tv Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson Speaks About Flood Response in... CSPAN August 19, 2016 1:18am-1:52am EDT
concerned if not more so than we are about the status of welfare in their states. >> and includes discussions on how the changes impacted the poor. >> our nation's answer will no -- ar be an ever -- and are taking a-- we historic chance to make welfare what it was supposed to be. at 9:00 p.m.ht eastern on c-span. fema has received more than 85,000 applications from residents in that state for federal disaster aid. thursday, homeland secretary jeh johnson joined governor bell edwards and others to talk about the federal response to flooding. they spoke to reporters in the baton rouge, louisiana state police emergency operations
center. >> good afternoon and thank you for joining us today. i'm proud to be joined by the u.s. department of homeland security secretary jeh johnson and i want to thank secretary johnson and all of our federal partners for their quick response and the way that they work with us here to respond to this unprecedented historic flooding event and to plan the transition into an effective recovery. fema teams are starting today to make assessments. i'm happy to say that the first post-flood small business
administration opens today in the town of walker. i want to thank the louisiana department of economic development for their hard work has they -- as they begin opening these centers. we are not out of the woods and as i have been saying for six days this is an ongoing event. we still have floodwaters and in some cases record floodwaters as they move south in the river in the west on the side of the mississippi river. housing will be a major issue. i want to stress that if you have not done so, you need to register your damages at disasterassistance.gov. or by calling 1-800-621-fema. 1-800-621-3362. even if you're not in one of the
20 parishes part of the major disaster federal declaration, you can register your assistance claim by calling the number i just gave or by going online. thus far, we have had 86,500 registrations with fema for disaster assistance. as many are waiting on borders -- waters to proceed, -- recede, others are just beginning the process of ripping up carpet, damaged drywall, and -- i encourage you to document the damage with photographs. i urge everyone to visit our website for tips on cleanup and protecting your health. that is emergency.la.gov. as soon as possible, you should restore electricity and
air-conditioning to make sure you do not suffer mold contamination unnecessarily. i traveled from the southeast to the southwestern portions over the last few days. together, we are working very hard to make sure every available resource is getting into the hands of the people across the 20 parishes who most need it. we are working around the clock to make sure that no request goes unanswered. as of today, we are sheltering 4072 people. this number changes rapidly, but generally, the trend is downward. thus far more than 30,000 people have been rescued and over 1300 pets. i'm sorry to report that the number of confirmed fatalities related to this storm is 13. with well over 30,000 homes
impacted, i want to tell you that our local first responders aided by state partners, state police, wildlife fisheries, and the national guard have done a tremendous guard of safeguarding lives and preserving property. in louisiana, we are taking care of one another as a way of life. we are on our way to recovery. i ask everybody to be patient and as i always do they are asking for the continued prayers of the people of louisiana. at this time i will be followed by secretary johnson, after which, congressman cedric
richmond with speak to you, and then we will hear from the ceo of the american red cross. secretary johnson? sec. johnson: thank you, governor edwards. i'm here today with the governor, members of his cabinet, the governor's homeland security, first responders and law enforcement officials as well as congressman richard. congressman graves was with us earlier, but had to leave. leo mcgovern, a deputy of fema, joe nimitch, and jerry stoller. i have toured the shelter at lamar dixon. the lamarr dixon shelter. i have toured some of the more affected areas, including the saint amont affected parish.
i sat with the governor the briefing of his cabinet on the ground. if i had to characterize in the community, it would be what one first responder sent to me a few hours ago whose home had been severely damaged by the flooding. our hearts are broken but our faith is strong. the federal government is here, has been here and we will be here as long as it takes to help this community recover. the president has declared a major disaster declaration affecting 20 parishes which means two things. individual assistance to those who have personally affected, damage to their homes and public assistance.
as the governor said, to become eligible for individual assistance, you must apply by calling or through disasterassistance.gov. we have had some 86,000 people apply for federal assistance. this includes the assistance in the repair of your home and replacement of personal items. once eligible, money can be transferred to you in the matter of a few days. we are here to provide public assistance as well in terms of repair of infrastructure, roads and schools. at present there are some 950 fema personnel on the ground. we expect another 750, possibly more, in the coming days. we have helped by contributing cots, meals, blankets, water, and other things. our coast guard, which is also part of the department of homeland security is here on the job, immediately in the hours
after the flooding began they engaged in search and rescue. the coast guard continues to monitor the situation in the rivers, monitor the water levels. the small business administration, which is a federal agency, is also here to help with small businesses. the red cross is also present and i have to say, for those of us who have toured the affected areas, this has been a reaffirmation in terms of our ability when a crisis happens to pull together at the federal, state, and local level, to help the public and to help individuals, to help the people that we are sworn to serve. i've been remarkably impressed not only by the spirit and faith, but also by the level of volunteerism that i see in this community and in this state.
governor, i want to thank you and commend you for your leadership. in the last week or so it has been exemplary, and i want to thank you for that. i will be briefing the president on the situation that i see here at some point very soon. he is getting daily briefings on the situation here and he cares greatly about the people of louisiana, and on behalf of the president and myself, i want everyone here to know that the federal government is here. we are devoting a lot of resources and a lot of people to this effort and we pray for everyone here. god bless you. congressman. rep. richmond: good afternoon. let me start by thanking governor john bel edwards for his leadership during this crisis, and i have been here during katrina as both a victim in a state rep, and he has
provided very steady leadership, especially during the rescue portion of this disaster. i also want to thank secretary jeh johnson, who is here today because he cares, and because it sends a message that the federal government has are back. when you are a state like louisiana where it seems that we are fighting one thing after another, it's always reassuring to know that you have a federal partner that will be here to help. i also want to say something about what we are dealing with. this flood affected so many of our parishes, but it also effected baton rouge, which is our state capital, where so many of our government workers and our first responders live. and the fact that they are shown up to work every day, they are still making sure that we transition from rescue to
recovery, even though they themselves have been victims of this storm. so we have to keep in mind that many of the people use the out here -- many the people you see working out here to make sure that recovery starts are also victims. and let we just conclude with this. i think it is important that people hear this. no matter what neighborhood you are in, or matter if it is rural or urban, no matter if you are rich or poor, this recovery is going to make it to everyone. and so we may not be on the national news as a headline, we are a headline to the people in the state of louisiana that run government, and we are a headline to the president of the united states, who has had his secretary of homeland security,
administrator fugate, and those who bear the responsibility of helping us recover here on the ground. what i've seen firsthand, the residents are back. as the water recedes, they are in their gutting and remediating their home and doing the work it takes to start recovery. our commitment is that we will be partners on the street in every community to make sure we do what is necessary to help our residents get through this disaster and move forward and heal the community. so thank you very much, not only the governor and the secretary, but all of the leadership that stands behind me that have been sacrificing from day one, and will keep sacrificing until the job is done. >> let me start by saying on behalf of the entire american red cross, our hearts go out to
people of louisiana. this is the second major flood in just five months, and it is by far the largest operation the american red cross has engaged in since superstorm sandy. it is absolutely enormous. you can drive through the affected area and as far as the eye can see, you can see people's belongings on the curb, you can see where the water level was. it's really devastating and it's extremely difficult for the residents here. i also want to thank governor edwards, your leadership has been incredible through all of this. your state emergency management crew and team and local emergency management has just been phenomenal, and it's a privilege to be able to work with you. secretary johnson, fema is doing such an outstanding job here and the coordination is tremendous. when i think of how fast you're
moving assistance to the people of louisiana and responding, we appreciate that as well. the american red cross has been sheltering a lot of residents here. at the peak there were 10,000 people in shelters in the state. last night there were 8000 in total. as people start moving back into their homes, we are going to move from sheltering to fanning out to the neighborhood and helping people there. we've already served 100,000 meals and snacks to people in the shelters. we are bringing a group of emergency response vehicles that can serve food in and out of the neighborhood's, give people hot meals and also start distributing some bulk relief items like bleach, gloves, mops, things people need to start cleaning out their homes. i would ask the residents of louisiana to be careful, as they start moving back.
it's been my experience that after flooding, followed by home fires. make sure your wiring is safe, make sure your house is free of mold. we will be here in the community until everybody is back on their feet, and we believe that at the end of this operation, we will have sent $30 million. we are prepared to serve 1.5 million meals and snacks. our volunteers are incredible and there's been an amazing outpouring of volunteers right here. its neighbors helping neighbors, which is great. anyone wanting to volunteer for the american red cross, please go to our website, red cross.org. people here could use help, and if anyone wants to make a financial donation, that would be greatly appreciated as well. thank you. >> at this time we are going to take questions. i want to follow up on something gail just said. the only downside -- perhaps the
national attention is not on it as a relates to donations to the red cross. i don't complain about the assistance we have gotten from the federal government, because it has been superb, but i would ask those people watching in louisiana around the country to seriously consider making a generous donation to the american red cross today, so that we can speed assistance to those who are needing to recover. we will now take a few questions. yes, sir. >> governor, can you give the folks out there a timetable as to when assistance will be coming? a lot of people have been asking over the last few days, do you have a timetable? you mentioned a few already but if you could just give us that information. >> i want to say seven parishes
-- i think we increased that. it's going to be seven parishes will be opening on monday. over the next three weeks we will be in all 20 of the parishes that are declared, each parish will be for a week. there is an announcement that i think has been made officially to that effect. it will start in those parishes that are most affected. in terms of further efforts, i would remind you that we are still in a response mode as well in southern ascension parish and st. james and potentially st. john. also acadia parish, and down in jefferson davis parish. we are working again today to formulate a more complete plan for transitioning out of
response to recovery, and what that means with respect to the housing options that we will pick from, there nothing easy about this because we have folks from all demographics, some of which had flood insurance and some did not. some had the ability to read our -- to rent or stay in a hotel, others do not. we have some places where there is capacity with rental units in hotels and other places where there are not. every home that has been damaged is not damage to the same extent. it may be easy to get some people in but difficult for others. you have to find the right mix of options and that takes some time. we been working is sensibly, not -- extensively, not just here in this building, but going out and meeting to find out what the mix is so that we bring the resources necessary.
we will have another meeting this afternoon to try to make some final decisions and we will be communicating those decisions to people very sin. we are working as fast as we can work to make this happen. but if people will register their assistance claim with fema the way we mentioned, many of those people are going to have some dollars available to them in as little as 48 hours. so they will just continue that process. as they are deemed eligible, the spigots will be turned on. >> will you be recommending that he come to louisiana and visit? >> of course the president cannot be everywhere. i can take it that the president has been closely monitoring the -- tell you that the president has been closely monitoring the situation here in louisiana. he made a matter of hours, it was expedited. we are up to 20 parishes now. i will be briefing him on what i see here and the status of our
recovery and response efforts. administrator fugate did the same thing after his visit here two days ago. president is closely monitoring the situation. he is very much on top of it. as i say, the president cannot be everywhere. i know he has a very busy schedule in the coming days and he is closely monitoring the situation. the chief executive of the entire u.s. government cannot be everywhere, including places you would like to be, but through me and through craig few gate, i know he's very much on top of the situation. -- craig fugate, i know he's very much on top of the situation. >> how hard is it, it if your updates are going to the president on the golf course?
jeh johnson: as i said, he's very much on top of the situation and he is aware of the level of of federal assistance that can be provided and is being provided. i will be briefing him myself right after this visit. >> yesterday a federal judge in arizona issued an order [indiscernible] sec. johnson: i'm aware of the decision. i have not personally reviewed it and i have no comment at this point. >> [indiscernible] >> the question was the number of housing vouchers that have been given out. >> fema no longer issues vouchers. with regard to temporary
housing, we are working very closely with the state to look at all possible options. as the governor mentioned, depending on the extent of damage to a survivors home, that will dictate what solution each survivor household will be made available to them. >> in terms of the house to house searches, can you say how that is going? how long it will take before they can search all the houses and cars that need to be searched, and has any fema aid started flowing to the state or individuals that you know of? >> a number of individuals who have registered have already been deemed eligible for assistance and the spigots have been turned on. whether we are able to deliver that assistance electronically or by mail determines how fast it gets to them. typically it's going to be about 48 hours or a little longer if
it is mail. secondly, with respect to the urban search and rescue, we are very thankful to have a team in from texas to assist in this effort, but the effort overall is being led by the state fire marshal, who really developed search-and-rescue here in louisiana and they are doing a phenomenal job. they are just about finished with livingston parish, and it's obviously necessary to do the secondary search. i want to make sure people know what we're talking about. the people we rescued from homes are those we knew about who were stranded or people who called and asked for help. now that we are past that point in the crisis in most of the area where we are still undergoing response, it's now time to go back and do a comprehensive search house by house, whether or not there was a call for assistance to make sure there isn't someone in that house who was unable to call for assistance and who may need
help. but it's not just the houses, it's the automobiles, because we have automobiles that were washed off of roads and down creeks and rivers. so we are searching automobiles too. we dispatch and urban search and rescue team to ascension parish today. this is a partial report of what happened yesterday but it will give you an idea of how important this is. of the first 800 homes that we searched yesterday in livingston parish, more than 30 homes had people who had not yet been assisted. they didn't know how to ask for help, i guess. many of them were elderly and frail. unfortunately we discovered one decedent and that was the 12th confirmed fatality. it is critically important that we go door to door.
unlike some things you saw in katrina, we're not having to do forced entry, but in very many cases it involves -- we were able to mark the residences having been searched with coal rather than paint. we've learned a lot of lessons over the years and were bringing them to bear in this search and rescue. i want to address something about the question that was just asked of secretary johnson. it easy to focus i guess on things that have not happened. i want you to know that within hours of me requesting a federal declaration, the president granted the declaration and called me to discuss it. secondly, i been in contact with the white house just about every day. the head of fema spent several
hours here with me on tuesday. today we have secretary jeh johnson here with us, as you can see. he was dispatched here by the president. today the general who is the four-star general over the guard component and a member of the joint chiefs of staff spent hours with us here today. we've had the major general in charge of the corps of engineers here today. i am not complaining in any way about our federal partnership. the president is welcome to visit whenever he wants to visit, and whenever he wants to visit we will receive him and do whatever is necessary to make sure that visit goes off without a hitch. however, if you remember a few weeks ago when the vice president came to the memorial of the police officers who were shot and killed, if you recall the impact that had on our community with respect to closing down interstate, the security that was required and also police officers locally you had to be taken from other duties in order to provide that
security, quite frankly, that is not something that i want to go through right now. so while the president is welcome to visit, i would just as soon he give us another week or two to get back to a greater sense of normalcy here, and then he can visit. i will say that differently, he can visit whenever he wants to. [laughter] we continue to analyze it. we cannot get the right makes -- mix determined until we see the population that is affected. we are working feverishly to figure out exactly who they are, whether they had flood insurance of they did not, whether they have helped to get back in their homes, whether their homes can be fixed in a matter of hours, or whether it will take days or weeks, and where all these people are geographically.
when we have a better feel, we will know whether and how many manufactured housing units to order, what the rental capacity is, which changes, because we have a lot of people in hotels today, for example, and that sort of thing. we will have more definitive announcements forthcoming very quickly, and i told the team this morning that we are going to work this evening and tonight so that if possible, we will have more definitive announcements tomorrow, before the weekend, so people can know what to expect and when they can expect it. >> one last question. >> i am sorry, can we get an update on schools? >> you can, i am not sure this is the best group to do that. we will get you the information on schools, but that really wouldn't be the best question to ask of the group that are here right now. >> there's been a lot said in the last couple of days about a project, like in new orleans
there was billions of dollars spent for flood grade protection upgrades after katrina. this flooding, do you think it will send a clarion call to double down on those efforts? do you think they will finally fully fund this project and get it done? do you think it would've made a difference had that been up and running in this flood event? >> the flood project is very important. it is two decades in the making, and there's not much progress, as you know. it is impossible to know whether the areas would have flooded had that project been in place, but the fact of the matter is, we had record flooding everywhere.
we are going to move forward with that project as quickly as possible. i've already had a meeting today with the major general of the corps of engineers and he is meeting with a separate group right now discussing that project and we are trying to get it moving as quickly as possible, because we do believe that it would aid in terms of flood control, but obviously it was not in place and it's hard to guess just what extent the flooding would have been lessened. i will be followed by congressman richman. if you have any ideas on the. >> if history is any indicator, which i think it is, we've made a lot of noise for a long time about flood control, levee protection in new orleans. katrina came and we got unprecedented money from the government to get it done. you look back to hurricane isaac, the project which protects the river parishes had been dangling for 43 years. we finally got an engineer's report and are moving forward with that project. other projects will go in similar fashion because it
highlights the importance. i want to caution similar to what the governor said, i don't think there has been mapping or anything yet that will say what effect not having it had, but what we do know is that in a state like louisiana, every diversion project we have come a every levee we have makes us safer. i'm sure that the delegation will go back with renewed vigor to try to get expedited. what events like this do is magnify to the core what we have been fighting for the whole time. i would suspect that this will go along the same lines of the west shore project and metro new orleans flood recovery projects. thank you all very much. >> representative garret graves
of louisiana is joining us. he has been accompanying homeland security secretary jeh johnson. think you for joining us. historic flooding in your state. where do things stand in your district right now? rep. graves: the northern part of the district is -- people are pivoting toward rescue to recovery, ripping out sheet rock and floors, trying to salvage what they can from their homes. other parts of the district are further south, they continue to have water and many of their homes.