tv Politico Hosts Discussion on Extreme Weather Disaster Relief CSPAN April 24, 2019 8:30am-9:38am EDT
in 2020 some more improvement in the relations will occur because some type of cooperation will be restoring some border or trading, some border zones. impossible even with reunification by this concept, one nation and to political systems, it will take decades. we will not see it. that is why some experts consider it will never occur, it will occur not in their lives.
so on two fronts, we are building a team that is not just about my state agency but about our local firefighters, up to federal agencies. the first is with our wildfire strategic plan that will build a 21st century wildfire fighting force. we built it across local, state and federal government as one team. all lands, all hands working together to actually be able to get on top of those fires and keep them small. the second thing we did in the context, because our health crisis is leading to catastrophic fires. we recognize that fire knows no boundaries. our forest disease knows no boupd r boupd ris. it's being agnostic to property lines. we've signed a good neighbor authority are u.s. forest service which has us doing projects on federal land. we're doing on state, tribal and
lands -- so we can holistically treat the problem and get on top of it. >> i think interagency coordination is super important. federal, state, local coordination is super important. but congress bears a lot of responsibility, too. for making that coordination possible. we started it by talking about the political delays in this latest disaster supplemental. which are really problematic. for many, many years, in the usda, the forest service had to borrow money from the prevention budget in order to fight these increasingly severe fires and to help states like washington fight increasingly severe fires. we weren't making the investments that hillary is talking about and congress needed to act to make the wildfire funding fix to stop that kind of constant borrowing against the future. earlier this year, in the government shutdown, one of the consequences of that shutdown was that the forest service couldn't start the wildfire training that they do every year
in the winter and to trevor's point, it's important to do it earlier and earlier in the year because the fire season isn't really a season anymore. it's more a constant state of being, especially in the west. so you know, these are the kinds of things that aren't typically part of the conversation in washington when congress is having these funding fights. but they have been severe for our communities and for the american people. can i just jump on that too. we used to start in may with trainings. we're moving them up to april and march. because of the government shutdown, actually we had to cancel a number of trainings, 700-person firefighter trainings. we thought, that's okay, we'll catch up. the reality is in the second week in march, we had 54 fires in washington state. we have never ever in the history of washington state ever had that problem. we were actually having to backfill with people just on the
ground pulling them in. because we didn't have our training capacity. it is a real, real impact. >> we've talked a lot about the government shutdown. you know, as a budget and appropriations reporter, a lot of what i've covered is feathered on that fight. the funding, that the president wants to free up for construction at the southern border. and actually, a few months ago i did an interview with puerto rico's governor about this. at the time, it was sort of a question as to whether or not the trump administration was going to be tapping into disaster relief funding for puerto rico to build border barrier at the southern border. so daniel, i'd love to sort of ask you about this. i mean, i suppose what's going through your head at the time when this was in question and would love to get your thoughts on it and whether or not you think we should be safeguarding against a move like that. >> first, let me say that there's currently $29 billion
available at the ready that fema is responsible for, for whether it be puerto rico or any of the other 50-some active disasters in this country right now. $29 billion. so any political issues that are happening outside of fema are not impacting us right now. they won't impact us for the next $29 billion. we will be in puerto rico and all of these disaster sites around the country through the conclusion of that disaster. all the way through the recovery phase, which is -- listen, it is complicated. it is long. but it is necessary. it's necessary for the federal government to be there with our state and local partners to make sure they can recover, they can effectively rebuild and repair all of this infrastructure that is damaged. just to put things in perspective of how long we're talking about here, i started in september 2017. as luck would have it, that was
around the time that hurricane maria made landfall. not that far after that, i learned that we were finally closing one of our open disasters from 1994. the northridge earthquake. 20-some years later. so, one, that shows us we need to streamline our recovery process with our state and local partners. but, two, it shows you that fema will be there throughout the entire recovery and until all parties are satisfied that the recovery has fully taken place. >> do you consider -- you said you don't see politics impacting that $29 billion. but it's like fema, are they doing internal advocating against the president floating this proposal to move disaster funding to other priorities? >> again, it doesn't directly impact our support to those current disaster or future
disasters as long as you have $29 billion in the bank account. >> well, i think we can shift our conversation to preparedness and mitigation, since i think this has been a major theme of the conversation. christina, you mentioned that for every dollar spent on preparedness, there's a $6 savings in the future cost of the recovery. i want to ask daniel how fema is doing more to help communities and localities prepare for these disasters. >> sure. again, this falls under goal one. building that culture preparedness. it's preparedness, it's mitigation, it's -- we all agree that taking action now is the right thing to do. specifically, on mitigation, completely agree that national institute for building sciences study that showed one dollar invested in federal mitigation
grants, saves six dollars in future costs when a disaster strikes. we've known that in the emergency management community for quite some time. craig fugate. he was a big advocate for this. something that none of us have been able to accomplish is to make an adequate or i should even say a game changing investment in mitigation. our time has now come. last fall congress authorized through the disaster recovery reform act a new pre-disaster program. a pre-disaster mitigation program that both moves mitigation forward. here i need to set the context. most mitigation dollars that we provide -- it's in the billions of dollars in busy years -- is following a disaster. in other words, a disaster strikes an area and the public assistance money is provided to rebuild and mitigation money is provided on top of that to build back better. make sense.
it doesn't make sense when you take a step back and say look at all these potential areas of risk we have around the country. the vast va'a mortgamajority of mitigation money is going where we've been hit. shouldn't we take action. they've authorized this new program. i'm pleased to announce the name of that new program today. it's building resilient inf infrastructure in communities. this is washington. so we have an acronym. bric, it's br-r-i-c. they authorize them 6% of all of the disaster costs in the previous year in a competitive nationwide grant program next year. in other words, it's truly pre-disaster. it's truly risk-based and truly available to all of those communities at risk now that may or may not have been hit by disaster. we'll be working through that. we are working through that with
our stakeholders on the rollout. we're excited about this. to put it in the scale of what this could mean dollarwise. if you look at a ten-year average, it's 300 to 500 million we could be providing in competitive grants each year. if you look at a more recent period of time, the last couple of years or especially if you look at 2017, if this program existed in 2017, in 2018, there would have been $3.4 billion available in mitigation for state and local governments. that is a game changer. >> why is this just happening now? >> i think honestly, it takes big disasters to cause change. that disaster recovery reform act, drra, that had 50-some provisio provisions. the one i care most deeply about if you can't tell is that new bric program. there were a number of other provisions we had sought over
the years. it's not just this administration, it's the previous administration as well that sought provisions to make sure that we could take actions before, during and after disasters that would best benefit the disaster survivor. >> so you mentioned your forced resiliency plan a little bit. i would love to hear more about how you were able to -- i think the legislature is considering it this week. what has that effort looked like to get it to the legislature and you had to come up with some creative ways to fund it. >> so it's been a big lift. i think everybody knows the natural disasters we're likely to see, right? people has been in denial. what if it's not a bad wildfire year, what if it's not a bad flood year? every year has become worts ase worse. there's no more question about good year. it's going to keep getting worse. so we've been making the case that says we're going to pay as a state regardless. the question is whether we're
going to pay to react and lose potentially lives. unfortunately. and the context of watching and reacting to smoke and fire and danger. or whether we're going to pay to be proactive and treat the forest, throw our local economies, protect our communities and our firefighters. for us, we needed to start with a plan. we have been fighting every year for basically pennies and dollars for funding for fire pro vengs and preparation and forest health. so we built a 20-year strategic plan that shows how much we're going to treat 7,000 acres a year for 20 years. 1.25 million. when we do that. we take the wood and send it to the mill. we create local jobs in communities which are saying 9 to 12% unemployment in real communities. we also then build a 21st century wildfire strategic plan that says if we're going to get on top of these and keep the fires small, we need these kinds
of resources up front. obviously, the legislature says that's a really great thing. we get your point. help me find some revenue to do that. no surprise. we've been working really hard to find a dedicated revenue stream. you can't implement a plan if every year you're begging for funding to do it. you're basically just hoping it's going to come. so we've identified a funding source that would be every state has it, right now it's in our state it's a 2% tax on insurance premiums. obviously we're wanting a direct nexus between property and casualty and it would be a .52% increase to a 2.52%. it would generate $62.5 million a year with the goal that as we invest year after year, we're going to see an increase in the forest resell jens i and decrease in fires. so funding will over time get
less. that's our goal. right now we're fighting for it in the last week of our legislative session. i think across the state people see that this fairly distributes the impacts of fire, again, no person in washington state was not touched. we had the worst air quality in the world at times last year. so every single person was impacted. i think everybody believes we have to take action now if we are going to change the trajectory. as we say, you want a new normal that isn't what we've seen for the last five to ten years. it's going to have to take preparation, mitigation and investment of up front. >> i was a little weird talking backstage and i was surprised to learn that washington state did not have a a dedicated revenue stream to something like that. christina, i'd love to hear a little more in your research. are there other states or communities that have taken on efforts like this?
should we be incentivizing for legislative efforts, projects, local-based initiatives in this realm or what have you seen and do you think that this should be more common? >> sure. we should be incentivizing a lot more, proactive, state and local resilience activities to cut down on the risk of loss of life, loss of property for future disasters. the challenging thing is that a lot of our -- the traditional way we build our environments is not incentivized to mitigate these risks. if you look at a place like houston, hurricane harvey was the third straight year in a row that he's experienced a quote-unquote almost 500-year flood in terms of how severe and how widespread the flooding was. and the previous two years weren't from hurricanes. those were normal stormsment one
of the reasons is because houston famously, very sprawling city, over the years as the city has grown and the -- have spread out from the city center, you have houses and roads and shopping malls and what not going in over what used to be prairie. what used to absorb rainwater. instead of absorbing into the outer parts of houston, it's flooding into the historic neighborhoods closer to the city center. you see in fema's flood map the zone at risk of flooding has been growing and growing and dproeg ov growing over the previous 40 years. so long as states and localities are not incentivized when they're improving development projects to take these risks into account, pretty much every local planning commission is
going to err on the side of increasing local tax revenue. increasing jobs. increasing housing. if you're not doing that planning in a dense way, in a resilient way, then disasters are going to keep getting worse and worse. so this has been an active debate in california and other states. you know, right now, as things stand, there's not a whole lot that the federal government can do to change those incentives. well, that was a great segue into my next question. we've talked a lot about washington, talked about the poe litization of -- we're just now introducing a grant program to help with preparedness. i'd love to hear from hillary or trevor, sort of what are states and communities and nonprofits currently not receiving from
washington that would be maybe tremendously helpful in some of these efforts? >> you want to go first? >> you can go ahead. >> i think -- i'll give a perspective in this context. so over the last ten years the number of fires in our state has more than doubled. the area has now encompassed the entire state versus just certain pockets of our state. the season has now moved from april and in this case march all the way to october and november. if i look back over ten years of funding for just fire preparation, not even the mitigation side and forest health because of the fire borrowing problem we have, over those ten years, our state's budget, the funding received from the federal and our state government has only increased $2.5 million. that's over the entire ten years.
that's it. 2.5 million. one fire alone costs $60 million to fight, right? what we have is a systemic problem that the state and the federal level have not adequately funded the resources for the problem that's in front of us. not only on the context of response, but truly in the context of preparation. and what we need -- that's why we built a plan that wasn't about our state. it was about all of our agencies working together so we would all own the problem. all lands, all hands. to be able to say we're all invested in the future of washington state. we're all invested in the future of our nation. and it won't happen unless we put the investments up front. there's no more excuses for saying i didn't know or i didn't think it would be a bad year. we know the natural disasters that will hit every single corner of our country. we know how much it's costing us. we know the actions that need to happen up front to reduce those costs and to make a difference
in people's lives. there are no more time for excuses. >> so i mean, since july 1st, we've seen just over 63,000 homes destroyed in large-scale disasters in the u.s. as hillary mentioned, it's an average year, right? in this new paradigm we're in. but think how extreme that is. we've tried to take that preparedness side down to the family level. i think a lot of times, the 63,000 number can be overwhelming. we tend to have a culture of hope for the best. right? we don't plan for the worst most time. we hope for the best. we really try to take it down to family level. we have a great program we launched four years ago. we're going into living rooms and installing free smoke alarms in people's homes door to door. we went over a million and a half smoke alarms. we've documented over -- lives saved. what we need is more surround sound. right? the old adage of you have to
hear something seven times to remember it. we need more air cover on the preparedness. that's what i love about the bric program. making sure that kids here at the schools, that parents here in their workplace, the families hear it in the living room from organizations like the red cross. we have to keep telling the story. it's not about waiting for a nonprofit, a state agency, federal agency to provide mitigation. it's personally. what are the steps i can take to be better prepared. we're luck toy have corporate partners in the u.s. to keep stepping up. partners like anheuser-busch have surrounded us and helped us to create the surround sound in the private sector as well. >> i think one message that would be valuable besides saying we can help save money and by doing preparation and prevention, we can help save lives, there's another context. if we can look at it from an dmik opportunity, meconomic opp
communities that are hit are economically challenged communities. we've made the case that says if we can get in and actually treat these forests, we can not only save money and lives and communities, but we can actually create jobs and we can actually create a better economic future in these communities. if we can start to make the case with bric that it's not about and with our own state dollars, that it's not about preparation and preventing the worst, it's actually about preventing the worst and creating economic opportunity. it's a much bert way and it's -- better way and it will make a difference. >> we promised we would take questions. i'd love to pivot to the audience and see if anybody has any questions. right here. there's a microphone coming around, i think, for you. >> thank you. good morning. explore especially with the red
cross. -- >> do you mind droe sbroe duesing yourself. >> i'm a government relations consultant here in washington. i'm max trujillo. >> as technology is more useful in disaster relief and i'm just -- i want to bring up that the faa just started to approve drones to be used for commercial. and i know there's been experimentation with drones for disaster relief. in puerto rico, there was a complete collapse of the communication system for the government which hampered the national volunteer organizations such as yours. a lot of people decided to do their own emergency relief. a lot of things stayed at the airports and the -- et cetera. how do you foresee the coordination of drone technology to use for disaster relief but especially when then everybody could provide their own disaster relief. there is no coordination, but then going to fema, what happens
is that fema assumes that the state is there as a partner but puerto rico showed that sometimes it's so big that you don't have a partner and you are the first responder. how do you coordinate all of this? thank you. >> that's a great question. one of our big principals is around stewardship. we operate with donated dollars, gifts from the american public. we've got to be careful. we want as much of the money we raised to go directly to the families we served. to people who lost their homes. we're not spending a lot on infrastructure and tools. so we need to depend on a lot of other partners. you likely won't see the red cross. buying or maintaining a fleet of drones to do that. we'll be relying on state and local and federal partners who have those resources. i think it speaks to a higher challenge of trying to stay in our lanes. we're maximizing efficiencies across the different levels. not trying to invent the same things. we have invested heavily in a
common operating picture so we can track our resources through gis platforms. we're sharing that with our nonprofit partners. it's like catholic charities, salvation army. we don't want them to invest -- we don't want them to serve -- i think the same value should be in all tools, all technology, if something has something that works, let's leverage it for the entire sector and the entire response and let them invest in other pieces they're goot good at or have more expertise in. >> any other questions? >> good morning. great panel. i'm john bird with miller wen hold and john -- we run the 3d elevation program. coalition. and i wanted to really target hillary and daniel. nationwide elevation data coverage in the use of light --
technology. there's a -- fema contributes a sizable chunk of -- the question for hillary, given that the landslide issue is ongoing, the five-year anniversary of one. can you talk about how it's leveraged from your perspective. daniel, for the bric initiative, how would you see enhanced elevation data factor into resilient communities and infrastructure. thank you. >> great question. i didn't tell -- one of the other things i oversee is a geology survey. so we -- it wasn't until i was a role that i reminded myself that we have five live volcanos in washington state. we're not ready. that's our challenge. we know the big earthquake could happen any time, right? then we've got landslides consistently and constantly, especially after fire, frankly.
we have been working to get funding and we've secured some funding from the legislature. we continue to map our state based on landslide risk. obviously, us doing that data and providing that information is not the -- get the information to our local governments. they will use that in their land use planning. where residences and businesses are being built. so we are starting this, we started this about three years ago. most people will know we had unfortunately the most tragic landslide in the entire nation within our state where 43 lives were lost. we don't take this issue lightly. it's something we have to be investing more in. and we're in the process obviously of mapping the entire state to that. we have the risk of tsunamis also and we're doing the same in that way. it is a constant battle to get the funding and resources to do this work so that we can make it
available for those. >> whether it's the elevation data or any kind of data that it helps inform risk either to fema, to the inner agencies you mentioned. we've invested heavily into this data and providing it no cost. where the rubber meets the road is at the local level, the community level. we talked a lot about how you build and where you build can really influence how resilient that individual, that homeowner, that community is after a disaster. think about it as zoning where you build, a local decision. we shouldn't be building in some of these locations. they're prone to kwield fireswin coast. and how you build. building codes. a local issue. if we had more disaster resilient building codes, we wouldn't be experiencing the losses we are today. >> we have time for one more question.
>> zack coleman here with politico. wanted to -- sorry for taking the last question. so i wanted to ask real quickly. you talk about a culture of preparedne preparedness and that being important at the same time the trump administration has not talked about one of the major drivers of what's making events more extreme and intense, which is climate change. i wanted to know what responsibility the trump administration has to talk about that issue and in what ways do local communities take cues from the federal government and are you preparing them enough by not addressing that issue? >> so, the climate is changing. i will say that, again, i started the day, maria made landfall. you don't need to convince me we've had more extreme and intense weather and frequent weather the past two years. there's also a hurricane drought for the 12 years prior. i can't tell you why that is. i don't want to attempt to explain it. what i can say, from fema's
perspective, regardless of the cause, we have to take action. we can't sit there and assume that, whether it's fema, the federal government, the state government, the local governments are going to be there to respond and to help you effectively recover from a disaster. if you're an individual, i think that you need to know that not only is fema not a first responder. fema is not going to make you whole when a disaster strikes. we talked about hurricane harvey. it was an extreme event to the outer most edges of the extreme event. it hit an area that was prone to to flooding. but was well outside the flood zone in many cases. in fact, 80% of the flood losses from hurricane harvey were outside of that 100-year flood zone. i absolutely refuse to use that term, that 100-year flood zone but it was mentioned. >> sorry. >> any home can flood. doesn't matter if you're inside or outside of a flood zone. you might be required to have flood insurance inside that
zone. but everybody should have it. because there's a nonzero probability that your home will flood. by the way, your homeowners insurance does not cover flood losses. it doesn't. if you're relying on the federal government, you're going to get much less than you would from your insurance company. for example, hurricane harvey, harris county, texas. on average we provided $4,000 to the average -- to the disaster survivor on average in harris county, texas. i'm proud that we put $4,000 into survivors' hands. but $4,000 isn't going to make you whole. if you lost everything, $4,000 is a drop in the bucket. but if you would have known that your homeowners insurance policy didn't include floods, if you knew you were at risk to a 1 in 5,000, you probably would have. relatively cheaply. a very low premium.
instead of receiving $4,000 on average from fema, you would have received on average $110,000. because you took that proactive action. am i being clear? take action now. whether it be mitigation programs that are going to be available to you. whether it be preparedness action that is you take as an individual, which includes financial preparedness, by the way. it's financial capability month. all of you should call your insurance agents after you walk out of here. from a government standpoint, we need to realize we have a huge problem on our hands spiraling out of control disaster costs that we can mitigate and prepare. but ultimately we need to transfer the costs somewhere else. we believe it should be transferred to the insurance markets, the private sector. we're practicing what we preach at fema. we're transferring a lot of flood risk off of the backs of federal taxpayers into the reinsurance markets. we just placed another $300
million last week in the reinsurance markets. but governments need to do that as well. the insurance gap, the difference between what's insured and insurable is -- it's the biggest anywhere in the world. we expect $55 billion a year in losses due to natural disasters. of that 30 billion is uninsured. said another way, more than half of our disaster losses are uninsured. if i'm not being clear, please let me know. we need to take these actions. we are very passionate about that at fema. >> thank you. this has been a great panel. i think some of the big takeaways here is obviously we're in this new reality. i think it was you that said we have to rally resources for things that don't have seasons anymore. which is alarming. it's a battle to get preparedness and mitigation funds. it seems like it takes -- it has
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