tv 2019 FEMA Budget Request CSPAN April 13, 2018 8:00pm-9:32pm EDT
matter memoir. >> and the book" i know best." watch our weekend long coverage of the 22nd animal festival of books live on c-span 2, book tv. next, fema administrator brock long testifies before a house committee on his agency's 2019 budget request. and ohio senator brown talks about the solvency of pension plans. after that a house appropriation hearing on the budget request for immigration and customs enforcement and later, the minnesota state of the state address. now, federal emergency management agency brock long testifies before the house appropriation committee about the 2019 budget request for the agency and reviews the
department's response to the natural disasters in 2017. this is an hour and a half. good morning. we're to call this meeting to order, this hearing to order. we are very pleased this morning to welcome the stradministrator brock long to discuss fema's fiscal year 2019 budget request. welcome, we are glad to have you here. i want to thank you for your leadership in overseeing not just fema but the entire federal response to the record level of disasters activity this past year. congress has passed, three supplementals providing nearly $50 billion for disaster relief fund. for response and recovery from three events. i would like to hear from you today on how recovery efforts
are going and what additional resources you think fema will need in the coming months to continue. fy 19 budget for fema is $11 million. proposing reductions to grant programs while at the same time requesting 522 million for a new grant program that hasn't been authorized. not as yet. i would like to hear from you, why you proposed the cuts in the current threat environment and where is the new grant program's continue to achieve and i understand fema released a new strategic plan. outlining your -- gives us an outline for your vision for the agency. i hope you will discuss how you plan to implement the strategy and how fy '19 requests support these efforts. i would like to recognize
distinguishing member roybal allard. >> welcome to your second appearance before the subcommittee. >> last time you appeared was on the heels of -- we are now eager to spend time with you to get your perspective o on the budget request and on going response and recovery activities and the challenges that lie ahead. i know this has been a difficult time for your agency. you had been at fema for a few months and experienced the most damaging hurricane season but wildfires that devastated my home state california. we want to help support the efforts of fema's personnel and make sure the programs are working well to support recovery
efforts. this is true for puerto rico, because of the level of devastation and the fiscal challenges it was already facing. we must not forget about the families who months after the disaster still struggling to rebuild. this disaster occurred on american soil and the people it affected are americans. again, we appreciate your joining us this morning and i look forward to a productive discussion. i yield back. >> thank you. we are joined by ms. lowey, the ranking member of the committee. any comments you wish to make? >> thank you very much mr. chairman and i appreciate you having this hearing and thank you ranking member roybal allard for holding the hearing and administrator long. you last testified before the subcommittee last november on
the hurricane supplemental request. thank you for the hard work assisting the states and u.s. territories, many of which are still recovering months later. this morning we will hear your justification for the fy-'19 request. choosing to eliminate several programs and cut others with devastating implications particularly to new york. for example, your budget request would eliminate the national domestic preparedness con -- the emergency food and shelter program. providing to communities in crisis. your budget request will reduce the national pre-disaster mitigation fund by 61 million as
we saw in the wake of super storm sandy, hurricane and harvey and maria responding to and recovering from a natural disaster costs more than investments and mitigation measures. in 2017 alone, there were 50 major disaster declarations, 20 which occurred after you were confirmed. we can all agree that communities need to be proactive in mitigating their own vulnerabilities, this request sends a wrong signal by cutting a program deeply and could resort to higher cost to the federal government and communities. your budget will threaten the safety to our communities by decreasing emergency management performance grants by
70.7 million. security grants by 63.6 million. public transportation security assistance by 63.6, 117.6, the urban initiative program, by 117.6 million. with threats of violence and terrorism on the rise, these programs are essential for terror targets like new york to help state and local law enforcement protect our communities. simply put, our communities cannot strengthen their preparedness programs when support from their federal programs are inconsistent and inadequate. administrator long, i look forward to a productive discussion this morning how we can build resiliency, mitigate impacts of future disasters and
keep our communities safe from violence and terrorism. thank you for being here today. >> thank you. >> -- [ inaudible ] >> we do have your written report in the file, but we would like you to give a summation and give us what you think we need to hear. >> thank you chair and it is great to be here again today. we are all here in the spirit of improvement and trying to find ways to make the nation more resilient and prepared. i work towards it everyday and i look at this budget request. one, i think it was not informed by the 2017 season but i look at the budget as an opportunity to serve as an initial down payment on a strategic plan that i feel strongly about and the way forward i want to talk to you about to obtain your support
going forward. the biggest disaster year in our history. 15% was impacted in some way shape or form. to date, i want to thank you for the three supplementals, it has been a tremendous help. it is not that i need more money but new authorities. for example, disaster recovery housing is not a well-designed program. i need more grants authorities to provide governors to be able to control their own destiny any and i'm asking for your help on that. what we put forward so far, we obligated close to 22 ball dollars from california to the virgin islands. 11 ball we 11 billion went to the commonwealth of puerto rico. we are going to be in the
community for years as we progress through. we learned lessons, i need granting authority to fix housing. we need to find ways to streamline fragmented recovery. funding come froms 17 different agencies not just us. h.u.d. made an announcement the other day. it is confusing to a governor how to utilize funding to do the greatest good and we have a lot of work to streamline and do the greatest good and build more mitigation into the recovery efforts as well. i'm asking for authorities to increase state management costs. so it is not just the grants that we need to provide to state and local governments to kick start programs. it probably the most beneficial tool they can have. on a disaster, we provide 3.34%
in management cost based on the total of public assistant. that number needs to rise to 12% giving the state to hire consulteding firms to help with staff augmentation or technical expertise. preparedness is everybody's responsibility from the citizen to the governor and states. as disasters change and threats change, we can not do it all at fema e. is there a game between the federal government and what state and local governments are doing? i'm here to have that conversation. based on the major lessons-learned that we had, based on comments on reaching out to the stake holders, we took 2,300 comments and i'm asking the question, what do you want fema to be good at?
where are we? where do we need to be? we did an analysis and came up with three goals. one, goal one, build a culture of preparedness. we don't have one. the citizens are a true first responder. how do we open up low cost -- and training to do things like cpr. the red cross has a statistic that 1 in 4 are do cpr in a lifetime. you are a true responder after a active shooter or tornado. i'm aligning my assets to tackle the robust achieving plan. building a culture of preparedness, the $522 million grant will help me to start addressing evolving issues. so much of the grant funding is tied to older style 9/11
traditional attacks, obviously. soft target active shooter or cyber security. thesen grants will help me to build a culture preparedness. the other thing is we have to invest and incentivize the state and local government to step up and do land use planning and predisaster mitigation. the cuts and pre-disaster mitigation, the amount of funding in there is not enough. it is a drop in a bucket. i'm asking to do mitigation up front in a larger amount rather than on the back end. so i'm not even sure that 60 million makes a difference when we need to harden the capabilities going forward. ip the biggest believer in
insurance and when it comes to people, staff, and self-insured cities. we have to close the gap in insurance on building a culture of preparedness. the second goal is ready the nation for catastrophic disasters. i don't believe we are ready, earthquakes in california, cascade ya and we have a lot of work to do and we have to bolster and stay in local capabilities to do their own commodities. we're not that good that we can get there after a no-notice events. that's the best way response can work as a unified whole community effort. under that, there are things we are looking for. i'm worried about the wall of work coming to my agency as a result of what we went through.
2017, my agency picked up a new event every three days. i need staff members and we're asking for that in the budget under goal two. 41 staff internally. i can reimburse everybody else but not my own agency. as we pick up more disasters. i'm worried to respond to inquiries to processing paperwork and getting money out down the road. i'm asking for a down payment in the budget to help me bolster my staff and maybe neekt yext yearg the ramification. and reducing it the complexity of fema for goal three. i'm the biggest critic of the agency. i know there are things we can do. there are policies i want to strike down and things i want to
clear up. within this goal, there is budget request for grant modernization. ten different i.t. systems to manage ten different grants. why do we not have one. it takes money to understand how to consolidate the efforts. i want to streamline them. mr. chairman, the one thing i would like to explain is there's misunderstanding about puerto rico as well. recovery has been on going since day one. emergency response and recovery projects are in place. i was in puerto rico last week and met with the governor and we are starting to -- we finalized the dialogue on 4/28 to build a more resilient puerto rico. it is the best way to move forward not just in puerto rico
but communities in the future. it says, how does the state of california want their recovery to go as a result of this wild fire so we are not back again, governor, you know best. local communities, you know that best. let's design it and work towards it. if you manage the budget, whatever is left over you can keep and put it in and incentivize -- reversions year over year over year. and i'm not sure that we would be working towards a common recovery outcome. so we were able to put that into place. it is not something you want to rush. it is something you want to be
calculated and deliberate about. we have no incentive to want to see anybody failing. i don't want to be back in the communities to do this again. we have to do better and factor mitigation before and after these events. thank you, mr. chairman that concludes my comments. >> well, thank you. we're going to go five minutes for time. i want everybody to know, and by the way i want to thank everybody for being here. speaks well of you because this is a go-home day and we have a full house. i'm proud of everybody being here. i'll start off and then i'll go to roybal allard.
>> congress provided more than 49.5 billion to emergency supplemental funding to address last year's disaster activity. can you give us an update for harvey, irma and maria? >> each one disaster, you can't compare them. you're not looking at apples to apples, but apples to oranges based on how the communities were impacted, where they are geographically located. how strong was the infrastructure before the storm and the liquidities issues and the budget and how they were managed. out of the 22 billion we obligated up to that point, up to this .11 billion placed towards puerto rico and 5 billion towards harvey and it is
because of the types of damgs that we see in the type of infrastructure we are trying to fix. these recoveries are on going. and puerto rico is the largest employer. we have done close to 1,500 local hires. we are trying to set forward an outcome-driven recovery, but having to rebuild an entire arm at the local and commonwealth level. we are taking the initiative to do local hires. we are training them and qualifying them in the fema qualification system so we leave a strong and row best capability for emergency management for years to come. texas, we have major challenges. when it comes to housing. we are going to have challenges in housing in puerto rico which is the most fraustrating aspect.
if i can give the governor granting authority, he can taken funding from me and do housing the way he sees best. he can do trent cities is, manufacturing house, travel tray lor and doesn't have to add here to my laws but his state laws and quicker and efficiently than i could. right now, the way it has to work, i have to do a governmental agreement and he has to follow my brur accurate i can process which slows things down. we have to fix it. i never heard of -- which is a real problem. there's a lot that is going on and i have thousands of people in the field now. 65% of my agency is deployed and it is not the four events that i'm working. i'm working disasters and
territories have been impacted this year. i couldn't be more proud of my staff and what they are going through and the sacrifice. >> i agree the staff has done a really fantastic job, but the estimates for hurricane maria beyond fy-18 and the california why would fires were not available when the last supplemental came out. do we have a better estimate or another supplemental needs to address the needs? if so, can we -- another supplemental request. and will it cover the entire lifetime of hurricane maria or should we expect multiple? >> some of the initial estimates total damage estimates range between 40 and 50 billion as we
start to look at the levels of damage and the infrastructure. that number can change as we dig deeper in the damage assessment. as far as requesting another supplemental, we are not there yet. i'm not going to allow my agency to get too close before we have to ask for your support. well maintain and double down on the communication to the congress and if it comes to a critical point if we think we are going to run out. >> if you have other supplementals coming, i assume you do, and that last supplemental request, we didn't have information to give us information we needed to see the picture. >> right. >> so if you're going to do other supplementals, that's why i ask the question. on the why would fire and maria,
we didn't have estimates. >> yeah. >> i know you flooded the place with -- making estimates. you should have a better picture now than before. i can tell you when i was in houston, i was with some building contractors and they said it is 186,000 of remodels estimated to be in houston right now and a market that builds 50 to 100,000 homes a year. they can't build because of lack of labor and can't meet those goals for lack of labor. how are we going to have enough lay labor to do these jobs. a framing contractor looking at a remodern and will a new home, no choice there. they are going to build a new home. makes more money, easier. it is going to be a real challenge -- it may not be
fema's job to direct but ultimately, those are things we have to fix. if this new plan by putting in the hands of the governor, i would like to see that. it may be a good idea. it sounds like a good idea. but you know, turning the ship of state is a slow processes. >> and mr. chairman, you know. when it comes to redo you recognizing disaster cost i think we need to look at the categories of damage that fema pays for through stafford act. in some cases i scratch my head why fema reimburses state and local governments when it can be picked up private companies. why are we paying for things that can be insured. it would save billions of tax-paying dollars and help fema
to further work with solid partnerships in the insurance arena and reduce the need for supplemental requests down the road. our data suggests that paying for public buildings and contents unini'm not sur-insure self-insured one of the greatest is taxpayers and the question is why are we doing that? >> that's a good question and it may require legislation at this level. and as you view it, have conversations with members of congress about it. >> yes, sir. >> if we are going to have to write legislation to redistrict things, that's what we do for a living. >> yes, sir. >> i'll yield now to ms. roybal allard. >> administrator long, to some degree you already answered some
of our questions that i had. i would like to ask them anyway and give you an opportunity to add or elaborate on the efforts and needs are. last fall, the president issued major disaster declarations for areas of california that were r ravaged by wildfires. i understand that fema already obligated $230 million in fire management assistant grants for fy-2018 and out of the disaster relief fund account. is there funding in the base account to provide fire management grants for all eligible recipients and with regard to the drf base, is the budget request enough if there's a fire and hurricane season
similar to last year? >> excellent question. one, mother nature dictates how many fire management grants we're going to have to put out and this past year was an unbelievable year. two, drf is dictated by the b.c.a. and the formula put forward. my concern with wildfires and what we saw this year, the volume of wildfires can deplete the drf as we head into major hurricane season which requirings us to come to you for supplemental request. the omnibus fixed some problems that the governors were having problems with when there were fires occurring on federal land which is not fema's responsibility. our role is to make sure that the fire doesn't get out of
hand. and i think the insurance industry looks at california as probably the worst wild fire on the globe that we've ever seen. one of the most disturbing events i have ever been apart of. >> the supplemental bill provided up to 4.9 billion for disaster loans. these loans helping local governments with the cost associated with operating the governments given they are facing lost revenues. in addition, 300 million for making puerto rico and the virgin islands and to pay for the cost share of projects. the progress on making the loan is slow and i understand that to date, only 54 million in loans
have been made to municipalities in puerto rico. and i have three questions. can you update us on the progress of the loan and why the application process takes so long? and for puerto rico, are fema treasury working on a long-term estimate for the loans and will fema and the department of treasury able to ensure the loans rapidly, issue them more rapidly? >> yes, yes, fema does -- and not to belabor the point but because of the liquidity issues we were facing in the commonwealth, treasury proactively stepped in to help us understand the situation but also to understand the information around how much liquidity puerto rico government
has. when puerto rico oes budget reaches a low point the loans can begin to be placed and puerto rico can draw down against them. that's the deal between treasury and the governor worked out in puerto rico. i can come back in writing for specifics. >> okay. i would appreciate it. and do we have time for a second round? >> i don't know. >> you don't know? okay. i'll anticipate we do and yield back. >> ms. lowey. >> thank you, very much and thank you for your presentation. administrator long i understand that fema and the department of homeland security is looking to change the way risk is calculated for met ra poll tan areas this could impact the
allocation of grant funding. both state and programs and the security initiative. i'm aware that the threat is changing and we need to take that into account. my concern is that rather than relying on a robust analysis of threat, vulnerability and consequences, the risk analysis will be tweaked to fit what is a perception of the evolving threat. that would defeat the purpose of having a rigorous risk methodology at all. so has any independent and third party outside of fema or department of homeland security looked at the proposed changes to the risk method? and do you think it might be valuable toll have an independent review from the gao or some other forsource of expertise before you change the method of calculating risk? >> ma'am, i appreciate the
question. i don't want in i guess to become detrimental. i'm a behavior of doubling down. we rely on reaching out to the national emergency management association, international association and emergency mangers. i don't have a problem with engaging gao as well. we want to do this right. the problem with the grant system is is that i don't think that the federal government did a good job of measuring return on investment or being able and i don't believe the old risk formula was a formula at all. so we have to be able to build a sensible formula that allows numerous communities access to funding to kick start recovery. when it comes to cost share and grants, i don't believe that it is fema's place to fully supplement a program through cradle to grave life cycle.
i believe state and local governments need to have skin in the game and i believe these programs should be designed to kick start initiatives and help communities graduate their budgets to be able to continue to go down the road of a robust program in the future. >> that's an issue that is critical that we work together on. >> yes, ma'am. >> i understand your point of spru some instances i would agree and some i would not. i want to mention one other program. the nonprofit security state in the homeland security state program. when secretary nielsen testified before the subcommittee, i asked her about a new grant program in the most recent omnibus. funding to nonprofits located outside of areas designated to the urban area security initiative will help those organizations improve security at a time when hate groups on
the rise across the country and communications large and small. according to reports by the southern poverty law center, neonazi groups grew by 20% in the past year and in new york in 2017 alone and i was pleased to hear secretary nielsen state her intention to focus dh's efforts on hate groups widely including white supremacy groups. this funding will help organizations like some of those in my district combatting the changing face of hate, threat and violence. can you tell us when you expect the grant notice to be released and when do you think the funding will go out? >> i don't have an answer on that. the timing we will follow back up with you.
i agree, the nongovernmental organizations are important. one of the most important pillars in the whole community. we depend on them to do things we are bound by regulation to keep us from being nimble in some cases. so we look forward to putting the money to work and we will get back to you on the time frames. >> thank you very much and thaun mr. chairman. and i want to thank you for the presentation and you seem so well-informed and we are honored to have somebody of your caliber take this on. the challenges are incredible and i know we discussed puerto rico, i won't bring it up today. i hope you stay on it because the tragedy was overwhelming. when you are up in the he will cooperator and you see the homes
and no roofs. don't forget saint john's as well. >> thank you. >> thank you very much. >> mr. taylor. >> thank you, mr. chairman and mr. brock, thank you. give our best to everyone under you. lots of challenges. i'm happy to hear some of your comments about streamlining the agency and also, i want to touch on puerto rico briefly. i was down there last weekend and understanding as we talked about earlier, deferred maintenance and issues with puerto rico themselves, obviously, we have to go down there and help to make sure we do everything we can to make them resilient and they have a robust system. one question i have, i was speaking to the mayor and to my
understanding it is the municipalities will spend the money to fix infrastructure and get reimburses but they don't have a lot of money and they run out and it is not fixed or finished and then there's another upcoming hurricane season. what is happening to make things efficient and is there a way to do so to make sure the infrastructure is fixed? >> great question. there is no way to fix the infrastructure before next hurricane season. what we are trying to do is -- i can tell you we are proactive and when it comes to the money management and work is being done, we are embedding staff with the 78 mayors and we have embedded staff a long time ago to work with them directly to navigate. we are in the train the trainer process with the 1,500 local
hires, approximately, and that's my army going out and basically helping these jurisdictions navigate. when it comes to the infrastructure,we've got to remember a lot of the power grid wasn't functioning before the storm. you gave me the authorities to fix that. and then there's so many -- we're putting temporary roadway systems in until roads can be rebuilt. so we have a long way to go and we're going to be there for years. what we are doing to get ready for hurricane season. we are rewriting emergency operation plans for all 78 jurisdictions and for the commonwealth. on june 14, all of the efforts to write the plan, and train is going to be exercised on june 14 with a full-scale exercise. i'm increasing the amount of food, water and supplies we have on the island. then we're going to run through
plans of distribution for commodities and the ones we roll out, we are going to allow the 78 municipalities to keep so they can build their own levels of preparedness. >> the efficiency for reimbursement so they get money back to do what they need to do locally? is that being looked at to make sure they get it faster? >> we may be entering into expedited process to get funding to them. if there's a lack of funding. we did that in tax and numerous locations across the country. i would be happy to respond in writing on how we are managing the money process at the local levels. >> is knfema looking at new
technology. 3 d printing housing -- >> there's $124.6 million asking for infrastructure and analytic investment. we have to do a better job of understanding the interdependencies of our own agency and how we interact with the 16 infrastructure sectors to make sure we are making the right decisions and putting the money down where we can. >> politically, there's been hits, of course, about reducing programs with sea level rise. that is an issue regardless of -- there is sea level rise. in terms of resilience and helping communities, is that something and let me say there's a lot of programs in the government that don't go away and are well-intended and don't work well.
are we working with resiliency in areas like miami and louisiana for sea level rise? >> sure, i had a conversation from a forecaster by the name of chris lancy. it is rising about 1-ifrmg ev i ten years. predisaster mitigation up front and not having to negotiate and not zero sd out by every president each year. but a mechanism to help communities to sell elevator roadways and in anticipation of sea level rice. fema can't stop that, that would be equivalent to saying we are going to stop plate tectonics. but a lot of the fooding issue,
we anticipate that over 30% of the flooding that we see across the country is because of the newly build environment and expanding without proper land use planning and building code. there's a multitude of things we have to put forward and disaster resilient is in the hands of the state and local governments to pass the laws and building codes. my agency deals with the consequences for the lack there after. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> mr. price. >> thank you, mr. chairman. welcome administrator long. i'm glad to see you back and congratulate you on your good work and acknowledge a fellow north carolinian. >> headed there today.
maybe i will ride with you. >> i want to ask a couple of questions and hopefully, we can deal with both of them. it has to do with part of your broader support system. volunteers playing in an increasing role in disaster relief and recovery and the work of the center at the chapel hill which you are going to be addressing on monday. both are problematic in the president's budget and is a nice way to say zeroed out. so i want ask you about them. the national service. you know well, that all hands on deck required as a north carolinian and now in the initial role. and volunteers are a crucial
part of the response and recovery. the fema core in 2012, something like 4,000 national service volunteers involved in 2017 alone in relief and recovery efforts. i'm going to ask you to describe what they do. what do these volunteers do to extend the reach of emergency relief and help ensure the long time recovery -- why would they zero out national service? are there other barriers that exist that congress should address? i'm co-chair of the national chair caucus and i have seen this firsthand in north carolina and i'm baffled by the budget and encouraged by the support that the volunteers offer in our national alert recovery
capacity. >> sure. taking this job -- taking this job, you know, i became the administrator in a tough budget environment and unfortunately, cuts have to be made here and there and i've got multiple training facilities. when it comes to universities, i would love to fund a ton of programs, i have emi and -- and institutions dedicated to training. i need to concentrate on my own shop within fema. and then you know, when it comes to fema core t is a great program. the bottom line is that it provides a jumping on point for people to get involved in emergency management and we make an effort to hire those who went through fema core in the disaster positions when they become available. we try to do that. it is a tough -- tough calls
have to be made. when it comes to -- and let me say this, it is not just providing money to state and local governments. i think 2017 should be a reflection points for state legislators and local officials to reevaluate how much staffing and funding their emergency management programs. i can not sur plant them in their entirety. my experience, my general fund budget was somewhere between 5 and $7 million to run a emergency management agency. during the height of 2017, fema was spending that in an hour. i'm spending $300 million a day at the government level. literally, a general fund budget of a state agency spent less than two hours. too much of a gap. i'm trying to combat the fact
that there's a reduction in grants which makes upmost of the budget cuts by integrated fema-integration teams. out of head quarter to move them into the state agencies which we are embarking on this week. phasing it out and putting full-time staff in the agencies to be part of the discussions and help them over come the planning gaps they may have when it comes to staffing as well. not just funding, but getting my people out and also as i said earlier, the greatest thing congress can do is increase the management cost to 12% and we can use disaster relief funding to help them augment the staff and capabilities. it's not -- we can't just singularly look at grants. what are the multiple tools in the tool box that we can provide to states. >> mr. chairman, i know my time
expired so i'm going to ask you to submit for the record a direct answer to my question about the role of service volunteers in 2017 and otherwise and to answer the question i was going to ask, had therein sufficient time about the role of the costal resilient center. >> i will yield you that time. >> submit whatever you want to about the national service. you really didn't address that. and this coastal resilient sent are. you're going to be there on monday. you're going to be thanking them for what they did. the storm surge modeling played a large role where to place people during hurricane harvey and irma. can you elaborate on that and tell us more about the importance of the center's work
and what are your thoughts about eliminating funding for this? >> gavin smith who runs the program. he is a smart subject matter budget environment. should fema be funding universities, you know, and how many of these programs should we fund nationwide, or do i need to concentrate on, you know, do i need to concentrate on working with our partners. noaa also does storm surge modeling that we depend on. >> if that's the case, and my time is limited, if that's the case, if this is duplicative, if the work of the coastal resilience center isn't really needed, you need to document that. >> right. i'm not saying it's not needed. i'm just saying for me, i can't fund it all. >> is it redundant? >> i don't know enough about the program. >> well, i think somebody should look at this. i mean, this is siloed, it looks to me like.
you're talking about budgets that aren't directly in your purview but certainly budgets you should care about. if it's important to your work, you should say so. we need some assurance that within the administration, these conversations are going on. and that functions that are critical to something as important as the work of fema, that those are highlighted and that if there is something we can safely eliminate, we need to have the rationale for it. >> and i'm not at the point to tell you that. i'm going there to learn, to be honest. i appreciate everybody that's trying to put forward better information to fema. we have to be able to utilize it. here again, i only have so much funding. i have to make hard decisions, and we have to make hard decisions. i would be happy to respond to you in writing. once i learn more about the
coastal resiliency center, i'd be happy to respond in writing about what we found. >> good. i will appreciate that. also, a response in terms of the more specifics about the national service input. >> sure. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. >> you're welcome. mr. price -- >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you mr. brock. thank you for being here today. i've known several fema administrators. you seem to be one of the best ones i've heard explain your agency, so thank you for your honest and clear answers. real quick, i'm from gulf port, mississippi, mississippi's fourth congressional district. one thing you can relate to is hurricane katrina. we were ground zero, and we took it right on the chin. it took almost a decade for us to, you know, be comfortable in our recovery. the one thing the gulf coast and not just in mississippi but
coastal areas, any place that lives on or near the water, which is practically majority of the population in america, relies on insurance, the nfip program. mississippi alone is 64,000 nfip policies. in 2013, congress tried to improve the nfip program only to basically cause a lot of unforeseen problems. with that was the drastic rate increases on homeowners, who at no fault of their own were in the nfip program because it was a government program and it was the only insurance available. overnight they were going to see their rates go up yourks kn, yo know, double, triple, quadruple.
you know, that was a big concern. congress acted swiftly. i think the term was unintended consequences. now, the bill was tied to some other things, such as the restore act, which was the delivery of the penalties from the bp oil spill and a two-year surface transportation extension. so the fact that we were going to find a longer term solution to nfip, the reauthorization, because prior to there were 16 or more short-term reauthorizations. obviously those reauthorizations and the fear of it expiring and you can't get a mortgage if you're required to have flood insurance, so it was affecting homeownership, home building, you know, economic development. it's just uncertainty and instability of the market. well, guess what. fast forward, you know, the house has passed a bill which is impassable. it has some good reforms. there's no way it'll ever pass the senate because it's going to increase rates on homeowners. and it's going to cause market disruption. but we're for moving as much of
this to the private sector as possible. there's not a private sector market right now in many areas. so i guess the thing is, can you tell me the fact we haven't reauthorized the program, it looks like we're constantly searching for must-pass legislation to attach even the reauthorization to tie it to. is that having any effect on your agency right now? >> well, the problem -- well, thanks to the congress, those supplements helped us in debt forgiveness right off the bat. every time we have a massive event, it gets to a point where fema can't even pay the interest bill anymore on the nfip program. we need to make the nfip program financially solvent. i don't have all the answers on that, but sometimes i think we may be attacking it in the wrong manner. so for example, any house in the united states can flood. why are we just solely focused on these flood zones. what we learned from harvey is thousands of homes can flood
outside those zones not depicted in there, particularly if street drains are not well maintained or the built environment changes the flood zone quicker than the mapping changes. so every house can flood. we're working -- until there's a legislative fix, i'm working and my mitigation guys are working with the private industry through reinsurance. i believe we've offset some of that cost and save taxpayers over $700 million most recently with getting them to back us up through reinsurance. the thing about nfip and what runs through my mind, and we would have to talk to the private sector to start a dialogue, but why is flood insurance not connected to every insurance policy in america? why is there not an all hazards insurance policy every time you buy a house? so you reduce the cost, spread it out. it becomes more affordable. i mean, i don't know why we have to have this a la carte system of you got to have fire
insurance that you can let lapse if you've paid off your house. you can choose or not choose to buy nfip flood insurance if you're outside a special flood hazard zone. why are we not working with the private industry on a more innovative solution of saying can we get to an all-hazards based insurance package for a homeowner. >> all hazards sounds good to me. so i want to be very sensitive with my time. it is a flyout day. thank you, mr. brock. i have several questions related to mapping on the mississippi gulf coast compared to my neighbors in louisiana and alabama. i'll submit those for the record. thank you. >> thank you. >> thanks for being here. we have a lot of people who ask questions, but it seems to me you're pretty well respected, and that's based on your actions. a good manager is only as good as his team, so i'm sure you have a good team too. you're one of the most important
agencies in the government, i think, because you protect the american people and our critical infrastructure from a host of evolving threats. it's one of the only agencies which the public hopes never have to deal with. when you see a fema van or tent, you know something tough or terrible has happened. however, you face that tragedy. we basically saw the severe tragedy. last year you think is the worst year fema has had? is that correct? >> i would argue yes. >> during this time, fema -- i think you delivered 138 million meals, 194 million liters of water, and 1,310 generators to power critical facilities supporting survivors impacted by the four major hurricanes. while improvements can always be made, i think your agency should be impressed with its good work. i want to focus on one issue today. that's support security grants.
i represent the port of baltimore. i've been involved in a lot of port security issues and written reports on that issue. i'm discouraged by the administration's sufficient funding request for the port security grand program. this program was included in the original department of homeland security authorization. in my eyes, this is clear evidence that congress recognize the urgent need to secure our ports. each year america's ports generate 4.6 trillion in revenue and employ 23 million people throughout the country. now with the expansion of the panama canal, we can only expect to see even more of an increase in that area. the bottom line is that the economic impact of sea ports can not be understated. according to the brookings center for the 21st century security and intelligence, it would take a small attack on our ports to grind u.s. commerce to a halt within days. thus the need for port security cannot be understated. for this reason, we need to protect our maritime infrastructure. the port security grant program assists both large and small
ports with chemical, biological, nuclear, and explosive detention. funding can also go towards bolstering cybersecurity capabilities and implementing transportation worker identification credential card systems. my questions, i have three. first, in your opinion, do you believe the port security grant program has been a valuable tool in combatting terrorism? to me, a cut to this program implies our ports have -- and do you believe our ports are being built for resiliency against rising sea levels and storms which are increasing in intensity and frequency. >> when it comes to port security, it's my understanding that we spent quite a bit of money through grants to build a baseline capability. what we don't do a good job of in the federal government, when it comes to the return on investment, is what point do we build that baseline and have a handoff to the port authorities and to the state and the local
governments and should grants start to graduate and reduce over time as we build a baseline capability. or do we just keep continuing to grow this budget and the grants indefinitely and basically i become the person that supplements these grants in entirety. what happens tomorrow is the threat changes. i've got to find new money to address this problem or that problem. i think that this is one of those grants where we've built a tremendous capability. but where's the handoff. i'm fairly asking the question, where is the handoff to the port authorities and state and local governments as well as the private sector. >> in my opinion, it's based on which port, the management of the different ports. but that's why in the beginning, i talked about how important ports are. trillions of dollars. just a shut down. i think when we had a strike at the port in california. this is a tremendous industry with a lot of vulnerability. a lot of drugs coming in.
yesterday we talked about how i don't think any port has the manpower to deal with the drugs coming in, especially fentanyl. i would suggest that you look at it, and you need to manage where the money is going. i think the federal government has to step in when it relates to ports. >> thank you, sir. appreciate your work, especially appreciate your clearly earnest and sincerity to get the money out the door to front load the funding for disaster victims, to put it in the hands of property owners who are going to take the best possible care of their own property. get it out in the hands of governors and local authorities is the right way to do it. i'm convinced that your approach and your attitude lies the heart of the reason donald trump was elected president. people feel the government is so badly broken that they elected this guy from outside of the entire process as a businessman to just get things fixed and done. they just want action. and decisive action.
i would encourage you as someone who's served -- i started in the texas house and served here in congress, and know that if a law is maybe a little ambiguous or seems to leave you an opening, just do it. i mean, get to yes. i've heard you say that before. we had a very good-meaning governor. don't tell you the reasons you can't do something. tell you the reasons you can do it. i encourage you to just be bold and assertive and to get to yes. if the law looks like it's ambiguous or gives you an opening, just do it. you've been terrific. when it comes to requests that we as texans have submitted to you. i asked you to extend hotel stays for disaster victims you've done so. concur that extreme circumstances existed to contracting could be expedited. you did so. but there are a couple other really small fixes that you've got authority right now to do that would make a dramatic
difference for homeowners who -- thousands of whom are living on the second floor of their homes in my district with all the sheet rock torn out on the first floor. they have -- because many times they were denied rental assistance. if you go to the fema website and log on to the fema.gov website and ask, what specific items are covered by housing assistance, it tells you this housing assistance includes reimbursement for short-term hotel expenses, money to rent a place to live for up to 18 months while your home is being repaired. does my income matter? well, the law says no, it doesn't matter. in fact, your website says, question, does my income need to be under a certain dollar amount to qualify? answer, no. fema's housing assistance program is available regardless of income to anybody who suffered damage or losses. but that's not the way the bureaucrats in fema are
administering the program. they are denying rental assistance to thousands of my constituents who have sunk all their money in their home. they're not wealthy. they've got kids in college, a mortgage that they're still paying on a home that's flooded out. and they're having to pay rent in a lot of cases to stay in the school district. a lot of expenses. and they're being denied rental assistance. but you have the authority literally to just change that. and comply with what is on your website. would you please do that? and how quickly can you do that? >> congressman, as we spoke the other day -- >> i've been on you about this. >> no, no, no, and i appreciate it. i wasn't aware of the issue until you raised it. so the bottom line is that it spawned the very deliberate conversations, and we're going to be entering into the rule making process to look at a whole host of why do we put these ramifications on individual assistance to begin with, right. >> but you could do this.
>> some of it, yeah. >> don't have the lawyers arguing with each other. just get it done. that's what this election was about. >> i will continue to work with you. i appreciate you raising the issue. as you know, i am always in a rock and a hard place when it comes to being deliberate and understanding. that policy that was put into place, i found out the other day it was put in as a result of the 2001 events, the terrorism events in new york. i'm trying to understand why. i'm trying to understand what the ramifications are by moving it, but we're trying to move as quickly as we can, and i'll stay in contact with you. >> you're a bold and decisive person. i can tell you're letting the lawyers discourage you and slow you up. don't do that. it's clear as a bell. just go for it. this hazard mitigation grant program is another one i'm concerned about. as i understand it, the state of texas will receive 1.1 billion in fema hazard mitigation grant program funding this year, but
it's awarded to the states on a formula basis after a presidentially declared disaster impacts an area. administrator long, could you describe, please, how these programs -- what types of projects these funds can be used for and how quickly this money will flow to the state of texas, and what role does fema play in approving the projects and what kind of projects have been proposed so far? >> you know, i don't know what they proposed so far, but the hmgp post disaster mitigation program is based on a percentage of public assistance dollars. i think it's -- i'll get you the exact formula. i think it's like 15% of the public assistance dollars that we put forward in a disaster becomes available in post-disaster mitigation. the cost share on that is set by the stafford act of 75/25. so i don't have any authority that i'm aware of to be able to waive that 25%. as far as the is -- we can serve
as an adviser, but going back to states' rights, the governor is in control of that response and recovery. so what my job is, is to make sure that, you know, governor abbott -- we're helping to meet his mitigation recovery goals. >> that's what we want to hear so texas can move along more quickly. and mr. chairman, if you'll permit me since we have this one round and so many folks hurting, can i ask quickly about the dollar program? thank you, sir. does that direct assistance for limited home repair program administered by the general land office and unincorporated areas of houston, and i've heard from constituents there's been a lot of confusion and delay regarding this dollar program. i understand the glo plans to end the program, the general land office, for the unincorporated parts of the city of houston and harris county and that the city of houston only recently got under way with administration of the program within the city limits. it's been really spotty. are you aware, what's the current status of the program? what can you do to take a blow torch to it?
>> here again, what would fix this problem is granting authority on housing. if you can give me the granting authority to provide funding to a governor, down through a governor, to allow that governor to control housing and do housing in the way he or she would like to, it would -- a governor will outmanage us, do it more efficient and effectively. the problem with the inner service government agreement and the reason we went this way is i don't have enough manufactured homes to handle the flooding in houston. the population of harris county alone is more than puerto rico. >> there's 186,000 homes being remodeled. >> right. and so we had to put numerous options on the table. i put travel trailers back on the table. they were taken off the table for some reason because i knew that there was going to be a shortage in housing. we tried to be innovative in this agreement. governor abbott boldly and courageously stepped up to lead the effort. the problem is, the mechanism is
not right. i'll admit it now. i think it would be better -- because he's got to do it here and purchase housing or provide funding to the homeowner under my bug can i code of federal regulations. and not states. >> much better going through the state. i thank the chairman for the extra time. it's appropriate as we celebrate thomas jefferson's 275th birthday today that we remember that the founders intended, mr. jefferson in particular, that the states administer things that affected only the states. jefferson liked to say regularly if we would just follow the constitution and apply that standard to any problem, no matter how complicated, the knot will always untie itself. you're on the right track. governor abbott, let texas run texas. we'll take care of it. >> thank you. >> thank you, judge. >> i'm going to start off.
once again, a program it looks like you're about to eliminate which i have a lot of interest in, disaster preparedness consortium. my state is a state with a lot of big cities, but it's a great big place. we got more little towns than we got big cities. and the training center at texas a&m university trains our first responders. literally every small town in texas is blessed by that being able to train. to say that we no longer are going to have that available is to say that two-thirds of my
state is going to have both medical and fire fighting at a minimal level. i don't understand -- i would like to explain why that is necessary. now, if it's because it's administered by a university, and i can understand prejudice against big universities. they're like big government. they don't look at where the digits are maybe as desperately as they should. but that's a management issue, if that's the case. but to cut off all funding to things like what we're doing in texas -- is to cut off fire protection and ems protection to two-thirds of my state. they won't have it effective.
now, we got the best training ranges in the entire united states army at ft. hood with the exception of the national training center. okay. that's where you learn the best. you train, and we're great trainers. we've got great soldiers, and they're well trained. but they all go through the national training center before they go to war, if it's available to us. therefore, you save lives, you're more effective, you win battles. that's what this consortium is doing for the small towns and midsize towns of my state. and of every state in this union. if it's the fact that universities are attached to it, then let's figure out a way to make it better. explain to me why basically you're saying, i know, i've heard, we got to make cuts and all that stuff.
but i'm telling you, you will harm -- my district is basically suburban. but you're still going to harm about 25 towns in my district. >> yeah, and by no means do we want to harm anybody. i'm just in a rock and a hard place when it comes to where i can prioritize our funding in a tough environment. when it comes to texas a&m and the texas system, look, it's a phenomenal system. if i remember correctly, we actually hired their engineering students to do home inspections. we had to perform over 2.4 million home inspections this year, which is, one, we got to get to better technology and stop doing the manual process. we are trying to find ways to engage universities. universities do great work. i'm in a rock and a hard place when it comes to what we can fund and what we can't. i would love to be able to fund them all, but it's just not reality. >> that seems to be your answer.
i'm all for going in and doing surgery on the federal government. i think it's a great idea. >> i'd be happy to work with you, sir. >> but i don't understand how to explain to some little small town that has one fire truck and the only people that get to train them is go to a&m. i've graduated kids from high school. i taught sunday school for 25 years. i've got at least five firefighters that i know of. nirvana for a firefighter in a small town is to go to a&m to that training center. they come back with confidence. they know how to fight chemical fires. they know how to fight vehicle fires. they don't just know how to squirt water on a grass fire. they're better in every way for the people that live in their town for going there. all i say is if it's wasteful, let's figure out a way to not be wasteful.
if you need share from the state, let's go a cooperative with the states or the locals or whatever it needs, add a fee, whatever it needs. to kill it is a pretty disastrous thing. >> sure. >> administrator, as you can imagine, i get a lot of questions about puerto rico and what's happening in puerto rico. so my last two questions are related to puerto rico. six months after maria devastated puerto rico, the island still has a long way to go, as we've discussed. according to press reports, fema has received claims for assistance to repair over 1 million homes on the island, but fewer than 40% of those have been paid. and one reason for this delay is apparently a difficulty for residents to prove they own their homes. and it has been reported that some transactions are based on verbal agreements and handshakes
and never officially recorded. other survivors may have lost official documents during the storm. fema needs to find a way and a long-term solution or some residents may never be able to return home. so what is the current plan to help these homeowners? do you need additional authority from congress to help solve this problem? and finally, will you commit -- if you need help from us, will you commit to providing us with technical assistance on what is needed to fix the problem, including the authority to reimburse individuals who have made repairs at their own expense. >> excellent question. you hit the nail on the head. this is a unique situation about homeownership that the agency has never run into before. i don't know if the legislative fix or a policy fix, but what the concerning factor is, is that to protect the tax paying dollar, i have to make sure if
i'm providing funding to fix a house, that it actually gets done. and it's not that we don't trust anybody to do that. we're a very trusting organization. if i do it and it turns into waste, fraud, and abuse, then i'll be called back before this committee again, saying i leaned too far forward. so let me get back to you on whether or not it's a legislative fix because it may need -- i may need once again to ask you for special authority, similar to looking the other way on the deferred maintenance piece. we don't fix things that were not well maintained typically in disaster. i'm called before oig again, you know, and you're asking questions of why i'm doing that. so let me get back to you on whether or not it's a special authority or not. >> okay. and then my final question is, i know that you've said that conditions on the island make recovery very difficult, which we've talked about. a recent ap news story reported that in one village, detailed
their struggles with getting running water. speaking about this, one area of the town, a resident said practically no one has shown up here. the story is dated march 16th, 2018. it reports that they still didn't have running water or electricity and had not received the generator they had requested. i had my staff share the article with your staff so that the subcommittee can get more details about what is going on there and to have a better understanding of an area where the recovery seems to be struggling. can you share what you found out? are there any areas where we can be helpful? and is this a good example of other areas in puerto rico that are also struggling to recover? >> so excellent question. there's a lot of misunderstanding on the water. so a majority of the system that services an overwhelming number
of the population in puerto rico is back up and running. a lot of it's running. some of it's running on emergency power. i have not read the article, but what i would probably assume is if it's a private well, what we typically do in that situation, if it's a private well that's not operational or is no longer usable, we have to understand whether or not you can put a generator on that well to pump the water out. if so, what type of generator. and if i remember correctly, we're working a i signing the epa to be able to go in and do that. if not, we're still mobilizing water to communities like that through water trucks or buffalos or bottled water. we're working with ngos to make sure they're getting out. we can follow up on any specific area. i'd be happy to do that. you know, make sure we're not leaving any stones unturned. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. administrator long, this
assistance thing is really a problem. it really bothers me a lot. we have people that are on the brink of being eight months since the storm made landfall. the stafford act says you can't discriminate on the basis of race, religion, creed. or income. the rule online says you will not discriminate on the basis of income. this is a desperate problem for people. the law is clear. your rule is clear. there's no reason for there to be any delay with this. you've got the authority. i know your heart's in the right place. i guarantee you it's lawyers arguing with each other that's got you worried. i'm a pretty good lawyer myself. i'm relentless. i don't turn loose once i get ahold of something, do i, judge? i'm not turning loose of this. you've got the authority to do this. i'll tell you, i'm going to use every tool this committee's got to help the lawyers, not you, it's the lawyers underneath you that are the problem. i figured out a way to get the department of justice to change
the sanctuary city policy without ever passing a bill. no language in my cjs bill. just using good common sense, good lawyering, and existing law. i'm telling you, the law supports you on this. i'm counting on you to get this done. i'm not turning loose of it. you can do this immediately. tell those lawyers get out of the way. >> okay. >> i'm coming. >> thank you, sir. >> i really appreciate that. that's very important. these people are really hurting. >> understand. >> that's something you can do right away to help them. deeply appreciate it. >> thank you. >> you can also -- one other thing you've got authority to do is to let people use the mitigation grants when a property is purchased. the law is ambiguous. i believe it gives you a little daylight where you could give the homeowner the flexibility to use that grant to lift a new structure. right now they are limited to lifting an exhausting structure, -- existing structure.
nobody is going to do a better job than the governor. than the property owner. nobody's going to do a better job than the governor. that's the genius of what the founders left us. let local and state authorities handle things that affected themselves. so are you familiar with this? can you take -- >> i'm not familiar with the exact issue, but i will go back to my region six staff to make sure i fully understand it. >> thank you. >> absolutely. >> i think this is one you do have the discretion to let the grant -- because today the grant is only being used to lift an old existing structure. >> i'll take a look at that. >> thank you very much. really appreciate it. look forward to working with you and the chairman to help resolve this rental assistance problem and others. anything else you need. thank you. >> thank you. >> we thank you for coming here today. i commend you for trying to fix a broken system. the issue that it always affects
is when you fix a broken system and you don't mine down into it to see what the consequences are going to be. i think we heard a lot about that today. don't give up on trying, but mine down in there and see if there's alternatives. >> yes, sir. >> it's really what we need to look to do. i'm no fan of the federal government running everything, but when you think about it, there's x number of states in the union that historically have disasters. if the burden is put all on those states, those states are going to be overburdened as we try to make sure that the economy of the entire nation functions effectively. for one thing, the gulf coast is where i would argue probably 80% of all the petroleum we produce in this country is refined.
therefore, a major -- could be lost if we didn't do a lot of work down there on the coast. it's not refined in other places, therefore that becomes a federal nexus, in my opinion. i just encourage you to keep trying. but think about asking and learn about the consequences, especially to the little guy. the little guys, they don't have the resource of the big boys. >> sure. >> you got anything further? all right, then we'll recess, and thank you for being here.
>> this weekend on c-span live saturday at 5:30 p.m. eastern. road to the white house at the new hampshire democratic party dinner with jason candor. and sunday at 6:30 p.m., it continues in polk county, iowa. saturday at 7:30 p.m. eastern a feature on black classic press in baltimore. and on sunday at 8:00 p.m. eastern, an author receives an award for his book.
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festivals. and the american history tv weekly newsletter gives you the upcoming programming exploring our nation's past. visit c-span.org/connect and sign up today. now the ohio senator talks about the need for bipartisan congressional action to guarantee the future solvency of pension plans. this event is one hour. >> so we have invited senator brown here today to speak about the pending pension crisis in the united states. right now the pension plans have roughly 1b.5 million workers nationwide are facing short falls and at risk of insolvency. it poses a risk to the pension benefit guarantee corporations which ensures the pensions of 40 million americans. senator brown has been focussed on this issue and worked with colleagues to help add