the reset button how we become more resilient. citizens are the true first responder, in an active shooter event or when a flood or tornado
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hits. not only as a homeowner but as a business owner we have to show them how to be properly insured. i run a program that is broken every day. it goes into debt every time we have an event and i have to ask for supplementals. katrina forced it into dead debt, sandy, harvey, irma. we have to fix the structure. i run a program that is not financially solvent. i have about 100 more ideas i could share and i look forward 20 working with you, but i'm here in the spirit of improvement. i look forward to having a fruitful discussion. thank you. >> thank you, that was very spectacular. i love that outside the box thinking. let me remind our panel here that we're going to be on the
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clock and we're going to try to stick to it. i'll do a little cuourtesy, but not a whole lot. i'd love to hear the other 100 ideas you've got. let's hope we can figure out a way to do those things. you start -- so you start off with kind of the big picture. and that's right where we need to start. so here's the questions concerning the big picture. what's the status of fema at this time and the impacted states' response and recovery in this year's hurricanes. what do you anticipate your biggest challenges will be in the coming months, and how do you plan to address them? with more than 80% of family's workforce currently deployed to support ongoing dis disaster
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response activities, are you concerned with fema's ability to respond if another catastrophic event occurs? >> great question. in regards to harvey and irma, we are rolling forward in the official recovery and long term recovery phases. the biggest challenges that face us are housing. congressman you hit the nail on the head. there are not enough homes or hotels to service. fema is not a housing expert, by the way. i question whether or not fema should be in charge of disaster recovery housing, that's another discussion we should probably have. it's on my plate, i recognize it, we work with it every day. housing is different. not just texas to be honest with you california wildfires which is one of the most disturbing events i have been involved in. the housing issue is
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tremendously different there because there's nothing to rebuild. it's been burned down. to where with harvey we have to understand what can be rebuilt versus how we bring in manufactured homes or transition people out to hotels, or rent them if you got them, apartments that may be available. this is the biggest issue that we face. in puerto rico, obviously it's the power. it's an antekuwaited power system we're trying to figure out day in and day out. the complexities of it being an island. the logistical complexitying add to it. everything in puerto rico is hard. that's not a complaint, it's a reality. is power and housing is also the problem in puerto rico. when you're trying to fix homes in puerto rico, putting a blue tarp on house is not easy because there's not a structure to connect it to. you have to rebuild the structure before you put the
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blue tarp on it. and in many cases it's trying to figure out who owns the home. those issues that are there. the other thing i recognize we are having to delicately deal with billions of dollars of tax paying money. one of the things i recognized that we have to improve is oversight in grant's. grants management is the whole community not just fema. we have to provide more training to how the funding works but it goes back to the thing we have to solve is fragmented recovery from different types of money coming from hud or fema or federal highway, whatever it comes from, with different policies, tags, rules. and it sets everybody up for failure in the long run. and we never train people how to utilize the funding that comes down from the federal government in the best way possible.
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here's what you're entitled to, here's what your goals are, let's put it to work in concert with one another in an efficient and effective manner. there's a lot we have to talk about. housing is going to be the most difficult mission ahead of us. >> that was an excellent -- this year's disaster activity in mind, understanding the 23.5 billion requested in the supplemental addresses all disaster requirements for hurricanes harvey, irma but only fy 18 calls for hurricane maria. why does this request include funding for 18 in puerto rico and the virgin islands? do you plan to submit another supplemental?
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>> that's another excellent question. we're performing our due diligence. it's hard to project what the true cost is going to be. as we transition to recovery and while we're asking for puerto rico to have an integrated outcome based plan for their recovery effort it helps to project what we need. we also, as we get into recovery based on what a governor may ask for, when they turn those on, we look at trends, at the programs that are on, and we go in and try to estimate out -- i think if we go beyond 2018 -- i don't think that the estimates i could provide you would be remotely accurate based on the work. that's why we've decided to stay there. >> administrator long, the administration has proposed giving you discretion to wave the predisaster condition limitation on public assistance grants for puerto rico and to fund the repair of or
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replacement of public facility components that weren't damaged if replacing them is essential to restoring the overall facility. can you talk about why this is needed in the case of puerto rico, do you expect that it will help speed up recovery efforts and did you consider extending this authority to the u.s. virgin islands as well, and if not, why not? >> so in regards to puerto rico, i'm concerned that i don't have the authority to implement recovery in a manner that's needed. where fema gets in trouble is where we start fixing issues that were not damaged as a result of the actual disaster. so if you take the roadway system inside puerto rico, there are plenty of defefred maintenance issues where the roadway was not maintained. there were damages there before the storm and in some cases, as a result of the storm passes through, the damages are increased because of a lack of
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maintenance. if i fix infrastructure that has not been maintained. than oig comes back and says hold on a minute is this truly the federal government's responsibility? but in this case with puerto rico, we're running into so many d deferred maintenance issues in regards to the entire infrastructure and antikuwaited systems that i don't think you can put it back to a predisaster condition. i'm working under the emergency authorities that i have to prevent public health emergencies and future loss of life. but once we get into the permanent work that's required to actually rebuild to a higher code standard -- for example, just putting the standard for the power grid onto puerto rico is greater than the prestorm condition we found the power grid in to begin with. this is why i'm asking for the
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authorities. i need protection when it comes to putting puerto rico back in a more resilient manner so we're not sitting here again having this discussion. >> if you get that authority, how will you decide when to use it and do you anticipate that you will broadly use it or will you use it only in certain circumstances or for certain kinds of projects? >> so right now we don't have a full understanding. we're still in the response phase at puerto rico. what we know as we get into permanent work or the different categories, c through g, like fixing the public infrastructure. we know we're going to run into it. in the emergency work we're trying to get into areas of the power grid where you're doing brush removal because of overgrowth, that's deferred maintenance, which delays the recovery time. we know we're going to see it going from fy-18 to permanent
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work. >> under this authority will fema be able to fully fund the federal share of a more modern, efficient and resilient type of electrical generation and grid system for puerto rico or will puerto rico only be eligible to receive an amount sufficient to construct a brand new system which would be vulnerable to hurricanes? >> all of that is being taken into consideration. i have to respond to you in writing on all of the issues that are there. obviously the problem that we are facing in puerto rico is the liquidity issue when it comes to the reimbursement or the cost share issues that you're referencing. bomb b bottom line is liquidity is sfa standing in the way of doing things in a normal fashion. i have to get back to you. >> what's your understanding of
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other federal resources that might be available to puerto rico to cover any gap between what fema will provide and the added cost of more resilient infrastructure. >> this goes back to what i referred to as fragmented recovery. every day we have recovery meetings with our partners across the recovery perspective. other agencies are in the joint field office. we are having those conversations daily when it comes to our funding and where our authorities begin and end. for example we were in a detailed conversation with secretary carson and hud yesterday about housing and how, you know, fema can handle the housing for homes less than 50% damaged but after that it's going to be more of a hud mission. so we are looking at areas to hand that off. i still believe as a nation, as a result of going through this, we can do a much better line of streamlining all of these
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programs and assigning authority that's clear. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman for holding this hearing and after hearing from mr. brock, i just want to say that i will sleep better tonight. i am so impressed. it seems to me you're handling this just right. the only question i have before i get to my questions, when you're talking about rebuilding to standards and whether it's homes or the electric grid or the highway or the roads, i was there with the speaker not too long ago. i do hope, if we ever get this budget process going we'll be able to give you a number that will provide for adequate funding to do this. because i understand as you're
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saying you have to combine your efforts with hud and other agency. but knowing you're there will help me sleep better tonight. so i thank you very much for your presentation. >> thank you. >> so, first question. congress authorized the alternative procedures pilot program as part of the sandy recovery improvement act to test a more efficient approach to awarding public assistance grants so i'd like to know from you how have the procedures worked with regard to super storm sandy recovery efforts? do you anticipate puerto rico will choose this approach? and if so, do you anticipate any changes in the house the program will work for puerto rico? >> ma'am, that's an excellent question. thank you. and what i believe you're referring to is section 428 of the stafford act. for large scale events, it makes sense to go the 428 rout.
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now a governor has to basically elect to go that route. the governor has done so for puerto rico. the reason it's an advantage for us is just mere gloiing back to the roadway system. if there are thousands of problems within the roadway system, which there are in puerto rico. instead of having to generate thousands of project work sheets to fix those problems and they can be reversioned for many years and there seems to be no end, the 428 program as the governor agreed to, forces us to be outcome based and we can write one project work sheet for the entire roadway grid. now where we have to do a better job in helping the city of new york or other communities is they obviously have some concerns of when we do the cost estimate upfront, at the beginning of the 428 program did we accurately estimate how much it was going to cost?
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>> and that -- you know, that alone sometimes is frightening for community. and i understand it. to make sure they've hit the nail on the head. as far as the efficiency goes. the 428 program truly is, in my opinion, the way we need to go forward and continue to improve it. >> so following up on that, what is the process for how fema and puerto rico find agreement on the cost estimates for the hurricane damage? i know you're in the process of evaluating this. how long will that process take? because i'm hoping that the current supplemental, which is inadequate, can reflect some of your recommendations. i don't want to put you on the spot, but i think it's important that we have a good idea and accurate idea. >> sure. this process never moves as quickly as citizens want it to move because we have to be very careful with not only the inspections required, the technical expertise, for example
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i don't know much about rebuilding a roadway system. i rely on usdot, puerto ricans transportation authorities what about needs to work and what doesn't. so it's a process that can't be done in a vacuum that requires many members to come in to tackle the situation and produce an accurate estimate. if you would like the details, i'd be happy to provide you several examples that we're already going through in puerto rico to make sure we nail this up front. >> so following up, i'd like to really better understand how the alternative procedures approach can potentially help puerto rico with its resiliency efforts. how will puerto rico use other federal agencies to supplement what it receives through fema for improved infrastructure and facilities that can better withstand extreme weather events? >> so the 428 pilot program does allow for some improvements to
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become more resilient, not just putting back things to pre-disaster condition only to have them knocked out again, we can provide you some details on that as well. but it also is more incentive based. if they come in underneath the actual estimate, once the project is complete under the estimate, there are incentives for them to do so when it comes to retaining some of that funding. >> mr. chairman, did i use up all my time already or -- are we flexible today or no? >> we'll give you a little bit more time but you're already passed right now. >> well, i'll hold the rest of my questions. thank you very much. >> this is really going to be hard to hold culvertson on time. >> thank you, mr. chairman. your testimony is truly one of the most encouraging and really
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it's marvelous to hear your commitment to help the people of the united states but also your clear understanding of the genius of the united states. and our greatest strength of the nation is relying on the good hearts and sense of those great core values every american holds in their hearts to look after each other. and i'm thrilled to hear what you've said i want to make sure i get a picture with you and we'll put your testimony out on my web site and get it to the people of houston and texas. it's superb, you're right. i'd encourage you to ask your staff to go over all the programs you're responsible for and ask where you have flexibility. where has the congress vested you with authority to make decisions on your own.
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for example, one thing you have authority to do and you have done repeatedly is extending the deadlines because of the scale of the disaster in texas. you've been very accommodating in extending the deadlines. another area you have discretion in that i hope you'll exercise is that we in houston all of the major synagogues in houston flooded, one was completely destroyed prior to the high holy days and the number of churches were flooded but you have the discretion to allow fema disaster assistance funding to go to reimburse or help defray the cost of rebuilding a religious institution. i encourage you to do so. that would help a great deal because it was completely destroyed and is trying to raise money to rebuild. is that something you'll be able to do? >> that's a great question. there's a little bit of a misunderstanding about the
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houses of worship. they are eligible for reimbursement assistant if they provide a critical service to the community so that's what we're working through. we're under litigation so i have to be careful about what i put forward but i think we have to look at all 501(c)(3) compliant nonprofit organizations that are active in disaster and the eligibility requirements around th that. >> you're under an injunction that prevents you from doing so? >> no, not right now. we're in litigation. >> make them see you. they need your help. another concern, if you look at the fema buyout program, for example, we have neighborhoods in houston whereas the result of previous floods we had over the last couple years where there were homes that were bought out by fema and under fema rules the land cannot be developed, even if the -- either the local community or the individual or the ones to buy the land is
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willing to mitigate it. i hope you'll look at that. i think you have discretion in that area so you can allow a local entity to buy these lots in the middle of very nice neighborhoods, all these great homes and then, bang, a vacant lot deeded to the county that's got weeds three to four feet high. why not let someone go in there and develop that property and build it as long as they mitigate it to protect against, for example, a minimum 100-year flood or higher? i think you have the authority to do that. >> let me get back to you on that one and i'll be happy to look into that as well. >> you also are only able to elevate a home if you elevate an existing structure. why not let the owner of the property elevate a home, tear down the old one and build a brand new one. that would be cheaper and a lot less money to the taxpayers as well. you've got a whole variety of, i think, flexibility in your authority and things that you can do that would be tremendous help that i would certainly -- i know this committee would like to help you with.
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you'll find no better friend when it comes to helping you be innovative and creative and thinking outside the box than judge john carter, the chairman of this committee. he's been terrific in helping on this and we deeply appreciate in the houston, we really do. also on the pre-mitigation money intersection 404, that money could also be used to help mitigate or protect an area from future flooding, for example. >> absolutely. yup. >> and you're exactly right. get the money out front by pushing out front to a community and ensuring it's available to help protect against the next flood to at least a hundred-year event would be a tremendous help in protecting the southeast texas where 80% of the nation's petrochemical refining capacity is. 70% of the nation's aviation fuel moves through port natchez and the port of houston or extremely important so i look forward to working with you on that and i thank you, mr. chairman, for the good work you've done in making sure this good man right here is able to implement those out-of-the-box thinking ideas you learned i understand in the state of
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alabama. >> sure. >> thank you very much. >> mr. chairman, may have a moment to comment two to comment on it? >> absolutely. >> so when you opened up congressman about your statement and we're talking about being innovati innovative, one of the things we're getting beat up by in the media and elected officials is inspections, like when i know it comes to housing, you're too slow, you don't have enough inspectors. the magnitude of the inspections needed from the california wildfire the to virgin islands is unprecedented. you run out of resources. so when you run into that problem it's twofold, and this is an example of fragmented recovery. how do we reduce the need of a physical inspector to be in the field without looking at satellite imagery and flood maps and going, you know what? the house is flooded. do we need to send an inspector
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out there just to verify it and it takes more time? the other thing with the inspection process is we have a staff member at fema, her name is henrietta almon, she's a native of louisiana and not only does she social work for fema around the clock but her house was flooded and when i was asking for ideas she said you know what killed me? the number of inspections the federal government requires for me to get the asis answer tsist my house. hud requires an inspection, individual assistance inspections, private insurance inspections. how do we get it down to one inspection that covers the multitude of everything that may be needed in the disaster recovery? now, the question for me, congressman, is what's in think authority to change that versus where i have to come back and say please, congress, consider this? >> my brother, who is recovering from stage four throat cancer is living in his driveway in a
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trailer and has been with this entire ho'fs destroyed six to seven feet of water for 12 days as are all of his neighbors, god bless you, thank you, you're on target and we're looking forward to helping you. >> thank you. thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i passed some legislation but i don't think fema's followed up on this, redundancy elimination, enhanced performance, those grants. i'm very happy that you're talking about some of the things we need to address, i'd like to talk to you about this legislation on the books. let me go over a couple questions that we confer with governor abbot's office. there's some issues that we have down there in texas and folks over there, i think there was four appropriators from texas that have been working on this issue. the first one, mr. long, how long is this disaster relief funding -- how can this did ssar
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relief funding be used? i know generally what we're talking about but we want to make sure that information is connected with the state and the locals. >> so when it comes to just in general, and we can provide you details, but the two major programs are individual assistance and public assistance and that's what we typically pay for. when it comes to public assistance there's multiple categories. there's emergency work and then there's permanent work so the emergency work, for example goes to offset the cost of response. it also offsets the cost of debris removal but then as you get into the permanent work of fixing infrastructure, public facilities, founding out of the drf can go to not only fund that but on the individual assistance side it's other needs, it could a result of someone who's had problems from the flood from that standpoint to rental
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assistance to critical needs assistance, all the way too the housing mission so it's a wide array. >> what do you think the goal of the disaster relief funding should be? in texas when we per presented our thing to the white house there seems to be a disconnect from the way we look at the goal of disaster relief funding. >> so in my opinion -- that's a tough question, too, because in my opinion save lives in the response, kick start recovery. >> and texas would say how do we prevent these issues in the futher and that's what we're having disagreement. >> okay. out of the drf, the post disaster funding that we're talking about, section 404, a certain percentage of funding
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that we obligate becomes available for mitigation projects, not only through 404 but also section 406 there's opportunities to mitigate infrastructure, public assistance so access becomes available after the funding for disaster to do mitigation. i would propose you leave that there. if it's damaged let's rebuild it. the 404 money needs to go up front because we require a local community or state community to design a mitigation plan but they don't have access to the funding they need to implement it. it's not fema's responsibility to create resiliency. i ultimately believe resiliency lies in the hands of local elected officials through building codes and proper land use planning. fema's assistance just supplements this capability.
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but if we move the 404 money to the front end, it does a couple thing, it reduces the complexity of recovery and the problems in increasing how long recovery takes but it allows communities to properly plan and execute their mitigation plans up front before disasters strike. >> well, i would ask you to continue working with our governor's office on this issue because i think my two other colleagues here from texas, we've been having different discussions as you know, there's a little difference of opinion from the state of texas and up here which is basically, you know, i guess the last question tied in i think you answered already, is the disaster relief designed or intended to support long term recovery to make communities whole, which is -- you just -- can you fix that issue or use those resources for preventing some of those issues in the future? otherwise we'll be back again. >> yup and well here again i'll never make a community whole and
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i don't -- i don't believe that fema has the authority to make a community whole nor is it really my responsibility to make them whole. and here's the thing. let's just say you've had a tornado go through a small texas community that wipes out a majority of its infrastructure. fema is not trained, nor should we be responsible, in how to tell that community how to generate sales tax revenue after you've lost a large portion of your infrastructure. we're not good at that. we're good at debris removal, saving lives, coordinating response to do those missions. when it comes to long-term economic environment after going through a disaster, i'm not so sure that that's fema's goal or mission. that might need to be the expertise of other portions of that whole community that i'm talking about. >> i would ask you on behalf of the folks here to continue talking to our governor's office because some of us are put in this situation.
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i'm not going to go into a second line of questions so i'll just ask this last one. texas has $10 billion in a rainy day fund which i'm very familiar because we were in the state legislature when we created that. it rained in texas so i think texas should use -- and i've said this publicly, i assume we all have -- whenever you have conversations, make sure that we talk to texas and make sure they do their fair share also. it can't just come in from the federal government because people have a tendency of attacking the federal government but when they need cash, the federal government is their best friend so i want to make sure that everybody has skin in the game so i would ask you when you have conversations with the governor's office you go over that. >> chairman, may i take a minute to respond to that? >> you may. >> let me be clear about the state of texas. regardless of the issues that may take place inside texas from
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disagreements on your view or the governor's view or whatever -- >> oh, we're pretty much on the same view. >> no, but what i'm saying is that texas is a model and here's why. because they're owning their disaster recovery. they are owning the recovery housing mission and they're asking fema to support it. we've got to get all 50 states to start owning the recovery process. i don't know how to fix your state better than you do, okay? and my role should be one of a counselor of saying here's what you're entitled to and here's what you're going to need to achieve those goals. when it comes to a rainy day fund, i think that the congress should take a look at what states don't have them, period. so that when a federal disaster declaration is not coming forward then what is the obligation of a state to step up and serve their own citizens? and are these rainy day funds actually designed to handle individual assistance and public assistance at a smaller scale until federal disaster
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assistance can be turned on at some point. so it's one thing to have a rainy day fund, it's another understanding how it's set up. i think if we make a whole community improvement, all these states need to have rainy day funds that are designed similar to the assistance we put forward. but i'm just one. >> we appreciate it. thank you, mr. chairman. >> mr. -- no, wait. are we done here? all right, doc, i guess you're up. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman, and thank you mr. long for coming before the committee. i too share enthusiasm over the direction it seems fema's taking under your guidance. i'll be brief, i think. it looks like the lesson from puerto rico is that we kind of pulled the bandage off, we kind of discovered the infrastructure has been neglected far longer and to a far greater extent than
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we imagined and, you know, i guess we have to come to the policy decision of exactly how much are we going to ask all -- the rest of the country to pay for neglected infrastructure that i think is far greater than anything we see in the 50 states. but that's an issue that we'll grapple with as part of the request. but the two issues i have are how wisely and efficiently we spend money on emergencies. what's -- the "new york times" wrote a story about the linemen fixing the grid getting paid $63 an hour but the contractor who hires them getting reimbursed $319 from a contract that ultimately we're going to pay for. i assume. is that a contract that ultimately fema was going to pay for? >> the power grid rebuild is being handled by the army corps of engineers. they have two prime contractors that are managing the rebuild as i understand it and they will --
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those prime contractors are bringing subconsultants underneath them. >> okay so that -- >> so it would be a question for them. >> so as part of the entire $44 billion package but not your part. let me ask a very specific question that interestingly enough they couldn't answer at an agriculture subcommittee hearing on this disaster aid yesterday. when you pay for building projects to repair infrastructure, davis-bacon applies? davis by davis-bacon rules? >> i'm assuming so. >> do you think we could be more efficient with our taxpayer dollars if we carve out emergency spendings to say you know what? we could get far more infrastructure rebuild and far more disaster mitigation in the future if we didn't have to adhere to davis-bacon rules? >> i don't know the answer to that question. i'd be happy to come back with an opinion. i'd be happy to work with omb and the administration on that as well. >> do you know how many states don't in fact have prevailing wage? >> i do not. oh, i know there are many states
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that don't so we're asking citizens from around the country to pay for disaster mitigation infrastructure rebuilding -- don't get me wrong, we need to do these projects but if a project is done in their state by a private entity, they don't have to pay this premium that davis-bacon makes these contractors -- makes these contracts cost through davis-bacon but we're going to ask them to pay for repairs in other -- for instance, in a state like texas. if a private entity does -- repairs their building, they're not subject to davis-bacon but if fema pays for it -- so if i get your answer right, if fema comes in to rebuild that same building, that same infrastructure, it -- they have to ascribe to davis-bacon rules? is that right? >> as i understand it, yes, but i can get back to you. >> i would appreciate that very much, thank you very much, mr. chairman, i yield back.
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>> i'm sorry, mr. price, you're looking at me but i'm not paying attention. >> all right, thank you, welcome, mr. administrator, i'm proud to note that you are born and reared in north carolina and have done very well including this latest assignment and we congratulate you on your appointment and the way you're handling a very, very full plate. most notably three hurricanes and disastrous wildfires here in your early months of service. let me ask you about the white house's approach to this, the disaster supplemental request which included the following sentence -- "the administration believes it's prudent to offset new spending. in order to offset increases to the new emergency spending we're requesting, the congress should also consider designating offsets from the base appropriations as an emergency." director mulvaney then pro
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surprised a supposedly helpful men of options for cuts that totalled $59 billion, a menu of poison pills, you might say, things like pell grants, animal and plant health inspection, highway construction. quite a list. supposedly helpful as we try to meet this urgent request. ironically, this request came one day after house republicans with the backing of the president passed a package where the tax cuts exceeded the offsets by $1.5 trillion which clearly would balloon our national debt. so i'm not going to ask you to comment on omb's approach to this but i do want to confirm with you that every dollar of the $23.5 billion in federal funding for the disaster relief fund does qualify under the law as emergency spending and thus
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requires no offset. i'm not asking what the administration's proposed, i'm simply asking the simple question, does this request qualify as emergency spending? >> yeah, i mean, to my knowledge i would say yes. >> the answer is yes. all right. let me move on to how we might approach the housing needs which you have stressed, others have stressed. we do have a vehicle for housing support which has been utilized in other situations. and that would be the disaster housing assistance program which fema and hud enter into these agreements, they enter into after disasters, they did after hurricane katrina, we've seen a number of these agreements. as i understand it, there has not been such an agreement entered into, though, with respect to the current disaster s. what could you tell us about
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that? would a dehap program be helpful in this situation? is it helpful in this situation? have you discussed the possibility of such an approach with texas, florida, puerto rico, the virgin islands, it can affected jurisdictions? >> sure, absolutely. here, again, each one of the housing missions is incredibly unique. a one size fits all solution is not going to work. what works for texas is not going to work for california, it's not going to work for puerto rico. we're in daily conversations with hud and hud is, for example, on puerto rico we're having discussions about where fema housing assistance begins and ends versus where hud picks up and so that discussion was occurring ongoing as of yesterday as well and will continue and i will be meeting with hud as i go back to puerto rico on sunday and monday of next week. when it comes to housing, i think there's a lot of room for improvement. when it comes to who's totally
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response blg for disaster housing and how we implement this down. now, we'll say this, you want to talk about cost, you know the estimates are all over the place but we've run some analysis where just to bring one manufactured home into a community cost the taxpayer $202,000 cradle to grave. think about it. i have to buy it, i have to haul it, i have to install it, i have to make sure that it's secure, i have to watch over it for 18 months, sometimes maybe more, then i have to dispose of it. so how do we do things better? manufactured housing is always going to have to be an option on the table because in some areas, particularly rural areas, there are no other options such as a multitude of hotels. but what we did in texas which i would ask you to take a look at was something truly innovative. instead of bringing in a manufactured home, if your house
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was less than 50% damaged but yet you sustained more than $17,000 worth of damage, we're trying to change the world by allowing -- granting the money down through the general land office to the local governments and council of governments to do $60,000 worth of permanent construction to the household. $60,000 worth to the household to get people back in their homes. it's not going to move. it moves at a swift glacial pace but to the tax paying public, we have to find better solutions for housing across the board bringing in travel trailers, whether it's fema assistance or dhap programs. we have a lot of work, it's not a fun program to put forward, it's threwly necessary but there's money that can be saved and more efficiencies that can be put in place. >> well, appreciate your perspective on that. the dhap program in particular has been utilized, however. it has been utilized commonly
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and it's not being utilized that the this moment as to whether this is a vehicle or a tool that perhaps we should consider in this instance. >> thank you. >> so if you'll get back. >> we'll get back to you. >> appreciate that. >> thank you, thank you, dr. price and appreciate you mentioning that, director long, because that's important to give people in flexibility to push the money out there. we have tens of thousands of houstonians living on the second floor of their home with all the sheetrock torn out and i want to make sure they're eligible for funding. they have been displaced. they don't have anywhere else to go. by the way, my brother bought that trailer and put in the the driveway. he always wanted one. he wanted an rv, but not this way. dan? >> thank you. >> mr. newhouse? >> thank you. >> thank you acting chairman culberson. chairman carter, ranking member roybal-allard thanks for having this hearing. welcome mr. administrator, appreciate you being with us today reporting on puerto rico.
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i want to join my colleagues in expressing the -- i'd certainly love to hear some of the things you said, you didn't come to preserve the status quo and you would not like to work on change and your words about ril yesili are very good and the spirit of improvement, that's -- we like to hear those kinds of things and we look forward to working with you so glad to hear there's progress being made in puerto rico. i've been on a couple hearings learning on what's happening. lots of work yet to do but we're making good progress. i wanted to focus as you continue your work there, i want to make sure that we're focusing on rural areas just as much as urban areas and i'll use some of my own experiences as an example. i'm from the state of washington and you may or may not know but you will in the next few years, i'm sure, unfortunately, we have had historic wildfires in our state as well as the rest of the
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wes west. >> we have received major disaster declarations certainly we've burned something like 400 holmes and 200 acres. fema denied any individual assistance for these disasters and so. so in states like mine where we have large population centers and large rule areas that for some reason the current formula as it comes to determining disaster aid leaves us out and so the words -- the concentration come up in conversations with officials from fema. and so i guess my question relates to how -- looking at how these determinations are made any formula changes that fema
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may be considering how we can work with you to consider some of these changes to make them more workable, make more clearly define those formulas so at least in my opinion that urban and rural are treated eck it withb -- equitably. >> congressman, i'm very familiar with that issue having been the state director of alabama's emergency management agency, those areas are rural and whether it's a wildfire or tornado in some cases the most rural communities can truly sustain a lot of damage that doesn't necessarily meet the public assistance numeric indicators and there are tremendous amounts of individual assistance needs that are there but because the rural nature versus the state numeric indicators that are there, they are in some cases somewhat penalized. now we have to find a balance and i'd be happy to work with you, the sandy recovery improvement act reset the thresholds or considerations for
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individual assistance. is it perfect? that's up for debate and discussion. but i do have a question. when it comes to the whole community and the responsibilities of all levels of government, if federal disaster assistance is not coming, what is the state's rainy day fund designed to do to help those rural communities as well? because we see this -- a majority of the disasters and emergencies that occur nationwide, fema's not involved in. there are hundreds of disasters that fema doesn't come to assist us in. and what i'm afraid of is does that increase what's on my plate from the standpoint of trying to work a much smaller level of disaster approval when it comes to individual assistance, republican assistance. i didn't get into emergency management not to help people. i have the spirit to want to help people, that's why i'm in -- that's where i am where i
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am. at some point we have to figure out what the true capability of each state and local government should be to work with their own citizens. >> i would not disagree with that. in fact i would agree that it should be a concerted effort to work together. all agencies, local, state, and federal and it seems to me we're not quite to the place we need to be in all those levels. >> sure, sure. >> but appreciate that and understand the sensitivity or the wisdom it's going to take to find that balance and look forward to working with you on that. >> look forward to working with you, sir. >> thank you, mr. chairman i yield back. >> thank you. >> i think they're well deserved. i think unfortunately sometime this -- in the government, whether federal, state and local
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we have too many political appointments who don't have expertise or the ability to manage and looking at your resume, other than the fact that you didn't come from maryland, you came from north carolina and worked in alabama, that's okay i like my southerners, but appreciate your straightforward, your ability to look at problem and solve them and i think that's an important issue. i was a former county executive, baltimore county, close to 800,000 people, a lot of waterfront in that area. and during my tenure we had a lot of issues in waterfront properties and i agree on the he issue that local government has to change their zoning laws and their ability to rebuild so they can be protected and i think that happened in florida after some of the storms that they withstood a lot of these storms because you can't rebuild and have it come over and over so i really think it's important, i agree with you, focusing on that issue. it's extremely important. what i want to get into, because
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a lot of times they're not protected. i know the chairman likes them a lot but i want to get into the coast guard. the coast guard -- it's probably going to be more of a statement but i want to ask you a question? the coast guard for their tremendous hurricane response, they rescued more than 11,500 americans in the last three months. per the commandment, the branch is facing a $914 million shortfall to tend to a backlog of ship and aircraft maintenance and repairs for hangars and other facilities damaged by storms. with that being said, the request -- the request in front of us turns its back only offering $500 million less than the admiral's request. the coast guard has always doing more with less. i didn't realize that until i came to congress that they were the stepchild of the army, navy, air force, marines. the good news is they're homeland security where they need to be and they're getting acknowledged for what they need
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to do. they get the job done and take it for granted. it's something that the better they do and they do it with less and what's the reward they keep getting less, less, less. sooner or later that's going to backfire. now, the president has requested that this cut be done, i know that you don't have authority there. i understand that it comes through you and it comes through -- beyond me to you and then you delegate that or you pay that out. and if we don't take care of the coast guard, they won't be able to produce like they have. what can you do if anything, recommendation, to make sure that they get -- they request -- close to the request they ask for. the other thing and the elephant in the room every time is sequestration. it's up to republicans and democrats in a bipartisan way to do away with this terrible law that makes us weaker military
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and whatever we do. and i want to raise a as an issue. you don't have to answer that but i want to get on how we can do more and what your recommendation would be. i realized you don't have the authority, you're more of a prow pass-through that gives it to coast guard. >> by and large we always mission assign for large events. the army corps of engineers -- excuse me, the u.s. coast guard to be able to do the life-saving mission and they provide tremendous capabilities. i have the deepest respect for the members of the coast guard. and in regards to your specific question about -- i'm a coast guard advocate based on what i've seen. i would be happy to go back to the department of homeland security but i don't want to speak for the commandant and coast guard directly here. >> isn't my understanding -- >> we mission assign them and through the disaster relief fund we can provide reimbursement for
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the usage of the equipment and disaster cost. as far as fixing equipment, i don't believe we have the authority to do that. >> okay. i yield back. >> thank you. i believe it's back to me and we've had a series of really good questions. appreciate the questions. my colleague, the former cardinal -- a current cardinal and friend of all of us on in this committee wanted me to ask this question. california requested an increase to the 75/25 cost share for debris removal related to the fires in santa rosa. the state requested the waiver on october 8, has not received a response. can you tell us what the status of this request is and do foresee any issue? >> you know what? i'll have to come back to you on the exact status or where it is.
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i'd be happy to come back and work with you, sir on that. >> well, you know, they do have the ability to have a waiver up to!v- 90%. >> yes, sir. >> i like the cost share for fema public assistance. i understand this is largely formula driven but that fema also makes assessments on disaster by disaster basis when it is appropriate to increase the federal cost share of a disaster. how does fema work with the affected areas to insure that cost shares are determined fairly and accurately and what other factors does fema consider out side of the per capita cost of the disaster? >> mr. chairman, this is another area where congress needs to look at the whole concept of the numeric indicators that we use
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in general so typically what we look as it's a formula of -- i think it's at $1.43 per person based on the state population which determines whether or not we believe federal disaster assistance should be made available or public assistance should be available to a state after a disaster and uninsured losses. for ten years that numeric indicator did not change according to inflation and honestly if it had that numeric indicator today would be $2.27 per person which would shock the system and be a tremendous amount of money that state and local governments would be responsible for. i often request whether or not the numeric indicator measures a state and local capability to handle disasters in its entirety but that's the way business has been done since 1986.
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it's time to look at that entire formula and how we determine assistance. now when it comes from being 75/25 to 90/10 or even 100%, there was a formula laid out, a numeric indicator that we typically follow to go to 90/10% cost share. so that's what we're following currently. >> i want to shift gears to something you and i talked about on the phone. the state of texas has taken the lead in the housing mission for survivors of hurricane harvey which as i understand is the first time the state has assumed this role. while i'm confident texas is well equipped to handle such a task, implement ago new process while responding to a disaster of this magnitude inevitably comes with problems. can you tell me about how this process has been working? have you seen any efficiencies
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within the -- with the state in the lead role? how is fema making sure the need of disaster survivors are addressed and that no requests slip through the cracks under this new process? >> well, first of all, governor abbot made a very bold and courageous decision to lead it. and not only lead it but to be innovative in the way that we try to address the housing issues. for example, hundreds of thousands of homes have been impacted. there aren't enough trailers. and in some cases hotels to be able to service this one disaster much less irma and everything else. so what's being done right now is that fema is basically traditionally running the housing mission as we normally would on behalf of the state. but we're in the transition point of making sure that the general land office has its feet underneath them to be able to administer the grant dollars down, to run all aspects of the
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housing program. i'm not going to allow the state of texas to fail. will it move quickly? housing never does because of the sheer complexities we often run into when it comes to the different types of damages that people have seen, whether their house is totally destroyed or can be repaired or what it requires. but we are working everyday. i was in texas two weeks ago right before the thanksgiving holiday. you know, making sure we met with george p. bush as well as governor abbot on a transition and making sure that this becomes a successful program and that because they were willing to bite off this that we're going to be with them every step of the way. we're not going to hand this off and then back out. i'm not going to allow my staff to do that. so we will be with them through the completion of this housing mission. >> well, i have a lot of confidence in land office and i think they'll do you a really good job and i'm glad y'all are partnering up on this. i think any time you try a new concept, i think it's thinking
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outside the box which government should do more of and doesn't do very well. so i congratulate you on doing that. next question is one that i know that we've been talking to miss granger about, so i'm asking this on behalf of them i've heard about -- of delays and other issues in some of the smaller communities, the communities with fewer resources along the coastline. what is fema doing to ensure these communities get the assistance they need to successfully assess -- access federal funding available to them? and i'm talking -- this is really the lower coast, down towards corpus christi, rockport, all that devastated area. >> so i'm not sure of the exact issues that he's referring to, but his do know that my staff is on the ground and i do know that, you know, the manufactured housing units that have been
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requested, they are mobilizing to the coast and many of them are in place. do we have a long way to go? of course we do. but there is movement down there. here again we're trying to move as fast as we can based on the material and the personnel that we have and i'd be happy to check back in and directly contact the congressman as a result of this hearing. i'd be happy to hear him out. >> okay. i'll tell him that. thank you. ms. roybal-allard? >> i want to go back to one of my original questions at this had to do with the proposal to give you discretion to waive the pre-disaster condition limitation on public assistance grants. you answered the part with regards to puerto rico but i also would like to know if you considered extended that authority to the u.s. virgin islands and if not why not? >> i'll have to get back to you on that one as well. the deferred maintenance issues
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and just the antiquated infrastructure of puerto rico is vastly different than even in the virgin islands. but i will definitely go back and take a look. i don't know the answer to that question right now. >> okay, thank you. i understand that general buchanan and a large part of the military presence have left the island and prior to this general buchanan was charged with coordination with federal agencies and the puerto rican government. now my understanding is that fema has that role. i have three parts to my question. has this transition gone smoothly and is coordination -- how is it going generally? also, will fema be in charge of coordinating the long-term recovery effort and if so does fema have the resources in terms of staffing to manage a project of this size while maintaining the operational ability to respond to new disasters? >> sure, so the incident command structure in puerto rico has always been we've had a federal coordinating officer, a fema
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federal coordinating officer who is the lead authority in charge. technically a federal coordinating officer is an arm of the president of the united states. that person is mike byrne. general buchanan technically would report to the federal coordinating officer since inception of him being in puerto rico and so obviously as we transition out of response to more recovery, we start to demobilize some of the staff but also increase staffing with the expertise to run into the long-term recovery, releasing general buchanan is not something we do haphazardly. it would be a very methodical -- it was a very methodical decision to not only deploy -- to demobilize him. but there should not have been any -- it should have been a seamless transition and as i'm aware it was, or is. in regards to the long-term disaster recovery, what we try to follow is what's called the national disaster recovery framework. so what it does is it points out
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six different recovery support functions, it could be economic viability to housing. and so the goal of that is is to -- and we've already been working with our federal government agency partners to make shoo thure that if they ar primary agency in charge of a specific recovery support function that they are sending staff to puerto rico to have the authority to make decisions there on the ground rather than here in washington, d.c., because i believe that all incident command decisions should be made closest to the event rather than all the way back up here. and that's the framework that we're following and that's how we're staffing the long-term recovery going forward. >> the supplemental request from the administration includes request language that would require puerto rico to submit a recovery plan to the president and to congress. now this plan would be developed in consultation with fema, the department of treasury and other federal agencies identified in the national disaster recovery
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framework. it's important that puerto rico has ownership of the plan but they are going to need technical assistance. so in what ways will fema and the other federal partners help support the creation of such a plan and can you explain how this process will work and the importance of the national disaster recovery framework? >> right. so here again we'll use the framework and if i remember the language correctly in the is supplemental, it doesn't just say a puerto rico recovery plan, it's a plan infused with fema and our additional stakeholders as i recall. so we recognize that this is the first time that puerto rico has run through a long-term recovery like this and so we do not ever want to set up governor rossello for failure to say write your plan, execute it and we back out. we'll be there for many years to come executing this disaster recovery framework and the governor knows that, i'll be seeing him next week, i talked to him earlier this week but
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i'll be seeing him next week to make sure that i put boots on a ground on a regular basis to say where are we versus where we need to be and what do you need? but you're right in your statement. the thing that's right is the governor is willing to step up and start owning the long-term recovery and i think he's beginning to look at this as an opportunity to rebuild puerto rico in a more resilient fashion. >> mr. culberson? >> thank you, mr. chairman. administrator long, i want to -- i just can't thank you enough for your innovative thinking and your willingness to trust the good hearts and the good instincts of individual americanings aamerica americans and to put the command decisions for response to these disasters as close as possible to the disaster itself and the hands of state and local officials and more importantly your hands to put it in the hands of individual americans. i can tell you there's a great
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opportunity there. the federal disaster mitigation program, for example, today is designed to obviously mitigation future risk of flooding and minimize the cost to the federal government. but to an individual homeowner, for example, and, again, one of the bedrocks of the american system is private property rights because we know nobody is going to take better care of that property than the individual property owner. and i'd encourage you -- i'd really like to work this through you in more detail. let me bounce this off of you. i've met with constituents who have come up with good ideas to help improve the federal program and cdbg, mr. chairman, the hud program comes at the tail end. that comes at the tail end of the process and the focus of the money is up front and if we would, as you have said, push the money out early and get it in the hands of the individual homeowner right away, as quickly as possible to mitigate the damage, to repair the damage to their own home and mitigate the flood risks for the future i
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think the federal government would save a vast amount of money. because, for example, today if a homeowner qualifies for fema disaster assistance, the only option available to them is either to raze an existing structure or just participate in the buyout then the federal government owns the land. that's actually in this case david, the d is in the hands of the harris county which makes no sense because then you have -- i have neighborhoods with beautiful homes all in a row and then there's an empty vacant lot with weeds about five feet high and the county owns the property, the homeowners association has to go in there and mow it. it's taken off of the tax rolls so it's just a burden to everybody. so what if we change the way this fema program works so that if dr. price's home flooded that you would be able to apply, david, for assistance and the money would go directly to you up front and you would have the option to either mitigate the property, because right now you either have to sell it to the federal government or raze an existing structure. but why not limit the amount of
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money the federal government could give you, you get the money up front, you hire a contractor, decide to either tear down your existing home or build a new structure but it has to be raised -- or mitigated so we are ready for the next flood. your property stays on the tax rolls, you'll build a home that suits you and your family and the neighborhood, you i'll save the federal taxpayers a ton of money and it's not going to be taken off of the tax rolls of local government. again, simply by trusting dr. price's good heart and his good instinct to take care of his own property in his own neighborhood. you see that would, i think, if we gave -- if we created a program like that, doesn't that fit with precisely what you're recommending? that we get the money out front? >> i'm all for innovation and what we would be happy to do is work with you to discuss the pros and cons of the ideas you're putting forward. i'm all for bettering any situation and mitigation because i believe mitigation is the key to future resiliency.
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but we also have to tackle some systemic problems we haven't in this country. insurance is the first line of defense. and i don't just say that to say it. but those who eninsured recover quicker than those that don't when they are hit. in their dwelling mitigation tactics but it's not just mitigation tactics at the home, it's mitigation tactics that are low to know-cost tactics for
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schools, for businesses and homes and then offering that money up front. i'm all for offering money up front. >> right. >> it doesn't make sense to have it. >> low to no cost options to do the greatest good down the road. >> and do it up front. low to no cost. and i want to thank one of my constituents, charles goforth who spent a lot of time working on this. his area has flooded repeatedly over the years. it's a bowl in houston but they are devoted to the neighborhood, they're devoted to keeping a thriving, vibrant neighborhood. it's where a lot of the largest synagogues in the state of texas are located. if you're an orthodox, for example, you've got to live within walking distance of your synagogue because you can't drive a car on saturday so these folks, i'm telling you, there's no better -- i want to thank charles for these ideas because he's right. if you qualify today for mitigation money from the feds, there's only two options, buy out or raze the skpexisting structure. so let's change the program, i want to work with you mr.
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chairman and the subcommittee to find a way to get the money out front and in the hands of the homeowner who's going to do the best job, the quickest, the fastest and the most effective saving money for everybody in the process and getting that homeowner made whole in a way that suits them and their family much, much more quickly. i think we're on the right path and i thank you very much, mr. chairman. >> mr. price? >> i thank you, mr. chairman. let me turn to a troubling aspect of most disasters that we've had in recent years and that is reports of individuals being increasingly vulnerable to sexual assaults during the chaos of the disaster and directly afterwards. and part of the problem seems to be overcrowded and understaffed shelters that put people at greater risk of domestic violence and sexual assault. it was reported that one-third of the sexual assaults that
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occurred during hurricanes katrina and rita took place at emergency shelters. so i'm wondering what account fema might have taken of this. it would be practical, for example, for fema shelters to have safety plans and processes in place to respond to sexual assaults for individual shelters to have educational information available detailing emergency domestic violence and sexual assault services in the area. so i have a couple questions. one is are you aware of whether this pattern has continued during this most rekrecent spatf disasters? has there been the same kind of problem reported? sexual assaults occurring in this will immediate post-disaster period? does fema track such assaults? is there anything being done prevent this behavior from taking place in shelters?
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and then secondly, what about the pre-existing domestic violence shelters that are damaged. as of october 1, we have reports that 23 domestic violence shelters have been significantly damaged, 19 have been moderately damaged. of course they need to be either repaired or rebuilt. after hurricane sandy in 2012, congress provided $2 million specifically to reperidot midwest i can violence shelters post-disaster so i'm wondering if you have any plans to help domestic violence shelters in particular and might we expect a specific proposal along these lines? >> sure. congressman, so first of all, anything we can do to provide a safe shelter environment from the whole community is all -- in all of our best interests, obviously that would -- i definitely would like to be a part of being able to do that. but i think it's important to
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point out that shelter operations, fema does not run shelter operations. we basically pay for these. a lot of the shelter mission is run at the local level in conjunction with the american red cross and that we would be happy to reach out to gail mcgovern at the red cross to understand what the trends are. i can't answer for the most recent events. i have not been made aware of disturbing trends of this taking place in shelters. but i'd be obviously happy to look into it to see what changes we can effectively make on that. in regards -- and i want to make sure that i understand. you're referencing in the second part of your question domestic violence shelters. is that what i understand? okay. if they are a registered 501(c)(3) compliant nonprofit organization that does that, they are -- and they sustained damage and they provide those critical facilities they should be eligible under public assistan assistance. if they're not, that might be where the discrepancy is, if
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they're not registered but we would be happy to look into that as well. >> well, let's check on both things, if you will, on the last one first. >> sure. >> there was a specific appropriation after sandy, that's what caught my eye. >> okay. >> so i'm not sure why that was deemed necessary but it certainly was helpful. >> okay. >> and it may or may not be indicated in our present situation. and then as regards the reporting, we do have earlier reporting on katrina and rita and the level of assaults that followed those disasters and so somebody somewhere should be monitoring this and i understand you have shared responsibility but there, too, i'd appreciate your getting back to the committee as to what kind of monitoring you or anybody else is doing and what the indications are as to the level of this problem with these current disasters. >> okay. we would be happy to get back to
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you on that. and i can tell you with the oversight of the grant funding regardless of what mission it serves, you know, particularly -- i'm taking a very stance in making sure that we ares;n monitoring paying dollars very carefully. inspector general to be in the field with us to help had us uncover any mistakes we may be making up front. we also provide quarterly reports and have managers embed would those who receive our fund. so i'm trying to put a multilayered approach down to make sure we're spending according to regulations and policies as much as i can. and agon i believe any money management is the responsibility of not only fema, but the whole
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committee. and whether it's a nonprofit or a government entity. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. price. we're not going to do another round but i think she has one more question. >> one quick question as regards to kwal. a major declaration of disaster and this came on the heels of several in the preceding days. the supplemental request does not specifically address western wild fires. so my question is there sufficient fund to provide all the eligible aid to communities and what is fema assuming as the overall cost in term tofz disaster relief fund? >> so with california, as i said earlier one of the most de
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disturbing events i've ever seen and the sensitivity and the deaths is something i have to look into. we -- if you look at some of the numbers. if i look through for harvey do -- excuse me, maria, we've allocated about 4.6 billion. for the california wild fires, 1.1 billion. it's something that we're taking into account for the normal disaster relief fund in the formula that's set up. if we can't get through if we need aditional funding, we obviously would come back for a supplemental or before if needed. but right now we think we can absorb the cost based on trends we're seeing in the appropriation of the drf.
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>> and i just want to say i'm equally encouraged about your response to the questions that this committee has had and really look forward to working with you and the committee to make fema more efficient and effective in terms of our response to these disasters. . >> thank you, ma'am. >> i'm going to have one more awful long question i want to ask you. or discuss with you. when this all happened and it's all overthe newspapers no power in puerto rico, i happen to be having a meeting in my office with people from the power business on a totally different matter and so i said why don't you guys be good citizens like you used to and go over and fix that, at least to where they get some power and tear are esponse to me, which i think you've been saying directly is it's the most
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an quated system maybe in existence. and definitely in north america and we don't even have hearts to get a lot of what they got there and the real world is if we went over there, we'd have to rewire the whole island. >> so i'm sure there for plenty of media interviews of me saying prepare for the power to be off for many months and we knew that before maria hit. the governor of puerto rico knew it. it doesn't alleviate this pain and suffering. we're moving as fast as we can. but the problem that we have is because it's an island, you can only shove so many -- you're trying to shove food and water in. you're trying to fix emergency power issues with hospitals to sustain an entire hosossystem that nearly collapsed and you
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have to focus on the priorities of life safety. you can only shove so much into an island. and the entire air traffic control system was wiped out. so right after it storm is over it takes -- you're having to carefully bring aircraft in on a manual basis. there's 30 minutes between flights to get them in because you don't want to wreck sea five galaxies and exacerbate the problem. the other thing is we quickly mission assign the army core of engineer. they're doing emergency power. i work would the governor very proactively to say let's rebuild in mind, go ahead and start doing what we can to get that back up because we knew it was going to be long time. when it comes to traditional emergency management mutual aid like what would work in florida
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or texas. and i don't mean to sound sarcast sarcastic. you can't drive truck and mutual aid assistance into florida or texas. and in many cases the private sector handles the entire regrid of texas, not fema. this is a unique situation where the army core is the primary builder of the regrid because they had had to be and it was the only option that we really. the other thing is in some fairness, it's a contract between governors. and so with the liquidity issues, they're relulktant to go to puerto rico. to make sure they would be reimbursed for their time and materials. that's also the situation we were facing.
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this is not a traditional disaster response. if anybody in the room wants to rebuild puerto rico to a standard where we don't walk through this aagain, it's me. >> and i understand and this is a government owned systemj3z an it's very clear they haven't kept up on their maintenance of a system. they described it to me that we're dealing with two gradients. >> as i understand that average age of that power system is 44 years old. fema can't control that. i don't know who can. but it's a problem i'm facing with working with the governor to fix. >> and one of my questions. if we are able to figure out a way so the court to build a more modern, up to date system, which is going to be extremely expensive i'm sure, one of the
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issues you'd have to say. if they've had a hard time maintaining the 44-year-old system, is there going to be money available or is that state's problem to keep this, the new system because if you can't fix it because you don't know how, there's a lot of differences a 44-year-oldsistence can make. >> sure. so it's my understanding this is a great question of the army core of engineers. it's my understanding that just by rebuilding the power grid to the continental united states, building your electrical grid standards, you're already making tremendous improvements. >> i assume that. >> and we're going to learn a lot as a result of going through this. through this process. it's not an ideal situation. there's nothing easy about puerto rico. >> we all have to patch it through for the american citizens in puerto rico. >> i do as well.
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>> thank you very much. this has been very enlightening and pleasing to know we got folks being creative with government and we like your creativity. we look forward to working with you. this committee is going to be pledging to get their job done and we want -- we will get done. >> thank you. >> this time we'll recess. thank you.
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