tv FEMA Administrator on 2017 Disasters CSPAN March 16, 2018 3:11pm-6:31pm EDT
young friends and when they came to visit him he would let them type volumes and volumes of poetry and this was quite a novelty in 1888 to reproduce something that looks like a printed document right there on your desktop. >> on sunday at 2:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv a look at old salem, and learn about the hidden town project which explores the history of afro-moravans. saturday at noon eastern on c-span2's book tv and saturday on c-span3. working with our cable affiliates as we explore america. next the house homeland security committee learn about the 2017 natural disasters, among those testifying brock long who talked
about reducing regulations and red tape in government and for fema to become a block granting agency. the hearing begins with opening remarks from texas republican michael mccall, the chairman of the committee. the committee on homeland security will come to order. the committee to learn from last year's disasters including the preparedness response and recovery efforts for hurricane harvey, arma and maria in order to better prepare for future disasters. this is also administrator long's first appearance before the homeland security committee.
welcome, sir. and i welcome the opportunity to learn more about your priorities and vision for the future of people have. i also see we have members joining us today that are not on the committee. i ask unanimous consent that gonzalo cohen and congresswoman velasquez and delegate stacy plasket be allowed to sit in the deus and participate in today's hearing. without objection, so ordered and i recognize myself for an opening statement. this morning our committee has gathered to review our ability to prepare, respond and rebuild in the wake of the natural disasters of 2017. before we begin i would like to extend my hard-fought condolences to the recent bombings in the hometown of austin. three heinous attacks and these heinous attacks need to stop. no one should ever be afraid to open up their front door and pick up a package.
we'll also find who is responsible for these murders and make sure they are brought to justice. while the american -- while they're constant targets of foreign and domestic terrorists, cyber criminal gangs like ms-13 and human trafficking, today's hearing will focus on the dangers of natural disasters. in 2017, there were 65 major disasters declared. they included hurricanes that hit my home state of texas, florida, the u.s. virgin islands and puerto rico. we also saw dozens of wildfires burn through thousands of acres and destroy everything in their path. after hurricane harvey hit texas, i personally toured the devastated communities in my district as well as a city of houston. days of punishing rain, rising rivers and overflowing bayous wreaked havoc on much of my state. this destruction was horrifying, roads were flooded and many
homes were obliterated and sadly, many people lost their lives, but as i witnessed the strength of the texas spirit, that was the positive. many volunteers hopped into their boats to rescue people who were stranded on the rooftops or trapped in a vehicle. others waded out into the murky waters filled with snakes and firants to save their loved ones or even to help a stranger. texans helping texans rose to the challenge and assisted one another during a very tough time. strong coordination at the local, state and federal level of fema and army corps of engineers rose, and i commend the efforts in hurricane harvey. this kind of team work was also evident in florida after hurricane irma. urn fortunately, hurricane maria completely shattered puerto rico and even today much of the island is still struggling to
recover. it's important that we learn from the lessons of each of these storms who were better prepared for the future. natural disasters bring a lot of harm and they also provide an opportunity to put our differences aside and work together. i'm proud to say that both parties came together to pass the supplemental relief package that provided billions of dollars to the disaster relief fund and the national flood insurance program. it is always our goal to make sure fema has the resources and capabilities it needs before it's called into action. the first-ever, authorization that passed the house in july will strengthen our first responders and front-line defenders. i encourage that the senate has taken action on this reauthorization bill and i hope to have that passed soon and sent to the president. i would also like to personally thank each of today's witnesses for being with us here this morning. shortly after hurricane harvey i met with administrator long at
fema's headquarters for a briefing on the recovery. while there i could see first hand the dedication and professionalism of the men and women who sprung into action during that time of crisis. i'm grateful for their service and for their efforts and all of our partners at the federal, state and local level, and with that, i yield back. the chair recognizes the ranking member, mr. thompson. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. to begin today i would also like to express my condolences to the families of the victims of the recent austin package bombings. my thoughts and prayers are with those who lost their lives as well as the survivors. turning to today's hearing, as you know, mr. chairman, we were originally scheduled to have fema administrator brock long before this committee in november of last year.
unfortunately, you abruptly canceled a hearing after the democrats invited the mayor of san juan puerto rico to testify about the effects of hurricane maria on her community. that troubling turn of events occurred shortly after administrator long publicly stated that he had filtered out the mayor a long time ago. i'm not sure when it becomes acceptable to become dismiss of of an official representing a city devastated by a natural disaster. next week marks six months since hurricane maria made landfall on puerto rico, sending the island into darkness and changing life for nearly 3.3 million americans. still today, thousands of puerto ricans are 10% of the population have yet to have power restored. the puerto rican economy continues to struggle as a result of the devastation to
infrastructure, homes and businesses. hundreds of thousands of puerto ricans have moved to the mainland in the wake of the storm, perhaps never to return. while i am pleased the committee is finally holding this person hearing to say it is long overdue would be an understatement. the 2017 atlantic hurricane season was among the most active on record with 17 named storms. three major storms caused devastation in texas, florida, the u.s. virgin islands and puerto rico. the response to those storms by the trump administration was a study in contrast. after harvey, president trump tweeted, texas, we are with you today. we are with you tomorrow and we will be with you every single day after to restore, recover and rebuild. president trump later visited the affected area just four days
later. this is what america expects from the president and their fellow government in the wake of disaster. similarly, after hurricane irma struck florida, president trump tweeted just like texas, we are with you today, we are with you tomorrow and we will be with you every single day after to restore, recover and reveal. again, the president visited four days later as it should be, but after hurricane maria devastated puerto rico in parts of the u.s. virgin islands and president trump's words and actions were decidedly different. he tweeted, we cannot keep fema, the military and the first responders who have been amazing under the most difficult circumstances in puerto rico forever. the president also said the government of puerto rico wanted everything to be done for them and accused officials of poor
leadership and when we finally showed up in puerto rico, two weeks after the storm made landfall he chuckled -- chucked, i'm sorry, rolls of paper towels at survivors. president trump did not even bother to visit the u.s. virgin islands. for an american president to behave in such a way is beyond the pale. in keeping with the president's action, the federal government's response was decidedly different after each storm. fema had supplies and personnel prepositioned before hurricane harvey made landfall on august 25th and shortly there after, the federal government had more than 31,000 of federal employees on the ground in support of the response. fema also provided 3 million meals and 3 million liters of water for harvey survivors. likewise, for irma, there were more than 40,000 federal personnel including 2,600 fema
staff on the ground just before the storm struck on september 10th. fema also provided 6.6 million meals and 4.7 million liters of water to the region in the days just after irma made landfall. the trump administration's response to maria was far slower and smaller. even weeks after the storm, there were only a fraction of the personnel on the ground in puerto rico and the u.s. virgin islands as has been deployed to texas and florida. food and water were in short supply and to provide essentials like tarps and meals were botched, further slowing the response. electrical outages to critical facilities like hospitals require doctors in puerto rico to perform life-saving surgery
using the light of their cell phones. doctors in the u.s. virgin islands saw the only hospital on st. thomas badly damaged, rendering its medical floor and cancer treatment facility unusable. despite the devastation, it took 43 days for president trump to approve public assistance program disaster aid to puerto rico, quadruple the time -- the amount of time it took to approve such assistance to texas and florida. i understand that it was due to the trump's administration imposing conditions on this aid, never before required of any community, a deal some have called the puerto rico special. meanwhile, the president found the time to spend his days golfing, holding multiple fund raisers and fighting with nfl players about taking a knee during a game and tweet about
everything from fake news to the russian hoax. that is not the kind of leadership the people of puerto rico or any american affected by disasters expect or deserve. today i hope to hear from our first panel of witnesses about how the federal government is using funding approved by congress in communities hit by hurricanes, wildfires and other recent disasters. i am particularly interested in hearing from at minh stradminis about how fema can be better prepared to respond in the future. for the witnesses on our second panel, i hope to hear your perspective on the federal response and what we can do to support your recovery going forward. fema's mission is supposed to be
helping people before, during and after disasters. it's our job to conduct the oversight necessary to ensure the agency fulfills that mission. so i look forward to our discussion today. mr. chairman, you recognized two members who are here. miss pascal and miss velasquez and i ask unanimous consent to be allowed that the time. >> just for the records, for the mayors of san juan, puerto rico was invited to attend this hearing and unfortunate leigh, she could not make it today. >> she's actually in the hospital. >> that's what i said, unfortunately. >> yeah. >> we are pleased to have two distinguished panel of witnesses today on this important topic. the first includes brock long and the federal emergency management agency and next we have major general donald jackson, deputy commanding general of the civil and
emergency operations at the united states army corps of engineers, and finally, mr. john kelly, not the chief of staff, but rather the acting inspector general of the u.s. department of homeland security. the witnesses' full, written statements will be included in the record and the chair recognizes mr. long for his opening statement. >> chairman mccall and ranking member thompson and distinguished members of the committee it's an honor to be here in the spirit of improvement. i am here to describe fema's herculean effort to help millions of americans. there's always room for improvement. i'm the agency's worst critic and i've been in this job nine months and i realize we have a long way to go not just as fema, but the whole community. disaster response and the recovery the proper way has to be locally executed and that's the model that we've got to put forward. i hope today to unveil a new,
strategic plan right here in this committee and not only to you, but to the public and i know that we have a slide that i'd like to display if possible that i'll break down here in a minute. to put this season into context by numbers is nearly impossible. the numbers are huge. what we went through if you look at just harvey, irma, maria and the california wildfires, each one could have been catastrophic in their own right and much less happening weeks in rapid succession. we estimate roughly 47 million people were impacted by these, vents and that's 16% of the united states' population. 47 million people were forced to act to take a protective action whether they were asked to shelter in place, evacuate or whether they lost their home. it's a tremendous effort to help that amount of people in this country, and we've got a long way to go to improve and on the response side the federal government's effort can be
credited with saving 9,000 lives. there were thousands and thousands more saved in state responders and neighbor helping neighbor. on the recovery side just to put this into context, we registered 4.7 million people in the individual assistance processes to help kick-start recovery. i can't make people whole, but what we can do is put together assistance to help kick-start the recovery. that's more than katrina, sandy, rita combined and packed into three, four or five months in that time period. today we still get 13,000 calls a day for assistance that this agency is trying to work through and process. we learned a lot of lessons. we learned that we have to work with our private sector partners to build resilient and redundant backbones so we doerntd cruise the ability to communicate with one another and not only as responders, but to our citizens during the respond. >> we have to have a fragmented
recovery process. aid comes down from 17 different agencies and it's confusing and governments and mayors don't know what they're entitled to for the greatest good. i'm will to help congress formulate a more streamlined approach. we have to next housing. i'm going to ask you for support to give governors to put them in the -- to give them more control to understand how to help their communities recover from housing missions and not just have it solely on fema's shoulders. there's nothing more important than the trained emergency manager. i've had -- we've implemented 4,700 roughly local hires. we've hired 1300 of the best and brightest puerto ricans to help us go through the response and recovery. technically, i might be one of the largest employers over the next couple of months within the commonwealth and we are training them to be emergency managers, we're creating a backbone of emergency management that did
not exist before the storm and not only for the commonwealth, but for the 78 municipalities and the same thing is being done for the virgin islands and other states, as well. >> we have to invest more in pre-disaster mitigation to reduce the impacts of what we saw. we have to put more money up front rather than the back end. it makes no sense the way we do that in this country. we have to simplify processes. i've had numerous conversations with many of you about things that get in the way. this agency had to perform 2.3 million home inspections. put your mind around that for a monday. it takes a lot of people to perform that many. it's's slow, cumber sand prosets that slows recovery down, and i'm asking you the most and trust the survivor, rather than protect solely for fraud that draws the system out. going forward, the strategic plan we asked our constituents,
and i asked specifically, what do you want fema to be good at? where do you want us to be? how do we need to get there? we reached out to partners and non-governmental organizations and we got 2300 comments back and as a result we did a trend analysis and developed three major goals that my agency will strive for going forward. we are asking other agencies involved at the state and local levels to also embrace this as a unified approach. we have to have a unified approach going forward in disaster response and recovery. the three goals is one, we don't have a true culture of preparedness in this country. we have to design approaches to get them to be financially ready and we have to teach them tangible skills like cpr again and go back to the old civil defense days of being ready. we have to do more pre-disaster mitigation. we have to close the insurance
gap. far too many people are uninsured or underinsured. >> those who are insured will be quicker than those who are not. >> the second goal is readying the nation for catastrophic disasters any we are not ready like the earthquakes or the nation state threat. we have a lot of work to do. i'm asking for help. what i'm going to be asking for is we have to have commodity contracts, for example, the ability to do water, food or mres or hygiene kits in place at all levels of government. if you're expecting fema to do it that's not a sound plan. i'm wanting to move my staff out of the agency offices in our regional offices of headquarters and i want to put them and embed them every day with state and local agencies and move out so that i can be a part of the conversation every day and not just be on the scene in the response and recovery realm, but i want to be seen every day, planning, training, exercising and executing together.
finally, the third goal, reduce the complexity of fema. as i said, i'm my own critic. i know we have to streamline processes and specifically, we have to streamline the survivor process. we have to streamline the disaster grantee and subgrantee process and that takes a lot of work. ultimately, i'm asking for your help. i'm committed to do it and lead fema to prepare this nation and make it more resilient. thank you. >> thank you, administrator. the chair recognizes major general jackson. >> chairman mccalling, ranking member thompson and distinguished members of the commit committee. thank you for the opportunity to report today. the staff art act and 499. under the stafford act we support fema under the national response framework as the lead federal agency through public works and engineering. it provides temporary emergency power and temporary roofing and debris, and critical restoration
and temporary housing. under pl 8499, we plan, prepare for in coordination with local part lear. as part of this mission the core has more than 50 specially trained teams. the corps has pre-recorded, and generator installation. this year the core has supported fema-led recovery operations in support of multiple events including wildfires in california and hurricanes harvey, irma and maria. two of our divisions are currently fighting seasonal flooding along the ohio and mississippi rivers today and their ptributaries. debris removal is complete in ten of 11 debris basins across six cities.
we expect this to be complete by the end of april. the corps was given seven assignments for the california wildfires. 87% of the debris removal and remediation is completed in lake, mend sin on, napa and sonoma counties and we expect this to be completed by the end of march. this included missions in all esf-3 mission areas to include restoration under the pl-99 authority. debris management sport is ongoing. the core was given 86 irma-related mission assignments and 39 maria mission assignments and that included navigation, restoration, levy and dam safety under the 8499 authority. as of this morning the core has completed 2900 generator, and over 1900 in puerto rico.
the mission is complete in the u.s. virgin islands with 890 generators still installed at critical facilities across puerto rico. under fema authority we continue to assist puerto rico with operational maintenance of critical and non-federal regulators and one to two megawatt grids remain in service today. this includes one in vieques. we expect it to end mid-may. the corps has completed 78,000 temporary roofing installations, 13,000 in florida and 3600 in the u.s. virgin islands and over 59,000 in puerto rico. the missions are complete and we have less than 300 remaining to complete in puerto rico. we expect to be complete by the first week of april. corps debris subject matter experts provided technical assistance to georgia and florida in response to irma. debris removal is 93% complete
for st. thomas and st. john. in puerto rico, debris removal is 93% complete and it's working in 38 municipalities with debris removal complete. we expect to be complete with disposal by mid-june. the corps worked closely with officials with texas and florida to manage local flood control during rainfall. the levy teams inspected 17 priority dams and worked with prepa to coordinate the spillway dam. under the stafford act authority to assist the commonwealth in conducting repairs to the power grid repairs and like the esf-3 missionaries it did not have prerecorded contracts and instead we competitively awarded contracts for temporary line, and line repair required to support the mission. this included acquiring over $283 million in materials
critical to the restoration effort many with unique specifications for the puerto rican grid. the corps is partnering with preppa in this effort and has 92% of customers thus par. in coordination with fema, preppa and the commonwealth we have right sized our contracted workforce. demobilization of the contractors will be complete late april. remaining work will be turned over to crews under the control of preppa. it will continue to power seco as they continue to plan with the sites. remaining materials will replenish depleted inventories on the island through mid-may. the core remains committed with other activities across the nation despite the heavy involvement and we remain ready and poised to assist in future events as they occur. this concludes my testimony and i look forward to answering questions you may have.
thank you. >> thank you. the chair recognizes mr. kelly for a statement. >> ranking member thompson and members of the committee, thank you for allowing me to discuss the 2017 hurricanes. the women and men who quickly are answered the call and rolled up their sleeves and help the people affected by three major hurricanes. harvey, irma and maria made landfall within four weeks of each other. according to noaa these storms rank as three of the five most expensive storms in u.s. history making it the 2017 hurricane season the costliest in u.s. history. this even topped the 2005 season that included hurricane katrina. in response to the unprecedented disasters in texas, florida and puerto rico, the oig deployed staff from the local offices as well as other auditors, analysts
and criminal investigators from around the country. oig staff on the ground creates an independent unit that oversees disaster response and recovery activities, detects and alerts people of a systemic problems and ensures accountability of funds and identifies vulnerabilities that provide stakeholders with timely information to,a dress operational challenges. the presence of our criminal investigators assures stakeholders that dhs/oi dpshgs is the zero it will rans approximately see. our investigators have the national center for disaster fraud. they also actively participate with local task forces established by the u.s. attorneys. finally, they briefed fema and multijurisdictional task forces on fraud, waste and abuse. it is disappointing, but disasters often result in an
uptick in fraud. in fiscal year 2017 we received more than 4,800 fema-related hot line complaints. in the first five months of fiscal year 2018, we received over 14,600 hot line complaints. that is more than triple the total amount we received in 2017. from these complaints we initiated already 220 investigations of hurricane harvey, irma and maria issues and these numbers continue to grow every day. for the 2017 hurricane season fema faced both situational challenges caused by the magnitude of the disasters and systemic challenges that have persisted over time. responding to three major hurricanes at one time is difficult. in 2017 the response was further complicated by hurricanes irma and maria devastating the caribbean islands of puerto rico and the virgin islands which are
remote, not easily accessible locations. this poses additional logistical challenges to an already overtaxed response workforce. to further complicate matter, much of the infrastructure was already in disrepair prior to the damages caused by the hurricanes. in addition to the situational challenges, fema faces persistent, systemic vulnerabilities such as procurement practices and duplication of benefits, inadequate staffing, and grant management issues and protecting survivors' home and property from further damages and providing funds to high-risk entities. if left unmitigated these challenges can delay survivor recovery and put billions of federal dollars at risk. to this end, we've issued several lesson learned reports and response to recovery efforts. this work highlights ongoing concerns that fema must address
to ensure it effectively meets its mission and improves the efficiency and effectiveness of program operations. looking forward, the challenge is identified during the recent disasters any highlight the importance of proactive and thorough oversight as well as continuing improvement of fema in executing its mission. as agents of positive change, we have over 30 ongoing and planned reviews and strive to make recommendations that improve fema's efficiency and effectiveness. positively affect disaster survivors and safeguard public funds. mr. chairman, this concludes my oral statement. i welcome any questions your members may have. thank you. >> thank you, mr. kelly. i now recognize myself for questions. administrator, first, let me commend you for your emergency response efforts in my home state of texas. katy high school turned into a forward operating base with the national guard active duty. we saw private citizens and the
cajun navy and fema was there to pre-position assets after the president declared it an emergency, and i think that made a big difference, but i think there is a confusion of the role of fema versus the role that the state and locals have to play, as well, working as a team together in the recovery efforts. i did speak with my governor, governor abbott recently who one of his frustrations was he had to deal with so many different organizations, and i know we've talked about this, what is your vision to possibly streamline and make more efficient fema process in these disasters? >> thank you for the question. so, first of all, i would acknowledge that governor abbott is one of the most bold governors who has truly owned every bit of the disaster response and recovery and that's the way that it should work. i believe texas is a model and i say that because it truly is where we need to go as federally supported, state managed and
locally executed and fema is not a first responder and fema should not be the primary and only responder. my job is to work directly with governors to understand what the response and recovery goals and the preparedness goals are, organize our resources to help that governor achieve those goals, and in texas, i do believe that that's the model that was played out and that's the model we should be seeking for. the problem particularly is what's complex is housing, and as i said, i would like to lay out a new vision for housing, but it would require granting authorities being given to me to help from the congress to reorganizing and we're not housing experts and we're good at doing emergency housing provisions and we're good at sheltering and good at blue tarp missions with the army corps of engineers and we're good at transitional shelter authority and we put nearly 7 million people in hotels -- excuse me,
4.7 million nights in hotels has been coordinated to this point. it would take a person over 12,000 years to stay in hotels that many nights. let us identify what we're good at. give the governors more granting authority to handle the difficult housing issues and then clearly design the handoff between fema and the partnering agencies. streamline what we're all responsible for and how we should work together and in some cases the disaster survivor may get up to 15 knocks at the door from fema to other federal government agencies and from the state governments and to non-governmental organizations and it's confusing. we have to do one inspection that cuts across the federal government perspective and down through the agencies. we have to streamline what we're doing. >> that's absolutely right. one-stop shop. i look forward to working with you on granting authority for you, as well. major general, this is a map that army corps you've probably
seen this, i've talked about it a lot and it created the barker addicts dam, but cypress creek there is a proposed levy that was never built so what happened in hurricane harvey was that cypress creek overflowed, went into barker and attics reservoir and then a controlled spillage was done at about 1:30 in the morning and those residents downstream were not very happy about that. it filled up the bayous and then it flooded downtown houston. so it had sort of a cascading effect here. this gets more into flood mitigation. i think, you know you always hear, you know, the prevention piece is so important. can you tell me whether the cypress creek reservoir, the third reservoir is on your list of projects? >> congressman, thanks. i can see from here even without my glasses that's a 1940s plan,
and i think you'll agree that a lot has changed in the hydrology of the region upstream and downstream, a lot of development which increases significantly the runoff. to answer your question, we have a number of projects that we have identified that we're going to try to put forth to the administration for funding in the supplemental that congress passed, to be able to take a look at that reservoir and other opportunities to improve the flood -- >> my time -- if i can just say, it's the governor's number one priority, you told me that and it's also my number one priority is to get that cypress reservoir built and reinforced barker attics to make sure this doesn't happen again. 50 inches of rain is a lot of rain. we also put language in the supplemental for $90 billion to expedite some of these project, and i would hope you would be able to do this as quickly as possible. i think one of the concerns we always have with the army corps is it takes too long.
the studies and the actual construction, and i think that's something that congress has given you authority to do it more expeditiously and i look forward to working with you to get this done as quickly as possible because it's flooded three times in two years and it really, you know, again, announced the provisions and we need to get this thing done. so with that, i now recognize the ranking member. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. mr. administrator, you talked about some improvements that you hoped to see in fema going forwa forward. would you share those written improve a improvements with this committee? >> yes, sir. >> are they completed at this time? >> so what we tried to do, i believe in streamlined and concise documents. basically, this is an outline of
the entire strategic plan in one page that outlines our goals and objectives. >> very good. is it your testimony also that you have all of the money you need to do your job? >> can i get back to you on that? i'm very thankful for the supplementals that went forward. i do have a concern that with the magnitude of this event, i have the ability in fema to reimburse everybody but myself and one of the problems that i think we're running into within the agency is that the operational budget and staffing pattern, as mr. kelly, occluded to, doesn't grow with the disaster response. with the. a paperwork and requests that come into the agency ex exponentially increased. but the pattern to the agency stays the same. >> so that means you will get back with me?
>> yes, sir. i would be happy to respond now writing. thank you. >> you got a timeframe on that? on your response? >> can i have two weeks, sir? >> you have. >> thank you. >> is it also your testimony that the response to florida, texas, puerto rico and the virgin islands was acceptable under fema's present standards? >> well, i think the term acceptable lies in the eye of the beholder. you know, i'm sure that there are people that feel that fema slighted them out in the field and didn't give them the assistance that they deserve. it is tough to deal with each and every community. as a whole, i'm very proud of the response that was put forward and the model of federally supported state managed and locally executed played out in california, texas
and florida. in regards to puerto rico, we're still pushing forward everyday. i believe we still have 3,000 staff in place along with the local hires that are there. in regards to things that food and commodity, the amount of commodities that we put into puerto rico is one of the estimates i saw was close to $2 billion. that alone would rank as one of our top 20 most costly disasters in the history of fema. >> i thank you for that. but i'm trying to get brock long's opinion as to whether or not you are confident that a response to texas, florida, the virgin islands and puerto rico was acceptable to your standards. i'm not talking about anybody else. >> i would say yes, it was sebl.
but do we have room for improvement? yes, always. >> what room for improvement would you ask for? >> here again, improvement is not just my agency. it is the emergency management profession as a whole. what i mean by that is, as i said, catastrophic readiness bothers me from the standpoint of do all counties, do states, have their own ability to push mres and life-saving commodities. have they written disaster cost recovery plans that will help them how to understand how to receive funding from 17 different government agencies. they are outcome-driven. they know how to commit to the communities. are we up front with all levels of government and in an integrated fashion to where we are pushing forward to do the greatest good with the tax paying dollars. >> can you get this committee in writing what you consider the
acceptable consequences for the response to those for disasters? >> sure. yes, sir. >> thank you. >> now administrator long, i understand that trump administration is requiring puerto rico to use public assistance alternative procedures on a permanent work project as a condition to receiving public assistance grants. why is puerto rico being treated differently than other areas? we're not treating puerto rico differently. we have been playing phone tag yesterday and this morning. everything is negotiated. we believe section 428 in the stafford act is the most prudent way it move forward. we briefed the governor and ultimately he requested that. we don't strong arm people into doing things by any means. that's not the way i want to conduct business. the reason we went with 428 is because of the sheer magnitude of the amount of damage to the
infrastructure and deferred maintenance problems we ran into. for example, there were,000 thousands of roadway obstructions. it would be too cumbersome and costly for fema to write a project work sheet for each one of those obstructions that could be reversioned and reversioned time and time again and fema ends up being there for 20 years. >> i'm reclaiming my time. mr. chair, i would like to have your response to that specific question in writing back to the committee. >> yes, sir. >> thank you. >> i yield back. >> ranking member yields back. per the agreement with the ranking member's request, i ver opening statement. >> thank you for the ability to speak here today. i want to roy you boecognize yor
your work on last year's hurricane season. our disaster response capabilities must continually evolve to meet the types and frequencies of the disasters that we face. while much has been debated about the response to puerto rico and virgin island, i am here today to find solutions. i'm worried about the toll that these unprecedented hurricanes have taken on the people of puerto rico. i am here today because the people of puerto rico are losing hope. more than 300,000 have left the island. and i am here because i'm worried that before we know it, hurricane season will be before us again. the truth is, before the
hurricanes made land fall, it was widely known that if a natural disaster, especially one of catastrophic proportions were to hit the island, the most vulnerable asset was puerto rico's energy grid. and as everyone in this room knows, this turned out to be the case. so months after the hurricanes, some areas still look as they were hit yesterday. i was in my hometown of jabakoa could twoe two weeks ago where maria made land fall. it looks like the hurricane struck yesterday. they still desperately need our help. so as we get to the half year, i want it sto say to you mr. chai,
we are clear what comes as of june when hurricane season starts again. as we hear from dhs, feeka ama local, i want to have something no place for natural disasters. mr. long, we all know, we all knew, hurricane irma, category w5s was in its track to hit puerto rico and we all knew how vulnerable puerto rico was in terms of the power grid. what steps proactively knowing what we knew then, we need to take in toshd quickorder to be deployed to deploy federal assets that we need. not to wait two weeks later to
send the comfort when we knew that no hospital in puerto rico will have electricity. the people in puerto rico, u.s. virgin island, texas, florida, california and frankly, all those subject to the wrath of climate change destruction need to have the full faith and confidence in institutions meant to keep america safe. i look forward to hearing about what has worked so far and what gaps this committee can address moving forward. thanks again for allowing me to participate today and i yield back. >> gentle woman yields back. i recognize delegate plaquet for opening remarks. >> thank you very much. thank you, chairman mccall, and
ranking member thompson to say a few words before the committee for this hearing on preparedness response and rebuilding. as we all know nowler canes are a memory that cost dozens of injuries and deaths in the u.s. virgin islands. the psychological impact is unparallel as occurrence of two category 5 hurricanes making land fall in a specific area over a span of two weeks. massive amounts of aid are needed to address victims who very much remain faced with the daunting task of rebuilding their lives. i'll give you a couple of examples where this is quite evident. it has been found that 19,000 homes have been damaged. however the army corps installed 3,658 blue roofs. it became a long negotiation with fema for approval and
spending for the shelter restoration and essential power program. the step program. the federal government's ingenious alternative to temporary housing to get people back in their homes rather than put them in temporary shelters long-term. this rapid repair program was announced late february. that would be september is the hurricane, february, six months after the storms, and homeowners are still awaiting inspection and approvals. the next hurricane season begin june 1st. mounds of hurricane debris, a second example being, including appliances and scrap metal disposed near public schools and impose real j health and safety risk to the people. debris removal on st. thomas and st. john was managed by the army corps of engineers on st. croix three times the size of st. thomas debris collection was run by the local government. debris was collected three times faster on st. croix as on st.
thomas. you heard testimony here this morning that they are going to be picking up that debris for removal from the islands this week. that's for islands on st. thomas, 32 square miles. and 84 square miles of space on st. croix. six months for debris removal. as of today, the period of the 100% federal cost share for debris removal and emergency protective measures ended though congress requested and extension from fema. i would ask unanimous consent to submit for the record a letter from the governor of the virgin islands on february 14, 2018, questioning an extension of debris removal a hundred percent federal cost share and a march 13th letter from franking member peter defossao, and your own ranking member, benny thompson on the committee on homeland
security, requesting of the president that this extension be granted. >> without objection, so ordered. >> thank you. progress has been made but the territory hasn't been able to finish all projects by march 15th deadline. it simply does not have the financial resources able to cover the local match on the remainder. the territory is still awaiting modular structure for use by schools and medical centers until then public schooling for the children of the virgin islands is operating on four-hour rotations. this is expected to continue until at least the next school year. access to care at hospitals remains limited. dialysis patients, in-patient care and other services in the entire u.s. virgin islands remain off-island. congress set up a system where fema structural demands that it guards its budget and gives only when requested for pressed by local governments. this is a structure which must be changed.
it does not support the best interest of american citizens living in disaster areas. fema has to end, as we've heard here, is willing and needs support of congress to streamline the processes so that results get to last people. i look forward to the discussion and more questions on how to resolve these issues. thank you. >> gentle woman yields back. now to governor gonzalez for an opening statement. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i would like it thank you and all ranking members for this committee for calling this hearing and allowing us to be here in such an important matter. i thank you witness for answering the call and coming before congress to answer for the response to an unprecedented disaster, affecting millions,
including on puerto rico and virgin islands. more than five months now. we saw an event that none of us expected to see on american soil in our life times. as i mentioned in prior testimony, jurisdiction of the size of connecticut, if that lost all power generation and distribution, and most communication and system collapse, no one would allow connecticut to be without power forsome months. that's the size of puerto rico. i think that when we hecheck on that, we have 90% of generation but that doesn't mean people have power in their homes. when you look to what is the goal to finish, most agencies say that could be march or may of this year.
we are talking about five or six months waiting for power. not to account the hundreds of people with diseases or medical conditions that require for them to get a generator or have power in their houses. according to fema and to the u.s. army corps of engineers, this has been the biggest mission in history. millions of puerto ricans ask themselves, what is taking so long? one of my biggest question says how much resources both agencies need to finish the job. how long would it take to finish the last line in the center part of the island. which we still got a lot of towns with less than 40% of power. all things are current under discussion. but the estimate of the corps is that restoration should be done
by the end of march and we're not talking about having a reliable system. we are talking about the level of the destruction. defying everyone's expectation. my biggest concern is here. that we or any part of america spending parts there bb what should happen? you will have a lot of people angry waiting for that kind of response. i did think the people of puerto rico are i havery patient waitio receive that kind of help. we know that our ancient infrastructure was in bad shape before the hurricane. that's the reason i thank all members of this committee and members of the house who voted for resources in the last supplemental. i think that supplemental will help puerto rico.
one of my biggest questions is how long will it take? what do you need to finish the job in 30 days? we cannot say that may or june or july are the best scenario for finished and having a hundred percent recovery on the island. we will face the hurricane season again. and this is one of the biggest challenges we've got. and i ask mr. chairman to allow a letter i just sent to commander general and district commander to army corps of engineers asking them to extend the mission of the u.s. army corps and contacts are provided to an island set to expire in march 19 and april 7 if you allow that to happen. >> without objectings, so ordered. >> of course we've got a lot of questions. but biggest of all those
questions will be, do we have the resources? do we have the materials? do we have the crews? i do know that that's not an issue of the corps of engineer but in a moment like this we want you to finish. thank you, mr. chairman. with that i yield back the balance of my time. >> back to members of the full committee. mr. rogers of alabama. >> thank one mr. chairman. mr. long, good to have you here. refreshing to have a witness without doesn't have an accent before this committee. before i get to my questions, i wanted to address some of the comments about some local officials being disgruntled over this disaster. i was voted as local county official first. then coming here. i've seen a lot of disasters over that time. these are traumatic events that are overwhelming to communities
and is a hurricane katrihour cc. there's never going to be the perfect recovery. we need to remember how far we've come. after the hurricane struck new orleans, that was a very poor performance. by anybody's standard. but fema has come a long way since then. i was on this committee and down in new orleans on this committee. but the last fema administrator was a complete pro. and this fema administrator is top quality too. they are going a good job. they've done a really good job. we need to keep in mind that perfection is never going to happen. mr. long, there was a story that came out that disturbed me. in february. reported that dtiffany brown wa
ordered $156 million contract to provide some 30 million meals to puerto rico in the wake of hurricane maria. she delivered 50,000 with limited staff working for her. then the story described how shot ooet mea shotty the meals were and how incapable she was. turns out she was getting a lot of government contracts over the years she was not able to perform. how is that happening? just not happening in fema. how did this woman get this huge contract that she couldn't keep, fortunately. we had someone that took it. but how did that happen? >> so there was never through the federal awarded procurement systems that we use government-wide, particularly fema as well, never an alert on the background that this company was not able to perform. to meet ramifications of a contract. let me back up to talk about the magnitude as well when it comes to procurement and contracts.
going into 2017 hurricane, we had mres, blue tarps, plastic sheeting, whatever. we had additional contracts to cover the entire country if california to the virgin islands. out of the nearly 2,000 contacts we had, only 3 were cancelled. tribute being one of them. but there was no alert process that went through that said stay way from this company. now of the two companies that defaulted on three contract, two of them no tax-paying dollars went out to. you're correct we spent $225,000 on 50,000 meals that were delivered. not packaged correctly. timing of getting meals for whatever reasons they defaulted on the contract. we cancelled in our due diligence. 3 out of 1,973 contracts were
cancelled. now my agency a result of going through this because there may have been other parts of the government that didn't do their due diligence to throw red flags into the system. now it is incumbent on my agency to be sure that if the actions that were not taken or they were trying to defraud us or whatever that we alert them into the system as following department process if deemed necessary. >> okay. let me ask you a shifting gears, during these multiple disasters, how did your emergency communications work given the fact that power, we just heard, power has been out for so long. did that affect the communities from connecting with officials? >> i think we have to reach out to private sector partners that we're being desense advertised to our cell phones and digital technologies. stepping away from landlines.
in california wildfires, good portion of the capability was burned up. a good portion of the capability was blown out by hurricane and maria. any time you lose the ability to communicate, two things happen. you lose situational awareness. you lose the ability for example in my opinion it wasn't that there wasn't enough food or water on at island, it was communicating to people to where to go to get it. it makes everything difficult. we have to go back and navigate by stars, per se, to enter people into the individual assistance programs. we have to strike up a very thoughtful conversation with vendors of how to build a system that doesn't go down. so we don't lose the capability. crucial. beyond neema fema's ability do it. >> thank you. >> gentleman from texas is recognized.
>> let me thank the chairman and ranking member. i hope we can have succeeding meetings on the ongoing recovery of our respective communities. to date, the numbers may be somewhat inaccurate but let me offer to say there were 88 deaths due to hurricane harvey in the state of texas and about 30 as of september 4th in my surrounding area including con sta constituents who were family of six who drown trying to escape in northeast houston. i think is important to acknowledge again that when we speak we speak for our brothers and sisters in the virgin island, puerto rico, certainly in florida, louisiana and certainly in california. we speak in two different formats.
one in appreciation being at command station from the moment hurricane harvey hit. being based at the convention center in houston, there is no doubt it was a collective effort to we depended on fema's rescue part of their work. certainly along with them the coast guard. and i am personally reminded of the first responders as we sat with police and fire with two phones to our ears as people were calling in to be rescueed. those were difficult, dangerous and troubling times that many colleagues have been involved in in their own respective districts. administrator, thank you. as you know i had more than 300 plus individuals in my district, not even enough, on monday last, who were denials, people in
hotels that were crying and frustrated about whether they could stay or find housing. we are still in a period of recovery. and i think it responsibiliimpo express frustration. let me quickly try to express my interest and concern with breaking up fema or having fema have components of the rescue period which is at early stage and long-term recovery. i have a text on my phone from pastor that indicates that ininspkto ininspini inspectors came and there was four feet of water. inspectors said there was four inches and were denied. all local officials would acknowledge that the number of denials in our community were enormous. particularly hitting minority communities. inspectors were not assessing some of our older homes properly.
one statement which i'm trying to research but i think it is important that there were too many black employees that were hired that were temporary. we hope that is not true. my question to you is, what are your thoughts about reforming fema on the rescue immediate and then the long-term part of it. as you answer that question, would you answer the question about the enormous number of vacancies that you hope to put into the record, i ask with unanimous consent to put into the record, which an enormous amount of vak vacancies. i don't know how you can do your job as indicated with so many vacancies. >> without objection so ordered. >> with resources, texas general land office is trying to staff up, we need 90. i understand there is 33.
i don't know if fema will help with monies coming in as part of fema assistance dollars to be able to help do housing part of the second half of the work. could you start on the reordering of fema, staffing and how are we going to recover? let me also acknowledge mayor turner and harris county judge, governor, all of us working together. i yield to you. >> thank you. it is my job to coordinate firepower of 32 government agencies down to do life-sustaining mission which from where i sit was pretty unprecedented. the number of lives save end different things that are there. the problem is that it's got to be more than fema from the standpoint and recovery. but i believe it starts on the p prepareness end. for example, too much of an insurance gap. we learned that in harvey. in texas alone.
we got to go back to basics to say that any house can flood. regardless if you are shown on flood map or not. double the amount of insurance policies. the level of assistance that fema puts out on average through individual assistance is like 3,000, 4,000, $5,000. if you're properly insured after the wrath pay out is like $110,000.afterthe wrath pay out $110,000. how do behelp people get properly insured to speed up recovery? i cannot help make people whole, as you realize. we still have a lot of people in hotels. tough part is transitioning into a hotel and more aftof a housin solution on their property. we're not housing experts. that's where i ask for granting power for the governor to purchase their own trailers, their own innovative housing tech capabilities that are out there.
i believe a governor can do it faster, quicker and cheaper than fema ever can. i'm having to physically buy manufacture id homes. that is a cumbersome, time-consuming process. i put travel trailers back on the table because there is more volume and easier access to travel trailers to do that. but i'm not the housing expert. we have to have more conversations with hud, sba, what are the swim lanes and capabilities that we need. thank you. >> gentle lady's time is expired. recognize mr. perry. >> thanks, mr. chairman. gentlemen, thanks for your attendance. i will start as a guy who has worked in this arena a bilittle bit, state and federal disasters, as pennsylvania guardsman. especially in the broad scale disasters, from fema standpoint and from the corps's standpoint as well, is there anything that the guard can do better?
is there anything that inhibits us? i know it is hard to preposition. you don't know what you need sometimes until you need it, right? you have different states and different services, whether air guard or army guard with different requirements and so on and so forth. i'm just wondering from your standpoint, is there anything that we fall short on? anything that we can improve state to state to respond and be helpful and response in a critical time in need. >> first of all, my shat off to the national guard. you know, here again, one of the most critical partners that we have and one of the most critical assets that a governor has. we saw them doing gentleman's work when it comes to mres and saving lives. brought to me is information that falls in live with
emergency compact aid and emac and the speed in which national guard assets are reimbursed. i don't have the authority, if a governor, if you or the governor of new york and say you gover r roseo and you work out with the guard i don't have the ability to reimburse you directly. it has to go through the governor to you. so you are asking the requestinging governor to reimburse you back. that's the problem as i understand it. i don't know how to solve that problem. >> that's not a fema relationship so to speak. more after guard relationship? >> yes. so emac is a government nor to governor contract. i don't know if you want fema involved. >> i'm not saying we do. i just want to know where the short cummings are so they can be improved. >> that's it. if i'm involved, then you have
to do my part and you don't want that. >> it is the speed between which governors come to agreement and inform you? >> right. and reimburse each other. >> okay. >> they have to cut that c contract up front. >> okay. another question. i'm sensitive to some of the things that my good friend ms. gonzalez spoke to regarding pairen and part of the information i have, september 20th when the hurricane hit puerto rico. irma ten days prior. so they sustained damage from irma. now we're, you know, nearly seven months on? right? it's march 20th will be seven months. from the information i have, puerto rico's power is restored. i'm concerned about generation versus -- the information i have says power restored to customers the 0%.
virgin island 9 the 9.8. st. thomas 99.1. or st. croix. st. thomas and st. croix. we had questions about crews. how many crews on the island. and we have get the information about preppa. how bad it was prior to the storm and ports of entry whether air or sea were damaged heavily and even if you had prepositioned assets, all those things with standing, how many crews do you know, if you do know were are still on the ground on the island and to do this work, how many do you think are required? >> i would need to yield to general jackson. >> sure, congressman. at the height of the activity on puerto rico where we had the most number of boots on the ground, we had about 6 of,000 line workers. that were a combination of what fell under the corps of
engineers command and control and what fell underneath the contracts that preppa is managing. today corps of enathat changed . h there is a unified command group. head by carlos torres. it includes representatives from the governor's office. and ef day they meet and look at material availability. prioritization of line repair. they make decisions on how lines are assigned. what requirements are out there. >> sir, i don't want to cut you short but i'm out of time. i'm interested to know what your interested is of a hundred percent distribution completion on the island, if you know. that's a long time to be without power. could you imagine, right? >> yes, it has been a long time.
we are estimating, or we estimate probably mid may before a hundred percent of all of the stuff is done. >> mid may? >> yes, sir. >> thank you. i yield. >> gentlemen yields. mr. payne is recognized. >> thank one mr. chairman. thank you for being here. i appreciate your testimony. this thing focused on territories in puerto rico and nearly 1 in 3 schools lack electricity and many also lack consistent access to clean water. this has forced many schools to operate on limited daily schedule leading to school-aged children in puerto rico missing out on more than 20 million full days of learning. what plans do have you in place to ensure that no displaced child is out of an educational
setting for more than 30 days in the future? >> congressman, i wou have to get back to you in writing on that. i don't know. >> we have situations that i brought up in the past surrounding children even their needs during disasters. we feel more attention has to be paid to the special circumstances not being with their parents. parents reconnecting with them after disasters. the disaster i use the most is several years ago that tornadoes in oklahoma, there was an issue about reuniting children with their parents after the situation.
and also, the need to identify areas of learning. their day care centers sometimes aren't listed an first responders without went right past because they are in private areas. so we need to designate how we locate children as well in these areas. it is something i've been a proponent of making sure that we have some type of, you know, they're not little people, they are children. they need guidance and someone to look out for them during these issues. as they arise. and reun find thified with thei.
so please keep that in mind as you good forward. and also we can discuss it more at a later date. >> and just a couple resources we do have resources for children and disasters. i agree with you. we have to do more. i have two young boys, 11 and 8. i think, but here again, this is far greater than fema. this is partnership with fema, nongovernmental organizations he and department of education for example. there are tons of statistics. for instance, spousal abuse goes up after a disaster. we have to recognize these things. but here again, i don't know if fema is the expertise when it comes to this. we need partners. also, in the past, the national evacuation tracking systems for large scale disaster evacuations of trying to reconnect. we have established family reunification concepts after disasters as well.
we might need to further promote and train at local and state level at what the availability of resources are. thank you. >> absolutely. last year, you know, fema had national advisory council recommend creation of something along that line of support, center of excellence type training. so you know, that might be an area to look at as well. thank you. i yield back. >> mr. donovan is recognized. >> thank you. thank you all for coming in and sharing your expertise with us. i deal with the emergency preparedness response and communications and five minutes of questioning even with my colleagues is not enough time to delve into the areas as we have put the title of this hearing, lessons learned. i was wondering if there was a way could you compile for us the lessons we've learned from these
disasters. it is absolutely amazing to me the amount of disasters you had to deal with same you will tinusly or consecutively with the resources you have. we haven't even talked about wildfires and mudslides in california. hurricanes we've had. and in my role as chairman, it would be very helpful for us if we add compilation of all things you have learned so we could help in the future. puerto rico, virgin islands, florida, texas, louisiana, they will get hit with other hurricanes. my understanding from my colleagues who live in tornado areas, there isn't much notice. but for hurricanes, off coast of africa, you can predict where they are going to hit. it would be helpful if we had that so we could help pup i visited prt reek about three weeks after the storm and
recent recently with jennifer and john rutherford went down to see how the recovery is coming. the island kawas consumed. the storm is bigger thanni the island. my recollection is it moved about 8 miles an hour after hitting land fall and for36 hours dumped more rain than they usually have a year. when we flew over in black hawk helicopters, and as i told you, i'm afraid of heights. but we went up to visit the island and observe all of the devastation. the island was brown. and the challenges of getting supplies to folks who were just isolated because they are an island and i suspect when you have a disaster you are responding to in mainland, you could drive supplies to and after the storm is over, it is very difficult. airport being closed.
the port being closed. first responders on puerto rico being victims themselves. very challenging. we witnessed a few weeks ago to see how general, you have to take telephone polesly helicopters up to the mountains to get them into the ground. then by helicopters string along the electrical wiring to provide the poor folks up there with electricity. it is an amazing challenge. and one again that would be helpful if you could tellness some type of report of what we can do to better be prepared for the future. one of the things i would ask to you do for me, brock, is i have a lot of attacked housing where i live. i represent parts of new york city. and to mitigate for flood insurance, a lot of people that live in my district cannot raise their houses. so if fema could come up with
mitigators to those folks who can't raise homes so they can see reductions in their flood insurance. last thing before hi time runs out, i have a constituent who took that responsibility to speak about and are trying to get flood insurance. but they are not able to pay it if nu in full at one time. part of the act of 2014 created the system to pay bay payment plan. one particular one, chemile, who tried to do that and the system is not yet in place. if could you look into that for me. this woman and many people are trying to dot right thing. protect their properties by having national flood insurance but can't play in full or in whole and want the payment plan we have put into place. if could you look into that for me i would very much appreciate it. i yield back the remainder of my
time. thank you. >> gentleman yields. ms. demminges from florida is recognized. >> thank you, mr. chairman, to our ranking member and witnesses. thank you for being here today and thank you for all that you do to restore families after natural disasters. i grew up in florida. still represent florida. served as first responder. so i'm no stranger to hurricanes. fema denied about 23% of 2.9 million applications for individual assistance after hurricanes harvey, irma, maria with majority of those denials being in florida. several of my constituents say they have been rejected for technical its. typos or omitted document. rather than plain language
request, they received a four-page denial. my office assisted one of the families homes that was destroyed by patches of toxic mold covering every surface. but because they missed one insurance form they faced termination of their transitional housing assistance. foch fortunately we were able to help them with their application and they qualified for additional 18 months of continued rental assistance. my question is, how does this denial rate compare to prior disasters and what factors might explain the difference, if any? >> i don't know where the rate compares, one one of the problems that we have is we immediately go out and say, call 1-800-621-fema. we blanked communities. the problem i have is we need to
change the dialogue. call 1-800-621-fema, if you meet this criteria. it sets up a negative relationship with the disaster survivor with our agency right off the bat. it leads to too many calls being rejected. if your individuals are not given assistance because of technical its, i would like to work with you on what those technicalities are so we can see if it is the way the web system is designed, maybe we got it wrong and i can refer you back. i believe we should leave no stone unturned when it comes to sit zeps. >> so would i say if a person did not have all of the documentation they needed, do you know if the process a
automatic denial that point or do you seek additional information. >> i wouldn't say it is a denial but the problem is that people don't come prepared to the first phone call because we're not doing enough to say, when you call, make sure you have your insurance information, social security number and in some cases i think a messaging problem we have to get better at the first time. maybe they come back and are put in. if there is a true fundamental flaw in the system, and i'm all ears, i would be happy to understand and change. >> thank you for that. earlier you talked about texas and it being a model. i believe you said that, you know, in order to appropriately respond it has to be federally supported. state managed and locally executed. is that correct? >> right. >> as i mentioned in my opening statement, could you talk a little bit about the florida
response and maybe perhaps we might be able to improve and at which level? >> so governor scott has done a tremendous job as well. me calling out scott specifically is not a shot at them as a model. florida is a geld standard as well. they are also flush with resources too.geld standard as well. they are also flush with resources too.ogeld standard as well. they are also flush with resources too.lgeld standard as well. they are also flush with resources too.fdgeld standard as well. they are also flush with resources too.geld standard as well. they are also flush with resources too.geld standard as well. they are also flush with resources too.dgeld standard as well. they are also flush with resources too. standard as well. they are also flush with resources too. what i appreciate is when a governor takes over response and recovery and give me clear outcome goals of what they are striving to and think can better resources from a financial standpoint or physical resource standpoint. i would like fema to become more after block granting agency. to fund the response and have the community recover the way they see fit. i don't know florida better than you, ma'am. i don't know florida better than governor scott. how do i get authority and arrange support so florida can
recover the way florida wants to recover. and for puerto rico to recover the way puerto rico wants to recover. director russ maul will testify to say, here are best practices. here is how to use funding to create a resilient florida. i'm tired of going back into communities and repeating this vicious cycle of things get blown out, repair p it. things get blown out, we repair it. that's why i believe we have to do more mitigation on the front end. the insurance gap is growing. it is frustrating. when people are uninsured or let their insurance lapse. their house was paid off, they don't keep their insurance. trying to keep more money for retirement. my individual assistant program grows daily. the need for fema is growing daily. i want it to go the opposite
direction. but we can't do it alone. >> thank you. i yield back. >> mr. higgins is recognized. >> thank you, there chairman. and thank you, mr. long for your continued service. mr. kellie, thank you for being here today. i represent south louisiana, gentlemen, and we certainly are well experienced regarding hurricanes and natural disasters. and recovery thereafter. my state provided support to texas, prestage and rescue operation. sheltering prior to harvey and in the wake of harvey. i personally went into texas immediately after half i have on thursday morning and participated in rescue operations on the ground in texas. i would like to talk about infrastructure challenges in the
couldn't ne continental united states regarding puerto rico. regarding process for reimbursement to the states for domestic response, mr. long, what do you believe is an acceptable timeframe for reimbursement and how can fema improve the process for reimbursement to the states that at their own expense sometimes tremendous expense immediate participate in shelter and rescue operations in the wake after natural disaster? >> so we started to look at and something we have implemented kind of after post ka katrina is payments down. particularly if there is liquidity issues and services right off the bat which i believe we need to continue to do it and protect against waste or inaccurate funding and that type of thing. >> do you think the reimbursement process that we hope to improve would be
included in your vision for reform and streamlining and block grants to governor and give them the opportunity to make his decisions and be your filter so we get fema out of it and allow the governors of the 50 sovereign states greater flexibility on how to respond quickly? >> absolutely. you know, and we have to do it. it would be a phase delicate process that make sure that we, you know, we are protecting the tax paying dollar but affording to the governor to truly find ways to be resilient. i believe governors can do business quickly and more innovatively than the fema. >> i agree. i hope to be part of the legislative effort to make that happen. general jackson, regarding infrastructure post storm, houston, one of the ways in the advanced system cities in the nation, certainly by any measure
and in the city of houston and both air traffic controls towers and with houston down after harvey and of course commercial traffic shut down and first responders air traffic was handled through the meherman memorial hospital air traffic control tower, they have a held pad after course at the airport. it struck me asi as in the united states, the infrastructure is quite different from for instance in puerto rico. yet even in texas, in houston, air traffic control towers were down immediately after harvey for first responders to use.
regarding grid, for example in puerto rico, prior to the storm, approximately 20% of the grid was down in puerto rico. is that correct? >> congressman, the grid had significant operational issues before irma hit. when irma hit it caused damage to the grid that wasn't fully repaired before mamarie hit. >> so it wasn't restored to prestorm performance. >> the staff order act allows us to restore the grid in current configu configuration. but the grid in puerto rico is about 44 years old. the average grid in the rest of the united states is about 15 years old. as we have gone and repaired the lines and towers and all that components of the grid, and only transmission and distribution. we haven't been given authority to work generation other than
temporary generation we have used to augment repair o operations, we are continuing to build that back. it'll be a much better grid than it was when we inherit id it, just because of the state it was in when we took over the restoration efforts. it is not changing in configuration. we're not burying lines. lines were strung with transmission towers beforehand. but we are replacing what was damaged with modern equipment, up to code. they had about 15 types of "transformers." industry standard is four. as we pieced this back together we had to put different components in the siystem which makes it a more efficient system when we're done. >> thank you. i yield back. >> the chair recognizes mr. keating. >> thank you for your service.
this is titled "lessons learned." part of what i want to get into it lessons learned should be geared towards mitigation in the future of didasters and in that case, i also want it associate myself said by other members. i want to gear in on my district in particular. probably the most coastal area. cape cod, the island. if it's not one of the biggest coastal areas, it is one of them. i want it eye dreto address somt issues. this boils down do we can't expect all of to you do more and we have to do more the way the cycle of climate change is go g going, with less. in my district, there are some examples. we are doing a study on the cape cod canal, vital safety area, navigation area in our area that's been so delayed. we have two connectors to almost
3 p p 300,000 people in the cape cod area. only two bridges. there is a study with that that just is so delayed. it is ongoing but delayed. like massachusetts is ready and willing to work with us. that's holding things back. the potential for disaster is enorm poups enormous. we have a nuclear plant third worse net safety. built on the coast. fukushima designed plant. the bridge could cut off access to people if there was a disaster. on daily basis, dredging issues in our area are enormous. that affects rescue missions and dealing with it. so i want to say a couple of things. number one, particularly general jackson with deal with the oormy corps daily in our area. the personnel there, administration there, communication is excellent. we work together. we strategize together. they do a great job. but again, real issue and when we talk to them is we don't have
enough money to do this. there is no way to prioritize for everything that is of equal or greater need. we have we have to do a job her. now i've helped with the prop ration process here targeting areas without earmarking. but we've been able to do that, work together, and i understand the constraints that all of you are sitting under if you have to comment about not being funded adequately, not just this administration, but administrations before, sort of, they don't encourage you to say, you are not adequately funded. but the plain fact is you can't do, and it's irrefutable, you can't do all these things with less. so a couple of things. number one, i'd ask you if you could, outside the hearing, in the next few weeks maybe deal with our staff here on that end. dealing with so well with your staff in regional level, honestly, working these things out. and, also, if you could, just
comment generally, if you could, with the factor that not having enough resources to please everyone, without talking about budget numbers, and getting yourself maybe in compromised, how important that is, if you could. >> congressman, sure, i'll be glad to do that. first of all, authorize unconstructed projects, top billion dlaz in fy 16 numbers, but only able to generate slightly over a billion every year in construction funding because there is not a limitless budget. a lot of demands and decisions. but that's the fact we have to deal with every day. what we are doing is working very closely with the administrations, they are putting forth their infrastructure program to the public. we have helped proposals that will help us move faster. working a number of proposals
inside the administration to allow us to operate more quickly. and we are participating in all the different initiatives that the administration put forth specifically on reg torely streamlining, environmental review streamlining. fully participating in all of that. as a whole of government, which allows us, and oall the other resource agencies to work together, to move faster than we have in the past. >> i'll certainly work with you. my time is running out. but i would like to say on the flood insurance as well, we have questions outside of that where good bipartisan work being done. yes. >> we have need a lot of work on the reorganization. it's not a healthy program and need to make it financially solvent. no doubt about it. in regards to funding one thing i want to point out bread and butter of emergency management is the state and local levels of emergency management in government. it's not just whether or not fema has enough money. it's our governors in the state, not even governors, state
legislatures really taking a look as a result of going through the season and saying does the state emergency manage testament agency has what it needs. do the local emergency management eas management agencies have kwwhat they need. >> i think our state has done pretty good in that regard. i'll yield back. >> hard stop at 12:30. so i would ask the remainder of the questions within the time peri period. the chair now recognizes from florida. >> i represent the three cosmetic tal counties, nasa, duval, and saint john. and my question is is beach renourish. and sand dune construction treated differently than other mitigation from storms?
>> congressman, it's not treated any differently. >> okay. because here's my question. i was glad to hear you say we are looking for ways to speed the process up. colonel kirk has been great to work with, him and his personnel. but one of the issues we are looking at, i have homes, one home that is literally already falling into the ocean, and many more in south pedro beach really on the edge of falling in, literally, already been undermined. and ftpe, florida department of environmental protection working closely with us. but a 18-month study seems like a long time when your house is hanging on the edge. and so my question is, are there other ways that we can get funding to the state, after they pick up their piece of it, as
they should, is there other ways that we can get that funding to them more quickly so that we can address these how's that are really on the verge? >> congressman, i can tell you right now we are wide open to any ideas you or your staff may have, as well as florida and state government. we've been in a number of discussions with them how to move faster. a lot of times the study process that you remembered to that takes some period of time driven by the environmental review process. which i think the administration has been looking at very closely to try to get done much more quickly. and with less ability for other federal agencies to have long standing decisions that cause us to redo different portions of it. so we'll work hard on that i think the supplemental has given us broad discretion areas need to be stu he'd or being studied or studied for nourishment and
very specific about waving cost authorization. when we build the beaches back, build them to full requirements. i think a lot of great potential for the projects you are talking with the supplemental that congress passed. >> thank you very much for that many and i'll look forward to working with you on that. mr. long, i have to tell you, as a first responder myself, i'm familiar with prepositioning equipment and the mitigation after some of these horrible storms. and, look, the last thing you want to do is pro position your equipment on an island that's about to get hit by a category 5 storm. so that's a bad idea. but i'll tell you that there was some prepositioning that went on of some goods that were prepositioned in a city that i represent, jacksonville, florida. as you know, i think the american maritime industry did a fantastic job in response to
puerto rico's needs. in fact, they had prepositioned container units in jacksonville within days of the port opening, those goods were on the port, which actually allowed the mayor of san juan to stand there and criticize the response with thousands of container units stacked up behind her. the challenge was, as most people know, and i'd like everyone to know, the challenge was distribution. and you mentioned that. the communications. the transportation. all of that got in the way of distribution of goods and services. and as somebody who has been responsible for that in the past, i understand completely what you all were facing. and so i would mention that, you know, the jones act was so politicized, that there were folks on the news talking about
how quickly the president suspended the jones act in texas, and how long it took for puerto rico. it was one day difference. i went back and checked. one day difference. and in addition to that, so much misinformation about the jones act and the cost of goods and services, and folks were actually improperly describing how the jones act even works, talking about -- i heard an individual in jacksonville on the news talking about the reason it cost so much is because foreign vessels have to sail into an america port, drop the goods off, then reload those goods on an american flat ship and sail it to down to san juan. wrong. those foreign ships can sail into san juan and they do all the time. so there was a lot of politicization of what was going on down there.
but i would like to ask one thing. about the contract issue. would it help if we created a database of these bad actors through these contracts? >> well, i believe that the database in the system exists. it just wasn't put in prior to us reaching out. >> okay. >> and there was a resource drain. but one thing i'd like to follow up regarding distribution and commodities. this is the story that's not being told. as i said, we've hired approximately 1300 ricans to be part of the responsive recovery in the future arm of emergency management. what we are doing to prepare for the 2018 hurricane season, now we are building true network at the commonwealth and local level that did not exist in my opinion. so what we are doing is planning series of exercises culminate in full scale exercise this coming june with the governor and may ors specifically around the
distribution of commodities and reconfiguring some contract. you don't execute a contract and the ship shows up immediately. it takes seven or eight days to fully put it in motion and ships like that. so we are doing a tremendous amount of work not being talked about. and it's not fema doing it for puerto rico and the commonwealth. it is we are working with the commonwealth to make sure that they will have the state and local level to deal with this in the future. >> i have several other questions but my time is up. i yield back. >> the ye yields the chair and recognizes gentleman from rhode island. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and members of the panel, thaunnk y very much for your testimony. ruth they are ford. >> let me start with long and jackson. climate change continues to increase the incidence of storms
and threatening the livelihoods of residents in coastal states like my home state of rhode island. administrator long and jackson, what steps are fema and army corps of engineers to prepare coastal communities like mine for this increased risk and to mitigate the damage of future disasters? >> i'll start. there are provisions in mitigation planning. so we require states and local governments to have mitigation plans. they are signed off on by fema. kind of your understanding of how you want to mitigate for future disasters. there are sea level rise provisions there in the mitigation standards that are there. the problem goes back to you have to get hit by a disaster to be able to execute your mitigation plan if you want fema mitigation funding. so the problem we have to solve, in my opinion, is we have to get the predisaster mitigation up front so that people with execute those mitigation plans before the disaster occurs or
things like sea level rise start to occur. >> congressman, after super storm sandy, the core work with all the states in the northeastern part of the united states and also experts around the world to identify coastal risk and published north atlantic study that identified a lot of risk areas and the federal government and states and localities could do to address what you are talking about. so we are in the process of working with states northeast side impacted by sandy to try to address those mitigation measures and lower the risk to the communities on the coastline. with the corp., we incorporate everything that we know about climate change and sea level rise in our designs. so as we conduct studies on coastal resilience in areas that we know have significant risk, we incorporate everything that we know about that and implement nd design standards when we put
those forward to congress for authorization. >> i think it's essential as forward leaning and thinking as we can on this issue preparing for climate change. because it is here, and what he can do to mitigate will make everyone better off in the long run. that's probably a whole another discussion what we need to do long-term to reverse the effects of climate change. but let me start this. natural disasters like hurricanes and floods and fires that we saw in 2017 certainly were devastating countless people and communities in their path. for individuals with critical health conditions or disabilities, these effects are magnified, sometimes significantly. despite requirements that disaster planning consider and include accommodations for individuals who require accessible modes of communication or transportation,
medical devices or other types much assistance, too many we found are left to fend for themselves as catastrophic strikes. so, mr. long, in your testimony you mentioned importance of lessons of meeting the needs of survivors with access and functional needs. what lessons have fema and partners learned from last year's disasters, what changes have been made to procedural d guidance, and how were they monitored for compliance to make sure people with disabilities are carefully considered in disaster planning, response, and recovery? >> well, first of all, i believe as a nation, not just fema, but all entities need to make inclusion and functional access needs to part of their dna every day. you know, i can't force a city to be ada compliant. but what i can do is start to
organize recovery dollars that go into communities after the factor mitigation dollars to help communities and emergency manages a cheefr a higher level of needs. most cree lently a hired a lady by and dry a now fema disability coordination. i've asked her to go out to understand and work across the lines with fema recovery office to say, look, when all of this funding comes down, how do we actually help these communities improve facilities in a manner that become more functional and access needs compliant to ensure inclusion. not only through the future of the infrastructure that's built, but also within our shelters. we have a lot to work as a nation, but again this problem is far bigger than fema. but we are addressing and i'll be happy to set you up with and dry a, para olympian i think won 15 gold medals.
and phenomenal lady and also a lawyer so i this i you'll see some changes in how we handle these needs. >> thank you. i look forward to that meeting. and i'd like to further continue our discussion on this topic. i have several more but my time has expired. >> i yield back but look forward to submitting my questions for the record and hopefully you can get become to me as soon as possible on these. and i look forward to continued discussion on this important topic. thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> gentleman yields the chair. now recognizes from mr. nebraska, mr. bacon. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to thank you all three of you for your leadership. were you put in tough situation with terrible hurricane, the airport down, the roads, the power, what a challenge. so i know you've been working this very hard. my first question is for administrator long and jackson, what would be the criteria for considering mission complete? >> we are still there. we are going to be there for
years. >> be there for years? >> yeah. it's too early to grade myself or say mission complete. bottom line is we are going to be administering dollars to help these communities overcome for years. and the one thing that i this i we are missing there weren't four events last year. my staff is diligently working in 14 different states. last year we picked up a new event every three days. every three days. >> but just to clarify, you think you will be in puerto rico for years? >> absolutely. >> general jackson, anything else with that? >> congressman, we are in puerto rico now. we have a federal office there and work with the government on daily basis. so we'll always be in puerto rico and supporting fema pass long as mr. long has mission assignments for us to follow up on. >> if i can ask you both, what would be the largest unexpected challenge you had in puerto rico?
is there one thing that took you the most surprise? >> getting the power back on solves so many problems. bottom line is that was the toughest challenge. i do not control an aging system. i do not control deferred maintenance on a power grid. i have to fix what i've inherited. and we rapidly put forward the mission assignment to the army corps of engineers. and this is the only situation where the army corps of engineers is rebuilding the grid. we have to get to a model to where the grid is rebuilt by private industry, in my opinion, similar to the way it was done in california, texas, and florida. >> how is the bankruptcy of prep pa impacted recovery efforts? >> liquidity efforts or issues as a whole are very difficult. it compromises simple things
such as emak agreements. people demand 100% right off the bat to do work when you bring in private contractors or other support for fear that they may not be repaid. you know, we are working very closely with governor row say owe and the treasury to solve these problems so response in recovery doesn't slow down. >> one final question for jackson. what regulatory relief is needed? to pull it off your shoulders? >> i the administration is looking ahead on that and ultimately result in permitting. so i think we are well on track. and has been participating fully in that effort. >> knowing time is short. i yield back. thank you. >> chair recognizes miss bonnie
wall son coleman. >> thank you, sir. mr. long, hi. more than a decade after hurricane katrina, your office is still involved in disputes, including $2 billion for infrastructure. do you think there is a limit how long after an event audits should ask? is it in efficient of resources to monday morning quarterback in years long audits more than a decade later? are the communities this summer going to face decades of audits and no relief? >> well, i think we have to follow out the process. and the process this put in place is just for due diligence purposes, we have to follow out the process. but when there are audits in question, and i've seen this as
former director of the alabama emergency agency, when there are audits in question, where there are large amounts of money looming over a communities that may be deobligated, then it can impact their credit ratings going forward. so i do think that we have to move quickly to make sure things like that don't occur. we have to move expeditiously. >> but do you agree, sir, two years is not moving expeditiously. that it is too long? is fema doing anything to sort of -- >> which situation are you referring to? >> i'm talking about katrina. $2 billion dispute. that's been in audit for two years. >> i would have to get back to you. we would have to work with you. i'm not sure which one it is unless i can defer to the mr. kelly. >> is it the water and sewer audit? >> yes. >> listen h may we have a
specific update? >> sure. >> on why this is taking so long, what is being done, why are you lacking resources to respond to it after two years. and when can we expect relief here? mr. long, can we get that? >> sure, absolutely. but i would also refer to mr. kelly with oig. >> yes. and that audit was initiated and completed within roughly a year of the additional obligations for that water and sewer project. very little was done immediately after katrina. the inspector general's office has changed its style of auditing. >> thank you. >> we try to be more pro-active and much closer to where the money is being spent, not ten years after. >> this is it all good hypothetically conceptually and all that kind of stuff. we are talking about communities that are ravaged people displaced people who can't get jobs, people who have become ill
because of these terrible hurricanes. look at what's happened in both the virgin islands and in puerto rico. for the life of me, and mr. long, maybe you can answer this question, with all the resources, with all the armed forces, with all the rescue, emergency, and whatever else there is that this great country, the united states of america has at its disposal, if you can't get up a road to deliver supplies vitally needed for people to live, why couldn't you air lift them in or do something else? why was that situation so ininadequately addressed? and why is it so inadequately addressed? >> first of all, ma'am, with all due respect we live in the greatest country in the world. >> i didn't suggest we didn't. >> but the amount of federal
resources the federal government put down, the links to what our government goes to can always be improved, but it is unmarked and second to none on anywhere else in the globe. we put people in hotels for months. >> i need you to tell me why you failed there? >> we haven't failed, ma'am. >> yes you did. >> no we did not. bottom line is my agency put heher cue leon effort to put things in this area. when you are talking about airport systems completely blown out, ports are completely blown out. i don't own the cranes. i don't own the airports. we have to rebuild airports. >> but you have collaborative capacity. and that collaborative capacity did not serve the citizens of puerto rico well. and so my concern, it is not just you, sir, it is why did the united states of america with
all of its vast resources not do its best for people who are indeed our people? with that i yield back. >> they have they limited time so i'm going to recognize the three. but if you could keep your questions within a short period of time, it would be very much appreciated. ms. gonzalez colon. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to first of all thanks people from the army corps of engineers and fema from all their hard work they are doing on the island. we acknowledge that. although we still know there is a lot to do still, i want to thank you for being always available for meetings with mayor's and for all the people in the island. >> i really do that personally. because i've been calling you mostly every day to ask you
about different issues. my first question will be, what resources will be necessary to you to finish the work in 30 days? i'm talking to the corps of engineers in terms of the restoration of the power. >> ma'am, we have the materials that we need to finish that that are on order and they are either in transit or on the island right now ready for distribution to contractors. and they will be continuing to flow on to the island until the end of april. until we get everything on the ground, that's a physics problem. everything had to come off production lines. we had to special order material to meet the unique specifications of the power grid. so we have enough linemen on the ground to do the work that needs to be done. just a matter of them working through and energizing the lines and getting the pieces and parts put back together. so really no other resources that we need that i can think
of. everything that we've asked for that we've needed to do this mission, we've been provided. and it's just a matter of having to put the physics of putting together very complicated system that's going to take us sometime to finish. >> my concern with that is that you are downsizing the group of the crew of your private contractors on the island. one is going to be gone from the island 19th of march, the other is 7th of april. that means the resources will not be there to help us finish the last mile of the process. so how will the island feel when you are downsizing the army corp. presence to those areas? that's my main concern. and doesn't say things will take charge of that because it will take month and a half to do the
contracting process with them and with other utilities in the states. >> ma'am, when we originally asked to do this, there were no mutual assistance workers available. now there are almost 1,000 assistance workers available. i know the numbers go up and down how they get recalled back to their states. but mr. torres and the team the uniform command group look at the number of linemen required to do the missions based on what's left to be completed. they look at that every single day. and there is decisions that are made, fema l the government of puerto rico, and corps of engineers all involved with making. and it could be that the one company that we have that's going to be done in april, maybe they get extended a little longer. we are looking at all those things every single day to make sure that the progress of the work that we have in front of us to finish is not impacted at all by a lack of people. there is no lack of people.
even though we are downsizing, the big contracts that we awarded in october, it's only because the numbers that we have there aren't needed anymore. and they have been replaced by mutual assistance workers who should have been there in the first place. so the changing of who is doing the work is not impacting our ability to get the over all grid restored as fast as we can get it restored. >> i just urge you to reconsider the downsizing of the army corp. on the island. i don't think that we don't have enough personnel to do that kind of work. and it will take longer to do the recovery process in those areas just because of the downsizing. i recommend you extend the current contracts until the time the prep or mutual alliance linemens will be arriving at the island. remember, that last weeks ago the winter storm just took away 68 of those linemens to new york
and pennsylvania. so we can't continue to be waiting for personnel to arrive on the island. >> ma'am, we are not waiting. everybody is there. just they are going to be different people. and in some cases it's the same subcontractors that are working for different contractors. so prepa has about 2200 people on the ground doing work and other subcontractors. >> time has inspired. >> thank you. >> for the last two members, we are about 20 minutes past the administrator's hard stop so if you could keep your time to the a minimum. miss velazquez. >> i'll make it simple. if i can send my questions to you so you can send the answer to my office. general jackson, i hear what you
say to the lady from puerto rico. you are downsizing and allowing for prepa to continue to do the work with some of the sub jt s subcontractors that they have. do you think that will prepa given the conditions of prepa itself, should that provide any comfort to the people of my hometown where hurricane maria made landfall, and to this day they have no electricity? >> congresswoman, as we discussed yesterday, i'm confident, only because the experts that are making the decisions on how we determine how we apportion the workforce are fully confident based on demonstrated capability that the line workers that are there, both from prepa organic workforce and subcontractors they have, are more than capable of doing the work and continuing
to do that. >> why is it that the town that maria made landfall, six months later whar later, what is it about jabakova? >> i think that was the greatest impact. >> i've been there four times and i didn't see any crew until my last visit. in any case, general jackson, i really want to thank you for getting back to me yesterday in our telephone call where i raised many sol of t raised some of the issues the people are facing today. my question to you is regarding puerto rico's prair preparedness for the upcoming hurricane season ks particularly in the area of energy. it seems to me no matter how much money we put into the reconstruction of the grid,
unless we strengthen it to with stand category 4 and 5, we are just throwing it away. can you comment on the work being done so far? >> i'll be glad to. mission we were given was to restore power and get lights back on as quick as possible. that's what we are doing. what you are scribe something more long-term goal that we are working on. we are working as part of fema's team. as part of the governor's team to help the governor develop a long-term recovery strategy, which is going to take into account all the things that you discussed, which would be things like taking the power generation c capabilities, making them more modernize, closer to the source of the energy, and bury lines, mayor talked about the lines criss-cross the island, that's where the power distribution system is based on. so that's in the works. and presented to the administration sometime at the end of the summer.
>> thank you. mr. kelly, this week puerto rico is actively pursuing a policy that will weaken the puerto rico energy commission. and therefore severely undermine generally accepted regulatory and accountability practices. as the inspector general, can you provide us some detail in the importance of oversight of government institution, if this type of entity is weakened, how do we ensure good stewardship of taxpayer funds? >> ma'am, that's going to be very difficult to do. if you reduce oversight, especially on an organization that has known risks, that is a recipe for disaster. >> thank you. >> your time has expired. >> thank you. >> chair recognizes miss black kblack -- placket.
>> thank you for that. i'm going to try to bring questions in writings that i hope you'll respond to as quickly as possible. i know that with bureaucracy can take sometime. but the faster these answers come back to us, the better i think for everyone. administrator long, one of the things i brought up in the opening statement, and i'm hoping you can give definition for, who is responsible and what is the time line for the modular units that are going to the schools as well as to the hospitals in the virgin islands? >> so ultimately in my opinion the governor of the virgin islands, governor mapp is responsible. it's my job to make sure that he has the mechanisms and funding to do so. and we are working very closely with him. but i'd happy to respond in writing about the whole entire process. >> i would appreciate that. because it seems like a circular discussion, department of education says they are waiting for fema, fema says they are waiting on this.
so the people want to know. so i appreciate that. in terms of discussion of the full cost share, you have received the request, i know the white house has received the request. do we know when there will be a taens as to whether or not the virgin islands will receive an extension of time for full cost share debris renewal? >> i don't know. obviously i don't control the white house but i can rear out to them and see where we are. >> i wanted to know if you were aware, however, under the insurance lar acts, all federal agencies have discretion to wave for federal funding programs. has fema sought to exercise to wave the local match for all disaster funding for the u.s. virgin islands? >> i believe that's a request that's got to come in from the governor and i'm not shurd that we received any request to do so. if so, i'll go and check. >> the reason i'm asking this is
of course the insular areas have under inclusion across a litany of programs and when you are face ago disaster such as this that discretion that you have would seem to be the appropriate time to do so. and, you no know, what you just said is something i brought up in my opening statement is that you are waiting for a request from governor mapp and oftentimes i'm not sure if governors and other individuals in these areas know they can make these specific requests. and the tension between fema and the local agencies are such that you wonder, you know, our governor spending money on having outside consultants come and consult about what is he supposed to be requesting. and it seems that it's not the most efficient use of funding. >> congresswoman, so my approach is, in my fcos, who play incredibly important role, i have asked them, and in their
training, their sole purpose is to go out and say, governor this is it what you are entitled to based on this event. and if they are not doing that, then that's on me, i can go back on check. but we never hold back things. it's our job to administer the stafford act and policies out there. we have no reason to hold anything back. fema is not the enemy of a governor who disaster survive or. >> well, under fema, just the last question, when you mentioned the stafford act, what is your position, and do you have a -- would you support an extension of the fema, of stafford act language so that it is not only bringing resilience to those things that are considered emergency, which is defined as power, water, communications, and education, but would also extend to other public assistance projects such as roads, and public housing? >> i'm not sure i understand the question. because we do fix roads. >> no, no. >> what i'm asking is amendment
to the stafford act which would provide for imbedding resilience. the resilience that you are now going to bring to areas such as power and water and communications does not extend necessarily to roads and public housing. would you be in favor and supportive of an amendment that addresses that in the stafford act to bring that as well? >> i'm all for resilience. let me be honest i'm all for resilience because we need to work fema out of a job through resilience and mitigation. i believe that the 428 program, which is something that's on ts table with the governor as well, allows for more alternative projects and resilience projects to be built in. the stafford act may allow us to do that for the roadway systems but that's something we can have in a conversation off line if you like. >> mr. chairman i'd like to put three questions on the record for mr. brock long to hear.
mr. brock, as it relates to houston and texas, and, sir, directly to me, writing and by phone, on the fema denials and whether or not you will automatically extend those who are in the hotels, the importance of working with local government, that's a difficulty, i know by the stafford act you work with the state, but local governments are really on the ground working with the day-to-day complaints. and then i think one of the solutions to these large contracts that you have that have not been helpful to us is contracting with local entities, sometimes the entire region is not devastated. there are local contractors that can do a very important job, housing food services, obviously debris, we know about that. but i think it's important for fema to look, counseling, case work, can be done by local entities and like to reach back to you on those questions. and thank you for having your staff be at my meeting on march 5th. i yield back, mr. chairman.
>> thank you. i want to thank the witnesses for your patience. i know this went well over schedule. but you stood by and answered all of our questions. i appreciate that very much. i'd just like also to say that major general jackson, i look forward to working with you on the reservoir project and to administrator long, first billy got passed in the congress was fema reform bill after katrina. so i think there can be great lessons learned from this. things that we can work together to make it more streamline, effective, and efficient. and i want to thank you and commend you for the job you are doing right now. >> thank you, sir. >> we'll take a brief break. and the second panel will be joining us.
>> we are pleased to welcome our second panel of witnesses. thanks for your patients. >> i know it's getting late. we have a subcommittee hearing at 2:00. our second is reed state of texas. mr. wesley maul director of division of management for the state of florida. and finally the honorable menendez ortiz international relations and status for the commonwealth of puerto rico.
and miss demings senior director of save the children. thank you for being here today. and i guess we'll start with mr. clay. >> good afternoon. chairman, mccaul, ranking member thompson and distinguished members of the committee, thank you for holding this important meeting. let me quickly offer three key messages. the first is thank you for your partnership. governor abbott in the state of texas are grateful for the strong partnership we shared with our counterparts today. president donald trump and pence and fema administrator brock long showed commitment to texas before the storm made landfall. they pledged resources and continue to show their commitment to the state today. of course, congress too deserves our deepest gratitude. after texans had begun the magnitude of devastation,
congress moved quickly to appropriate needed financial assistance to quickly begin the rebuilding process. that hard work tinds in the passage of additional appropriations bills that will help texas recover and rebuild. and i wouldn't be a proud texan if i didn't pay particular thanks to the delegation. chairman mccaul, jackson lee and entire texas delegation has been true champions for all texas ance. thank you. next, let me share a couple of lessons we have learned. first lesson is disaster recovery could be improved by drastically cutting red tape at all leaf es of government. when it comes to disaster response, we must be outcome focused not process oriented. rest assured texas has done its part. governor abbott has used emergency responsibilities to wave hundreds of regulations em employing a similar outlook, sharp has found ways to push back brutic barriers.
but there is more to do. beginning next week department texas management will hold series of workshops lessons learned and focus how to restore and rebuild a more resilient texas. these listen and learn sessions will form a comprehensive report outlining changes that the state must make. but federal regulations also pose a problem. because disaster recovery is administered across multiple agencies, amid multiple layers of government, recovery is saddled by redundancy of government. they have ways to simplify the process and it must be streamlined. too often two individuals passed between different agency with different paperwork and rules. disaster response and recovery is best when executed at a local level. but under the current process current governments are buried under regulation and disaster response and recovery cannot be
executed if it is mike role managed in washington. the second lesson is it that we must rebuild texas stronger. we now know harvey was the biggest tropical cyclone rein fall event in u.s. history. peak rainfall measured over 60 inches. with much of the area receiving more than 3 feet. the amount of rain was literally off the charts. this was not 100 year flood or 500 year flood. this was 1,000 year flood. so much rain that tt national weather service added additional colors to the rain charts to show how much rain was in texas. not surprisingly harvey was second highest storm. estimates more than 125 billion in losses and reported only 30 billion of that is ensured. meaning harvey will be by far uninsured loss of 2017. if harvey teaches us anything, it is surely that we must invest now to mitigate against losses
from future storms that history tells us will happen again and again and again. texas is already deploying hazard mitigation funds made available under the stafford act to undergo valuable acts within the region. the governor today will be in houston announcing the first three projects later today. but many of the projects needed to truly help the future area will require federal assistance. much of the damage in the affected areas could have been mitigated by federal projects that had been considered for years or in some cases decades. if there is only one lesson to be learned from harvey, it is this, we must rebuild stronger to future proof our valuable assets, human, natural and economic from future disasters. let me close with this. the pace of recovery is never fast enough. and if the numts i cited above are any indication, this will be texas longest and hardest rebuilding effort yet. we are grateful for the strong
partnership our federal partners thus far. but we also recognize that recovery of this size will require the continued commitment of resources from our federal partners for months to come. thank you. >> tlaung so much. and let me just say i think the governor made us all texas proud and strong. so thanks for your testimony. chair now recognizes mr. maul for his testimony. >> thank you, sir. good afternoon. at 9:10 a.m. on september 10, 2017 hurricane harvey made landfall. hurricane irma constantly changing course response team to plan for dozens of impact scenarios largest in florida history. record breaking evacuations, shell tor populations, commodity distribution, mission requests, and quite possibly the largest power restoration in american
history. the success of our states response would not have been spobl without the steadfast support of aid and partners. in the end 38 states in district of columbia through dedicated teams or resources shipped. additionally, the military's contributions to florida response cannot be under stated. strategic partnerships with national grd and dod proved to be game changing. it is important to remember hurricane irma was not only challenge we faced. after harvey in texas. ten days after irma, hurricane maria devastated the island, nate was not far behind impacting on september 7th. despite one of the largest storms, florida stood ready to support. in support of texas efforts with hurricane harvey, the division coordinated deploy mtd of three rescue teams and voluntarily
liaison. to prepare for the gulf coast impacts associated with hurricane nate, we prestaged imt and made sure ambulance, swift water rescue and teams were on stand by. the aftermath of hurricane maria in puerto rico unique challenges by the storm. however, fl stood ready to help our neighbors. we did requests for law enforcement, national guardian utility professionals in response of the effort. worked closely with staff and govern governor rozelle low administration and florida based resources. florida remains the only state to host into agreement directly assist. to provide tens of thousands of maria in florida with one stop shop for available survive or resources. at the request of governor scott, the disaster case manage
testament program was also approved for maria evacuees in our state. this when considered along tsa and marks, proves florida commitment every storm survive or with the level of care regardless of their origin. it was defining event for the division and our partners. we will continue to review and reflect upon the actions taken in our many response evacuations seeks ways to improve our practices and best quality of service. as we chart forward, build a culture of preparedness and reduce the complexity of disaster programming. the 2017 season was the most expensive in u.s. history. they said if this is the new normal, americans can't rely on that, they'll have to take care of themselves. in florida we couldn't agree more. as emergency managers we are taught they are local and we
recognize until we return to culture of responsibility, we will never truly be prepared for all disasters. to that end there are things we can do now together to ensure that we are yeready for whateve the future holds. let's streamline our efforts. we can partner to train and mitigate on the front end. maximizing resiliency prior to emergencies will always prove more cost effective than even the best of recoveries. letsds plan and fund strategies federally supported state managed and locally executed. for example, increasing costs 12% would better position states in communities to better manage on their own while decreasing over all deepcy on federal resources. administrator long was correct in his statement, most effective way to deal with the new normal. it's time to be bold and hit the reset button on much of what we thought we knew in this
profession. moving forward i want this committee to know my team and i are available to discuss with, partner on, and work with you on all issues. we also stand ready to work alongside administrator long and fellow states to move this forward. i want to close by saying thank you to our federal, state and local partners. it was a plesh sure working with you last season. and we appreciate all of your hard work. yo your contribution to our success, helped us with our neighbors, this is how it should work. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman and ranking for the opportunity to appear before this committee before. i want to extend deepest gratitude for your help in the process of rebuilding of the i also want to thank you for unconditional assistance. our champion and my friend, the honorable jennifer gonzales. it has been six months since
irma and maria went through the puerto rico. and 10 six days that it ripped through us. in a span of two weeks puerto rico was hit by two category 4 and 5 hurricanes. in the laz years we had been spared. and up until september of that year, we often boasted we were protected. then we were humbled. on september 2017 we were facing one of the worst natural disasters in modern history. it was as if mother nature reminded us all that no matter how strong one might be, nature will always be more powerful. and it deserves our utmost respect. that mr. chairman and members of this committee is our first lesson. let's be honest. none of us either at the state or federal levels were prepared to tackle the devastation by
hurricanes maria. we must adapt our recovery efforts for more effective and efficient response in upcoming hurricane season. to do this, at the federal level, citizen must be taken into consideration. number one, the federal government must anticipate shipping delays to the island and take the necessary steps to ensure rapid response by sea and air. number two, nowadays, telecommunications are a basic necessity. your smart phone is no longer a luxury, it is a piece of emergency equipment that need to function in order for the most basic communication to happen. number three, cut the red tape. whoever thought that bureaucracy could handle emergencies, was sorely mistaken, it can, despite all miss conventions. number four, to use the pain and suffering of millions of
american citizens to indulge in this is simply immoral. it is shameful of people who are trying to recoup their normalcy in the midst of chaos. number five, this is important, we must invest in our power grid. recently improved relief package included us. human or financial to fortify the system and prepare for hurricane season. the simple truth is that we need more time. we need more time, more materials, more resources. it pains me to say, but we need more sense of urgency. so it is with this respect that i ask you as members of congress, inject that much needed sense of urgency to federal agencies. i make this humble request on behalf of millions of families who in the face of adversity
woke up the day after the storm to clean their houses and help those in need in the communities. i make this request on behalf of the thousands doctors who have continued to attend to the sick. i maic this request on the thousand of entrepreneurs who have invested every single penny in their bank to save their businesses and open their doors to the public. they rows. i maic this request on the behalf of thousand of people who lost their jobs in if the aftermath but not have quit and continued to look for work in order to get ahead. i make this request on the thousands of kids who go to school every day in spite of the lack of power or water. education continues to be more important than any obstacle. because you see behind the devastation of maria, it is a story of resilience.
it is a story of people who want to get ahead. who want to be self sufficient. who want to get back to normal. with that, i thank you for your time. and i hope that we can continue to work together so we can build a stronger and better puerto rico. thank you. >> thank you, sir. chair recognizes miss demings. >> [ inaudible ]. >> sorry about that. chairman mccaul, ranking member thompson and members of the committee, i'm the senior director of u.s. emergencies for save the children. since katrina in 2005, i've led our response to every natural disaster and manmade disaster in the u.s. and i've served, had the honor of serving on fema national advisory council and currently serve on fema i pause subcommittee of the ncaa. on behalf of save the children, thank you for this opportunity to really highlight the needs of
children and the lessons learned across all three disasters. i would be remiss if i also though didn't thank ranking member thompson and donovan, do congressman payne for your leadership in helping pass the homeland security act for children through the house. this legislation will go a long way to help children in emergencies and hopefully will help fill some of the gaps that i'm going to highlight today. so save the children has been working for more than 100 years to support children in crisis and emergencies in the u.s. and around the world through our on the ground work, during the three hurricanes, we've identified critical gaps. we keep seeing these gaps again and again in emergencies. and we seek to partner with congress to close these gaps to better protect and support children. the three hurricanes as we heard had a massive impact on infrastructure, but it had a
massive, even greater impact on children's lives across all three disasters. save the children continues to work on long-term recovery in helping rebuild schools, rebuilding child care programs, after school programs and helping deliver mental health recovery programs for children, which is the most profound gap that we have seen across all three emergencies. in puerto rico specifically, the estimates are that it's going to take ten years for the overall recovery. we heard that from many of the experts. we continue to hear that many schools have lacked electricity and lacked running water, lacked drinking water. imagine trying to conduct school for hundreds of children each day without power in the classrooms, without access to learning laboratories, without access to regular support. so children in puerto rico have
missed hundreds and hundreds of hours of learning. and many of the most vulnerable children will not ever catch up because of the months of school that have -- they have had decreased opportunities for learning. so while there are many visible indications of damage to structures, outdoor spaces, recreational equipment, there's also this profound impact in what we call invisible scars and emotional and mental stress for children, for teachers, for their families. so what can we do about this? we would urge congress to consider three areas to help close the gap. the first is an educational recovery what we call a return to learning. congress must enact policies that with a commitment that no child affected by a disaster misses more that be a month of
school post disaster. this is something that globally we're trying to work toward. but in the united states, to have children miss multiple months of school related to disasters is not okay. it's not enough. and the commitment to the return to learning should include a policy framework that quickly assesses the number of children out of school, and the amount of recovery support that children need to get back to normal. the second area is congress should consider -- to include health care as a critical service. right now, schools, primary, secondary, and higher ed are include. but early learning and child care is still not included as a critical service. so that will go a long way to support children. and then the last area is that congress must adequately fund mental health recovery programs for survivors of natural disasters. we are seeing this in every
single incident in the u.s. that it is a critical gap that is putting the children at risk and families at risk. so thank you for this opportunity to provide system on our work. children might be only 25% of our nation, but they are 100% of our future. so thank you for your commitment to children. >> and thank you for your commitment to children, as well. i think that was very moving. i went through a lot of the healthers, you know, after harvey hit, and it was very had to see all these children in shelters, and i think that's a very good idea. very good idea. i now recognize myself for five minutes of questioning. i would like to kind of focus on my backyard and yours. that's my state, your state that got hit.
this is kind of the -- sorry, you have to hold that up. this is a map i've chauffeur go the president of the united states talking about how the flood happened and cyprus creek was supposed to be a levy system but they never did that. they controlled spillage into the neighborhoods downstream at 1:30 in the morning, which wasn't all that great. and then buffalo bayou downtown houston. so it seems to me prevention, since this has flooded three times in the last two years, doing some of these flood mitigation projects is going to be essential, which is why we passed the supplemental, $90 billion bill to deal with some of these flood mitigation projects. you know, i think an ounce of
prevention is a pound of cure. i know the governor sees this the same way. when we discuss this project, he agreed that it would be the number one priority in the state in terms of flood mitigation. where is the governor on this? i think you mentioned something about the first three projects have now been approved. can you tell me what those are and what, in your view, will happen with both the refortification and the third reservoir? >> let me first say, the governor completely agrees with you that in order to rebuild after harvey, a large portion of what we're going to have to do are these major scale projects that, as you mentioned, thee floods in the last two years, major floods in houston, in fact, 26 since the year 2000 in
houston. and nine federally declared disasters in houftston. so projects of this scale are going to have to happen. the announcements are from the money, about $1.1 billion we get under the stafford act as sort of a, you know, add-on. they will be helping fund study in the houston area for watershed assessment to look at what we can do, particularly in sort of the montgomery county, northeast houston area. it will be for home buyouts throughout the flood control dikt, a district. as for the third reservoir, obviously it is a huge priority for the governor. it's our understanding that we're going to be able to get this off the ground by doing a study first and hopefully follow
it up because of your work and the appropriation of getting it built. >> right. i think we did our work in the congress. we got $90 billion appropriated. army corps of engineer. let me just close. i look forward to continuing to work with the governor and your office, sir, on make thing a priority. i think getting army corps moving faster than they normally do. we put language in the supplemental that requires them to expedite some of these projects. we already had studies that have never been done on cyprus. so that makes it even more critical to try and move forward as expeditiously as possible. so we can get it done. because a study takes a while and construction takes time. i don't think this west harris county area can wait ten years for this. >> yes, sir.
let me say we agree to getting army corps to move faster than it does. the governor was here and sat down with the general and his team. so we'll make sure that this project and the others that are needed get done as quickly as possible. we're committed to working with you and the army corps to make sure that happens. >> likewise, likewise. the chair recognizes ms. sheila jackson lee. >> i thank the chairman and ranking member for their leadership and acknowledge the fact that, in particular, mr. clay, the texas delegation worked extensively hard as a senior member on the homeland security committee. it was the experience i gained from a series of hurricanes, those in our jurisdiction, as well as throughout the nation, that i hope helped bring to bear the urgency. i introduced the first relief bill for $174 billion.
that was not far off. in fact, the governor supported the introduction with 43 co-sponsors. i'm glad where we are, but we're not finished. frankly, i think the $174 billion is a closer mark than where we are. and i hope we will continue advocating for continued relief as we do so for others who are similarly situated from puerto rico to the virgin islands to florida and others. disaster has to be a federal responsibility working with our local leaders with our state to the cities and counties. i hope you agree with that. >> absolutely, yes, ma'am. >> in the course of that, and i read your statement and noted as the chairman made mention of the changing map, the fact that you have a map that so much rain fell that we had to update the color charts and i remember looking at those charts in the command center where the mayor
was and that's the one you had. we couldn't discern the boundaries of harris county or houston or anywhere else. there were some places where we were just an ocean. i think people had to be there to understand the catastrophic nature of it. so i raise this point as we are beginning to work, i guess it would be on the second half which is long-term recovery. what i would like to have is the input of the governor on hopefully working with the chairman and ranking members. we all have ideas. mine is being written as we speak over the years of experience, and that is fema in the immediate rescue of folk on the ground, coming in, shelters, and then long-term recovery, which is what i'm seeing in northeast houston, cashmere gardens, and a number of other pockets of my community. people are still suffering. what is your thought about that?
that would be really on the second phase of where the governor is now. people are in hotels. they need housing. people's housing are still in bad condition. what do you think about structuring, along with some amendments and the staff. i realize that, but so we know when we're in a federal long-term recovery period. >> well, we couldn't agree more that it's not going fast enough. that's true in houston and throughout the region. i think one of the things i would have to see the details a little closer but what administrator long said earlier about grants directly to the state. i think it has the potential to make things go more quickly, with one caveat. it would have to free the state up, and that sounds scary, but -- and you know this, congresswoman, but we have ample laws and procurement and risk
law to protect against fraud, waste and abuse in state statute that we would comply with. as it stands as we go through this long-term recovery process, not only trying to comply with the local and state laws in regulations, but the massive 2-cfr that governs fema's response. >> i'm sorry that my colleagues are in washington, as the governor is making an announcement. but we work very hard on the watershed study. i've had that submitted over the years, and very grateful that's what they're operating under. of course, the buyout. i think there should be major announcements so that both inner city and rural areas and urban areas are aware of that potential to a local government. let me say i work closely with you and your work at save the children. the children are vital. and you work with me. you were at a big event i had in
houston during the christmas holidays when children were still suffering. to the gentleman from florida, let me ask, would a reordering, and i'll just ask this question, there is a part that is long-term recovery. >> i know that republicans and democrats came to puerto rico with the greatest sincerity, didn't see any partisanship, just a cry for help. but to the gentleman from florida, would that be helpful to you, and would it be helpful when your constituents amy for he will, people are struggling and can't get the help.
in florida, and we would continue to want to develop that process in our own state partnership with the process. >> so the federal government continuing with a long-term would be helpful to you? >> yes, sir -- i mean, yes, ma'am. >> i can't name one politician that might have come in and been grandstanding. we care, we cried, and we want to keep fighting with you. who was being -- i don't understand your point. >> my point is very simple. this hearing is about lessons learned. during all this issue of recovery of irma and maria, we have the struggle on the local and national level with politics. politics should not be part of this discussion. it is important that, you know,
we puerto ricans, we've moved as a people. everyone was touched by this storm. and the fact is, some of them at the local level and federal level, tried to gain, you know, political recognition using the, you know, the pain and suffering of other people. it's shameful. but i don't want -- i'm not here to be naming names. i'm just trying to state that was one of the lessons that we learned. >> i'll just conclude by saying everyone on this panel i know are here supporting you and -- >> and i thank you for it. >> -- to develop and find solutions for puerto rico. i want to say, all of the federal members of congress i've encountered, i never heard a cry of politics. i want to encourage this, because their cry for help is
generating help for all of you. i yeeield back, mr. chairman. >> i would just like to ask the four of you if you could submit to our committee recommendations that you have. each of you experienced a different devastation, a different disaster, a different population of people you were trying to help. it would be real helpful to us if you could tell us what worked, what didn't work. we don't need an elaborate report. but if we have it in writing and your suggestions for it, that would be helpful for us to act and to help you prepare for and respond to the next disaster that you face. and with that, mr. chairman, i yield back the remainder of my time and thank all of you. >> and we thank you for yielding back the remainder of your time. ms. demings is recognized. >> great. thank you so much, mr. chairman. and thank you to our answers for being here. yes, we have been here for a
little while. but thank you so much for taking our questions. my question for you, you know how important federal and state partnerships are to our responses, and try to make sure that it's adequate and appropriate response. as you know, hurricane irma had a tremendous impact, even on central florida where i represent thousands, including medically vulnerable individuals who were without power. for several days, homes in the orlando area were flooded, and though many lost their possessions, they did survive, and we are certainly thankful for that. while you were not the director at the time of hurricane irma, you did serve as the chief of staff, a position that did not exist prior to your service. as the chief of staff, i'm sure you're aware of the needlessly
tragic incidents that resulted in more than a dozen deaths at the rehabilitation senter in hollywood hills. as a floridian who has weathered my share of hurricanes, i understand the power goes out, and it can take time to be restored. we do have to be reasonable and understanding in that area. i also know that vulnerable populations like seniors and seriously ill or mobility restricted individuals require accommodations that you or i would want in their place. it took three days to evacuate 140 patients, to move them right across the street to a hospital there. so my question for you, now that you are the emergency management director, what steps have you taken or are you taking to
ensure that proper communication channels are in place to prevent tragedies like the one in hollywood hills? >> yes, ma'am, thank you. obviously taking care of our vulnerable populations is not only a priority of ours, but a priority of everybody in our state. first and foremost, as it relates to power restoration, that's been a huge focus. if you get the power back on, most of the other problems go away, and local communities can more quickly recovery. so we've been making huge strides in that. we undertook the largest power restoration in american history. we got to 100% restoration in less than a week. we have created partnerships with health and human services in d.c. they've been able to provide us critical information on individuals they have that are dependant on medical equipment
and we're able to check in on those folks. we provide that information to our communities. >> i'm sorry, could you go over the equipment again that you provided? >> not providing equipment. it's a list of people that hhs has been able to provide us of people who are dependant on electrical equipment. we are able to find out who those individuals are immediately afterwards. obviously, the investigation that's ongoing down in south florida, i know there is a criminal investigation, and i do believe that the local medical examiner ruled it as a homicide. very aggressive steps have been taken, however. >> just not dealing with the investigation, i understand an
ongoing investigation, but it could happen next hurricane -- this hurricane season. so what steps have been taken to ensure that it doesn't? >> we've required that all medical facilities have the ability to sustain power in the immediate aftermath, whether through generators, direct tap-ins for natural gas. we're also working on our sheltering plans to make sure that we have adequate special needs shelter space. a lot of what we saw in the aftermath of irma was -- or leading up to irma was that we had inadequacy of planning at the local level as it related to the special needs population. so there were facilities putting people on transports and dropping them off at special needs shelters, and that was their disaster plan. so we're looking at reorganizing
those, make sure we have partnerships between facilities for transport of those individuals. lastly, we're working with our local communities to make sure we have a handle on it and how we can best support them. >> thank you so much, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> the gentle lady yields. i want to thank all of you for being here today and your service. yeah, i said all of you. thanks to all of you for your service. both in hurricane relief and also in saving the children. that's god's work on earth. just last week, i think a common thread that i heard between the three of you is a lot of red tape that needs to be better streamlined, more control given back to the states. i think that's what theed a
str -- the administrator was talking about. your input will where very important as we move forward as we look at legislation to help make the response and recovery more efficient and effective. with that, i yield and i turn it over to sheriff rutherford. >> that's perfect timing, because now i get to recognize myself for five minutes. mr. melendez, if i could ask you, i know in -- on page three of your written comments, it talks about the need to make necessary adjustments to adapt
our emergency preparedness and recovery efforts to more effective and efficient response. number one on that list of what to do is actually to ensure rapid response by sea and air, including waiving or eliminating the laws, the jones act, for ocean vessels. and so i wanted to point out that i believe somewhere between 75% and 80% of puerto rico's goods come through foreign vessels that are about 25% of jones act vessels. and that the president did in fact waive the jones act. and there was some controversy, and this might have been what you were referring to, there was some controversy about the president being slow in waiving the jones act and the impact that that was having on
recovery. and i would like to point out that my calculations show that the president waived the jones act exactly one day later than he did for harvey in texas. and the fact of the matter is, after waiving the jones act, exactly one foreign vessel sailed from an american port into puerto rico. and so for folks who point to the jones act and other laws as slowing down the response, i think number one it's incorrect as i believe you do, as well. and number two, it's very misleading in the fact that i take great pride in the fact that the american maritime industry, particularly our jones
act vessels under tote and crowley in jacksonville, are really -- i look at them as the first maritime responders for puerto rico. because they have that -- they call it the milk run. they do it so often, they have that built-in efficiency and effectiveness. and so they had prepositioned goods at our port, so that they could get them to san juan more quickly. and in fact, that was accomplished in a very, very quick fashion. and so i -- >> the only reason that it is on my statement, you know, in reference to the jones act is because of the controversy that, you know, whether it was the right timing when the president actually gave the waiver. so that's why.
>> okay. but i just want to make sure that you're not laying out a case that somehow the jones act slowed down -- >> no, no, not at all. >> i just want to make that clear. mr. mall, we had discussed earlier, and i don't know if other states have this issue, but i know in florida, a lot of municipalities and other governmental agencies, we had these prearranged contracts with providers, contractors, to take the debris out of our neighborhoods. and i just want to ask, what do you think we can do to make them honor those contracts when they leave those contracts that they made prestorm at a much lower price so that they can get the contract and once the storm hits, they go to other localities where they can make more money. and i would call on our attorney
general to look at that. because to me that sounds like gouging. i know she is on top of that. what do you think about that? >> you asked whether other states have experienced the same thing, and the answer is yes. if you look at the congressional after action reports that have come out of major storms over the past couple of decades, all of them highlight debris contracting as a significant issue coming out of storms. we saw significant disasters in the price. some as low as $5 per cubic yard. whereas after a disaster hits, renegotiate ed prices were goin up to $20 a cubic yard. we also saw significant pressure being put on individuals to try and suggest that the army core should take over the mission,
shop of which would have cost taxpayers ten times as much with no significant expediency to the timeline, because many of the same contractors were both in the predisaster contract business and working for the army corps. i'm very proud of the steps our governor took to draw a line in the sand and to make sure that we weren't creating a bidding war and we weren't going to stand for those practices. moving forward, we need to take a look at this as a fro feprofe. until states and communities stand together with our federal partners, it's going to continue to happen. i think we need to work on more education, and we are in florida with our local partners about the risk of some of this. and certain provisions and best practices for their contracts. i think we need to crack open
the books on the contracts we have, and make sure that the expectations that are set will be honored. and we need to be putting together -- we're putting together some of our rural counties teams of locals and contractors who are willing to do the work for that counting themselves with internal capacity, which will help a faster response to the debris cleanup but also reinvest that money in local communities. lastly, i know the attorney general is taking a look at it. but we are also working with communities to take a look at last year's actions and see whether or not we were dealing with any bad ak stores. >> thank you for that. i have several other questions. i do want to congratulate you, though. i think florida had a very good response. some periods obviously that we
needed to look at, and these storms clearly highlighted that need. but thank you for working with us. >> thank you, sir. >> i want to thank all the witnesses -- my time is up. i want to thank all the witnesses for their testimony and the members for their questions. the members of the committee may have some additional questions for the witnesses, and we will ask you to respond to these in writing, if you don't mind. and pursuant to committee rule 7-d -- >> mr. chairman, before you -- here i am. as the sit-in ranking member, i want to make sure i have an opportunity to say something before you gavel us out. >> first of all, let me thank our chairman for this thoughtful and important hearing. we know that representative that puerto rico had warehouses where people were not there to process. so we know that learning from
all of you, we can be better prepared and work together. to save the children, let me thank you again for coming under the new legislation, but more importantly, standing up for children and certainly so in the state of texas. as it relates to florida and congressman rutherford's question, we thought the debris removers were leaving texas to go to florida. so we have to get our handle on how we -- when we have simultaneous hurricanes, that we can address this question. we were struggling and fearful that everyone would move in that direction. but we all need help. let me thank mr. clay, and please confvey to state officias the appreciation of their collaboration and constant contact. i know the mayors and county
judges throughout the date, but we were huddled together in many meetings. we were on tarmacs and meetings and places that were uncomfortable. we know that our people are still uncomfortable. so we are grateful that we are able to send $90 billion that we have a large share of. we need to work with a number of projects. i would like it expedite. certainly some other projects from hall's to others. so if you can help us with that. and if you would help us on the issue of working with fema to address the denials. denials have been done on typos. and we have too many people in need. my last point is, we should convene a meeting shortly for the 2018 hurricane season. we may be lucky, all of us may be lucky. but the idea of members of congress sitting in that meeting
and representative of local officials in that meeting, would be very, very helpful. we're still proceeding with appropriations. what do we need to do? and how do we need to prepare our communities? we can't really predict the future. we can look at if models. but it's evidence that we saw something in 2017 that we had never seen before. so thank you to all of the witnesses and the first panel, second panel. and i think this is a wakeup call for us to get prepared as we go into 2018. thank you to the chairman and i yield back. thank you all very much. >> thank you. and i apologize for the oversight. >> not at all, congressman. >> if you would, mr. mall, let governor rick scott know that i'm very appreciative of the great job that he did at the state level. i'm very proud of florida's response, both state, local, and
federal, our national guard did a fantastic job, our coast guard. so thank them, as well. >> we're really thanking everybody, so let me ditto the coast guard, the national guard and call out the county judge in harris county and our mayor turner who did a fantastic on the. thank you so very much. and the coast guard. they are our wings of angels. thank you. >> they are fantastic. so under -- pursuant to committee rule 7-d. the hearing record will be open for ten days. without objection, the committee stands adjourned.
disasters, including hurricanes harvey, irma and maria. we'll show you the hearing again tonight in its entirety beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. on capitol hill, current short term government funding expires a week from today. at midnight on march 23rd. the appropriations committee is working on a spending bill to cover the rest of the 2018 budget year. negotiations continue on a number of policy issues. follow our coverage on the c-span networks as well as online and the c-span radio app. >> c-span's "washington journal" live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up saturday morning, what's next for the state department after the firing of rex tillerson and the nomination of current cia director mike pompeo to be the next secretary of state? we'll talk with gary schmidt of the center for security studies.
then dan hawkins of the national association of community health centers on the role community health center s play in health care. and matt ford discusses the need to dismantle the department of homeland security. be sure to watch c-span's "washington journal" saturday morning. join the discussion. >> joseph mcmannis, president trump's nominee to serve as u.s. ambassador to colombia, testified before the is the foreign relations committee. he's a foreign service veteran that served as a top aide to former secretary of state hillary clinton. he was asked about when he first learned of the 2012 brazil attack and when he informed secretary clinton. the committee also considered self-other nominations.