tv FEMA Administrator on 2017 Disasters CSPAN March 17, 2018 12:38am-3:02am EDT
elements, to the undoing of lyndon b. johnson's presidency. webb, author of the vietnam war novel "fields of fire, "." they marched book into sunlight. war and peace. vietnam and america. october 1967. 1968, america in turmoil. easternday at 8:30 a.m. on c-span's washington journal. and on american history tv on c-span3. up next on c-span, a look at the federal government's response to national disasters last year. that's followed by today's white house briefing with press secretary sarah sanders and white house legislative affairs director mark short. look at nafta negotiations and potential implications of the u.s. pulling out of the agreement.
fema administrator brock long was on capitol hill testifying on the lessons learned from hurricanes that caused major damage last year. other witnesses included the homeland security and departments general and a representative from the u.s. army corps of engineers. this is just under 2.5 hours. >> the committee on homeland security will come to order. the committee is meeting to
examine the lessons learned from last year's disasters, including the preparedness, response, and efforts for hurricane harvey, irma, and maria in order to prepare for future disasters. this is also administrator longs first appearance before the committee. i welcome the opportunity to learn more about your priorities and vision for the future of fema. we have members joining us today that are not on the committee. resident commissioner gonzales, congresswoman velasquez, delicate stacy plaskett. order, ibjections to recognize myself for an opening statement. this morning our committee gathered to review our buildings to prepare, respond, and rebuild in the wake of the natural
disasters of 2017. i would like to extend my heartfelt condolences to the victims of the recent bombings in my hometown of boston. -- thesenous attacks heinous attacks me to stop. no one should be afraid to open up their front door and pick up a package. we will also find who is responsible for these murders and make sure they are brought to justice. --le the american people while there are constant targets , cyber criminals, gangs, tonight hearings will focus on the dangers of natural disasters. were 65 major disasters declared. they included hurricanes that hit my home state of texas. of wildfiresozens of acresugh thousands and destroyed everything in their path. after hurricane harvey hit texas, i personally toward the
devastated communities in my district, as well as the city of houston. days of punishing rain, rising rivers, and overflowing by using reeked havoc on much of my state. the destruction was horrifying. many homesflooded, were obliterated. sadly, many people lost their lives. as i witnessed the strength of the texas spirit, that was the positive. many volunteers hopped into their boats to rescue people stranded on rooftops and trapped in vehicles. others went into the murky waters filled with snakes to save their loved ones, or even to help a stranger. texans helping texans. assisting one another during a tough time. army corps of engineers played a key role as well.
this kind of teamwork was also evident in hurricane irma. of the islandch that is still trying to recover. we are learning lessons each of the storms we are better prepared for the future. natural disasters bring a lot of harm. they also provide opportunities grexit i am proud to say both parties came together to pass the relief package the provided billions of dollars to the disaster relief fund. it is always our goal to make sure fema has the resources and capabilities it needs before it is called into action. the first ever comprehensive reauthorization that passed the house in july will strengthen our first responders and frontline defenders. i am encouraged that the senate
is finally taking action. i hope to have that passed soon and set to the president. i would also like to personally thank each of today's witnesses for being with us this morning. harvey,after hurricane i met at fema's headquarters to receive a briefing during the initial recovery. i could see firsthand the dedication and professionalism of the men and women who sprung into action during that time of crisis. i am grateful for their service and efforts, and all of our partners at the federal, state, and local level. with that, i yield back. >> thank you very much. begin, i would also like to express my condolences to the families of the victims of the recent austin bombings. thoughts and prayers are with
those who lost their lives, as well as the survivors. as you know, mr. chairman, we were originally scheduled to have fema administrator brought long before this committee in november of last year. unfortunately, he abruptly canceled the hearing after the democrats invited the mayor of san juan puerto rico to testify about the effects of hurricane maria on her community. that troubling turn of events occurred shortly after administrator long publicly .tated i'm much sure when it becomes ofeptable to be dismissive an official representing an american city devastated by a natural disaster. next week mark's six months since hurricane maria made landfall on puerto rico, sending
the island into darkness and changing life for nearly 3.3 million americans. still today, thousands of puerto ricans have yet to have power restored. the puerto rican economy continues to struggle as a result of devastation to infrastructure, homes, businesses. hundreds of thousands of puerto ricans have moved to the mainland in the wake of the storm, perhaps never to return. i am pleased the committee is finally holding this important hearing, to say it is long overdue would be an understatement. it was the most active hurricane season on record, with 17 named storms. three major storms caused devastation in texas, florida, the u.s. virgin islands, and puerto rico. after harvey, president trump
treated texas we are with you today, tomorrow, and every single day. president trump later visited the effected area just four days later. this is what americans expect from the president and the federal government in the wake of disaster. similarly, after hurricane irma struck in florida, president trump treated the same thing. again, the president visited four days later, as it should be. but after hurricane maria devastated puerto rico and parts of the u.s. virgin islands, president trump's words and actions were decidedly different. he treated that we cannot keep
fema, the military, and first responders in puerto rico forever. the president also said the government of puerto rico wanted everything to be done for them and accused officials of poor leadership. when we finally showed up in puerto rico, two weeks after the chuckedde landfall, he rolls of paper towels at survivors. he did not even bother to visit the u.s. virgin islands. for an american president to behave in such a way is beyond compare. in keeping with the president's actions, the federal government's response was decidedly different after each storm. fema had supplies and personnel repositioned before hurricane harvey made landfall on august 25, and shortly thereafter the federal government had more than
31,000 federal employees on the ground in support. fema also provided 3 million meals and 3 million liters of water for harvey survivors. irma, there were more than 40,000 federal personnel on the ground just before the storm struck on september 10. fema also provided 6.6 million meals and 4.7 million liters of water to the region in the days just after irma made landfall. the trump administration's response to maria was far slower and smaller. storm,eks after the there only a fraction of the federal personnel on the ground in puerto rico and u.s. virgin islands as had been deployed to texas and florida. food and water were in short supply.
federal contracts to provide essentials like tarps and meals were slow. doctors and puerto rico were required to perform life-saving surgery using the light of their cell phones. doctors in the u.s. virgin islands saw the only hospital on st. thomas deadly damaged, rendering its medical floor and cancer treatment facility unusable. despite the devastation, it took 43 days for president trump to approve disaster aid to puerto rico, quadruple the amount of time it took to approve such assistance to texas and florida. i understand the delay was due .o the trump's administration
a deal some have called the puerto rico special. meanwhile, the president found the time to spend several days at his properties golfing, fightingundraisers, with nfl players about taking a knee during the games, and treat about everything -- treat about everything -- tweet about everything. that is not the kind of behavior people expect or deserve. today, i hope to hear from our first panel of witnesses about how the federal government is using funding approved by congress to support response and recovery in communities hit by hurricanes, wild fires, and other disasters. i am particularly interested in hearing from administrator long about lessons learned from these disasters, and tough fema can be
better prepared to respond in the future. our secondnesses on panel, i hope to hear your perspective on the federal response and what we can do to support recovery going forward. fema's mission is supposed to be helping people before, during, and after disasters. it is our job to conduct the oversight necessary to ensure fema fulfills that mission. i look forward to our discussion today. mr. chairman, you recognize to members that are here. i asked the they are allowed to give a statement at this time. >> without objection, so ordered. record, the mayor of san juan puerto rico was invited to attend this hearing, but unfortunately she could not make it today.
we are pleased to have two distinguished panel witnesses before us today on this important topic. our first is brock long, and our second is donald jackson. kelly, not mr. john the chief of staff but the acting chief of the department of homeland security. the chair now recognizes administrator long for his opening statement. >> as they wish members of the committee, it is an honor to be here before you in the spirit of improvement. i'm here to talk about fema's herculean efforts to put forward in response to help millions of americans. room forlways improvement.
i have the agency's worst critic by all means. i realize you have a long way to go. to do disaster response and recovery the proper way, it has to be federally funded and locally executed. slide ihat we have a would like to display if possible that i will break down in a minute. to put it into context by numbers is now the impossible. the numbers are huge. you look at just harvey, irma, maria, and the california wildfires, each one of these could have been catastrophic in their own right, much less happening in rapid succession. we estimate that roughly 47 million people were impacted by these events. forced to people were
act. tois a tremendous effort help that amount of people in this country, and we have a long way to go to improve. on the response side, the federal government efforts to coordinate search and rescue teams can be credited to saving 9000 lives. site, wecovery registered 4.7 million people into our individual assistance processes. i cannot make people hold, but we can put forward assistance to help kickstart the recovery. today, we still get 13,000 calls per day for assistance. we learned a lot of lessons. we learned that we have to work
with our private sector partners to build we silly and communications so that we do not lose the ability to communicate with one another during the response. we have to streamline a federal government recovery process. aid comes down from 17 different agencies. it is confusing. governors and mayors do not know what they are entitled to. we also have to fix housing. i'm going to ask you for support to help me fix housing, and give more authority to governors going forward, to give them more control to understand how to help their communities recover, and not just have it solely on fema's shoulders. there is nothing more important than a trained emergency manager. we have implemented 4700 local hires.
we have hired roughly 1300 of the best and brightest puerto ricans to help us go through the response and recovery. the largestne of employers over the next couple months within the commonwealth. we are training them to be , creating anagers backbone of emergency management but did not exist before the storm. we have to invest more in predisaster mitigation to reduce the impacts of what we just saw. more money upfront rather than on the back end. we have to simplify processes. i have had numerous conversations with many of you about things that get in the way. this agency had to perform 2.3 million home inspections. put your mind around that for a minute. it takes a lot of people. it is a slow, cumbersome process that slows recovery down.
i'm asking to do away with the majority of the inspection process. going forward, we asked our constituents what do you want fema to be good at? where do you want us to be? what do we need to do? how do you need to get there? we reached out to our state and local partners, to non- government organizations, and got 2300 comments back. we get a trend analysis and develop three major goals to strive for going forward. we are asking other agencies involved in the state and local levels to embrace this as a unified approach. , we do notoals are have a chu culture of preparedness in this country. our citizens are not prepared.
we have to get them to be financially ready, if to teach them tangible skills like cpr, and go back to the civil defense days of being ready. we have to do more predisaster mitigation. we have to close the insurance cap. aretoo many people underinsured or uninsured. that is not right. help me overcome this problem. the second goal is to ready the nation for catastrophic disasters. we have a lot of work to do. i'm asking for help. ,hat i'm going to be asking for we happen to have commodity , if you'reor example expecting fema to do it that is not the sound plan. i am wanting to move my staff out the agency offices and i want to put them every day with
state and local agencies so i can be part of the conversation every day. not just being seen in the response and recovery realm, but i want to be seen every day. finally, the third goal is to reduce the complexity of fema. as i said, i am my own worst critic. i know we have to streamline some processes. specifically the disaster survivor process. we have to streamline the grantee and sub grantee process. that takes a lot of work. ultimately, i am asking for your help. thank you. >> thank you administrator. the chair now recognizes major general jackson. of thesting wish members committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. the court conducts emergency
response under two basic authorities. under the stafford act we support fema under the national response framework. it provides temporary emergency management, is a structure assessment, and temporary housing. we plan, prepare for, and recover from disasters and coronation with local, state, and federal partners. resources are mobilized from across the command to assist local offices with their response to the event. there are more than 50 specially trained teams supported by emergency contacts. uses pre-awarded contracts that can be quickly activated for missions. , the court has supported fema led recovery operations and support of multiple events including wildfires in california and hurricanes.
two of our divisions are currently fighting flooding along the ohio and mississippi rivers today. debris removal is complete in 10 of 11 debris basis and channel regions across six cities. we expect this to be complete by the end of april. 85% of private property debris removal and remediation is complete in lake mendocino, napa, counties. 39 maria related mission assignments by fema.
including navigation restoration, levy and dam safety. as of this morning the court has completed over 2100 every generator installations in the including 180 in the u.s. virgin islands and 1900 and puerto rico. the mission is complete and the u.s. virgin islands. under fema authority we continue to assist puerto rico with operation and maintenance of generators across the island. we expect a temporary power mission to end in mid-may. the court has completed over 78,000 temporary roofing installations, including over 13,000 in florida. and over 59000 and puerto rico.
florida and the u.s. virgin islands are complete, and less than 300 to complete and puerto rico. debris subject matter experts provided technical services in georgia and florida in response to hurricane irma. the u.s. virgin islands to breed removal is 94% complete. and puerto rico debris removal is 92% complete. our debris teams are actively working. completed with all debris removal and disposal by mid june. to manageclosely reservoirs during periods of unprecedented rainfall. puerto rico dampen levy teams since -- inspected 17 dams. the court was given a fema mission assignment to assist a commonwealth and conducting emergency repairs to the power grid.
the court and not have pre-awarded contracts for this effort. instead, we competitively awarded contracts for power generation, line repair, and transportation. this included acquiring over $283 million in materials. is partnering for this effort and cap energized almost 92% of customers this far. the mobilization of contractors will be complete in late april. remaining work will be turned over. we will continue to operate turbines too late april as repairs are completed at the sites. the court remains committed to
executing its activities across the nation. remain ready and poised to assist in future events as they may occur. this concludes my testimony and i look forward to answering any questions. thank you. >> the chair now recognizes mr. kelly for a statement. >> members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to discuss preparedness and response capabilities to the 2017 hurricanes. applaud would like to the dedicated men and women who quickly answered the call, rolled up their sleeves, and begin the difficult work to help the people affected by three major hurricanes. irma, and maria made landfall within four weeks of each other. of therm's rank as three five most expensive storms in u.s. history. seasonthe 2017 hurricane , it was the costliest season in
u.s. history. the 2005 season that included hurricane katrina. response to unprecedented disasters in texas, florida, and puerto rico, we deployed staff from local offices as well as other auditors and investigators from around the country. on the ground creates an independent unit that overseas disaster response and recovery activities, detects systemic problems, helps ensure accountability over federal funds, and identifies potential risks and vulnerabilities. the presence of our criminal investigators assures .takeholders our investigators work in partnership with the national center for disaster fraud to
receive complaints and identify trends. they also actively participate. finally, they briefed fema and task forces on fraud, waste, and abuse. it is disappointing, but disasters often result in an uptick in fraud. than17, we received more 2800 fema related fraud complaints. ofthe first five months 2018, we received over 14,600 hotline complaints. that is more than triple the total amount received in 2017. from these complaints we have initiated 220 investigations. the numbers continue to grow every day. for the 2017 hurricane season, fema faced situational challenges caused by the magnitude of the disasters and
systemic challenges that are persistent over time. responding to three major hurricanes at one time is difficult. in 2017 the response was further by devastation in the caribbean islands of puerto rico and the u.s. virgin islands, which are remote and not easily accessible locations. this poses additional logistical challenges to already taxed workforce. much of the infrastructure was already in disrepair prior to the damage caused by hurricanes. in addition to situational challenges, fema faces persistent systemic over abilities such as duplication of benefits, inadequate staffing, grant management issues, privacy vulnerabilities, and providing funds to high-risk entities.
these challenges could delay survivor recovery and put billions of federal dollars at risk. to this end, we have issued several reports addressing fema's disaster preparedness and response and recovery efforts. this in knowledge is ongoing concerns we must address to ensure effective missions. forward, the challenges identified during the recent disasters highlight the importance of proactive and throat oversight, as well as continual improvement of fema and executing its mission. weagents of positive change, have over 30 ongoing plan reviews and strive to make recommendations for improvement fee must efficiency and effectiveness. mr. chairman, this concludes my statement. we welcome any questions you may have. thank you. i recognize myself for questions.
administrator, first let me commend you for your emergency response efforts in my own state. a texas high school turned into an operating base with the national guard. we suck coast guard, private citizens, and fema was there to pre-position assets. i think that made a big difference. i think there's also confusion about the role of fema versus the role of others working as a team. i did speak to my governor recently, and one of his frustrations is that he had to deal with so many different organizations. i know we talked about this. what is your vision to possibly fema processes in these disasters?
i would like to knowledge governor abbott is one of the most bold governors. i believe that texas is a model. i say that because it is truly where we need to go. ,ema is not the first responder it should not be the primarily in only responder. withb is to work directly governors to understand what the response and recovery goals are. and organize our resources to help that governor achieve those goals. in texas, i do believe that was the model that was played out. with housing. i would like to lay out a new vision for housing, but it would require granting authorities the given from congress to reorganize it. for example, we are not housing experts.
we are good at doing emergency housing provisions. we are good at sheltering. blue tarp missions. there are good at transitional shelter authority. peoplenearly 4.7 million in hotels to this point. overuld take a person 12,000 years to stay in a hotel that many nights. governor's more granting authority to handle the difficult housing issues, then clearly designed the handoff between fema and the partnering agencies, streamline what we are all responsible for and how we should work together. in some cases a disaster survivor make it up to 15 knocks differentr from organizations, and it is confusing. we have to do one inspection that comes across.
we have to streamline what we are doing. >> i think that's absolutely right. i look forward to working with you on legislation on granting authority for you. mapr general, this is a made in 1940. for cyprus script there is a proposed levee system that was never built. what happened in hurricane harvey is that cypress creek , then a controlled spillage done at about 1:30 in the morning, and residents downstream were not happy about that. it filled up by use and flooded downtown houston. this gets into flood mitigation.
the prevention piece is so important. can you tell me whether the cypress creek reservoir is on your list of projects? i can see from here that that is a 1940's plan. we have a number of projects we have identified that we are going to put forth to the administration for funding. to be able to take a look at that reservoir, other opportunities to improve flooding. say, it is thet governor's number one priority and also my number one priority, to get the cypress reservoir built to make sure this does not happen again. 58 inches of rain is a lot of
rain. we also put link which the supplemental for $90 billion to expedite some of these projects. i'm hoping will be able to do this as quickly as possible. i think one of the concerns we always have with the army corps is that it takes too long. the studies and the actual construction. has given youss authority to do it more expeditiously, and i look forward to working with you to get this done as quickly as possible, because it has flooded three times in two years. and outside of prevention is worth a pound of cure. we need to get this thing done. >> thank you very much. administrator, you talked about improvements that you hope to see in fema going forward.
would you share those written improvements of this committee? >> yes, sir, absolutely. >> of a complete at this time? >> i believe in streamlining concise documents. basically this is an outline of the entire strategic plan on one page. >> very good. also, you have all the money you need to do your job? >> can i get back to you on that? i am very thankful for the supplementals that would forward , but i do have a concern that with the magnitude of this event i have the ability in fema to reimburse everybody but myself. the problems within the agency is that the operational budget and staffing pattern, as mr. kelly alluded to, does not grow with disaster response.
the amount of paperwork, the requests that come in, is exponentially increased, but the staffing pattern stays the same. so, that means you will get back with me? >> yes sir, i would be happy to respond to you in writing. >> is her timeframe on that? for your response? >> can i have two weeks, sir? >> you have it. >> thank you. >> it is also your testimony that the response to florida, texas, puerto rico, and the virgin islands was acceptable under fema's present standards? i think the term acceptable lies in the eyes of the beholder.
i'm sure there are people that feel that you must like to them and did not give them the assistance that they deserve. as a whole i am very proud of the response that was put forward. in regards to puerto rico, we are still pushing forward every day. i believe we still have 3000 staff in place along with the local hires that are there. with regards to things like food and commodity, the amount of commodity be put into puerto saw, one of the estimates i was close to $2 billion. that alone would rank as one of our top 20 most costly disasters in the history of fema. that, but i'm for trying to get brock longs opinion as to whether or not you are confident that the response
to texas, florida, the u.s. virgin islands, and puerto rico was acceptable to your standards. >> i would say yes it was acceptable. but do have room for improvement? always. improvement for would you ask for? improvement and not just my agency, but in the emergency management profession as a whole. as i said, catastrophic readiness dollars me from the standpoint of do all counties and states have their own ability? have they actually written disaster cost recovery plans that will help them understand how to receive funding from 17 different government agencies? know how they're going to mitigate their communities when these dollars arrive?
are we preplanning upfront at all levels of government and doing it in an integrated fashion? so, can you get this in writing what you consider the acceptable consequences for the response to those for disasters? >> sure. yes, sir. >> thank you. administrator long, i understand the trump administration is requiring puerto rico to use public assistance alternative procedures as a condition of receiving public assistance grants. why is puerto rico being treated differently than other areas? >> we are not treating puerto rico differently. everything we have done, everything is negotiated. section 428 and
the stafford act is the most prudent way to move forward. we briefed the governor and ultimately he requested that. people intorong-arm doing things by any means. that is not the way i want to conduct business. the reason we went with 428 is because of the sheer magnitude of damage we ran into. example, there were thousands of roadway obstructions. it would be too cumbersome and costly for fema to write a project worksheet for each one of those obstructions. then fema and sipping there for 20 years. mr. chair, i like to have your response to that specific question in writing back to the committee. >> yes, sir. >> thank you, your back. >> i now recognize miss
velazquez for opening statement. >> thank you mr. chairman. memberou ranking thompson for the opportunity to speak your today. i also want to recognize you both for your leadership in examining the aftermath of last year. becausek is critical our disaster response capability must continually evolve to meet the type and frequencies of disasters that we face. while much has been debated about the federal government's response to puerto rico and the virgin islands, i am here today to find solutions. i am worried about the emotional toll that this unprecedented hurricane season has taken upon people of puerto rico. today because the people of puerto rico are losing
hope. more than 300,000 have left the island. worriede because i am that before we know it, hurricane season will be before us again. the truth is, for the hurricane it made landfall, it was widely disaster. a national the street got to be the case. some areas to look like they were hit yesterday. i was in my hometown two weeks ago, where maria made landfall. it looks like the hurricane struck yesterday. still desperately need our
help. year, as we near the half i want to say to you mr. chairman that we are all keenly aware of what is at stake come june when hurricane season starts again. as we hear from fema, the army court, and local officials, i all leaveke sure we behind our political inclinations and work to come up with a meaningful plan for future disasters. one double allow us to proactively deploy federal resources and prevent the mistakes of the past. hurricane irma was on track to hit puerto rico, and we all knew how vulnerable puerto rico was in terms of the power grid.
then, whatt we knew steps do need to take in order to be quickly there, and deploy federal assets that we need. not to wait until two weeks when we send comfort know that no hospital and puerto rico had electricity. all of those subjected to the raft of climate change need to be helped to keep america safe. thank you again for allowing me to participate today, and i yield back. plaskett forgnize an opening statement.
>> thank you very much. thank you chairman maccoll and making member thompson for the opportunity to say a few words before the committee. as we all know now, hurricane irma and maria caused dozens of injuries and some deaths in my district, the u.s. virgin islands. storm ise from the .nparalleled recovery is far from over and the rebuilding has yet to begin. the catastrophic destruction continues to demand massive amounts of aid to address the overwhelming needs of the victims, who very much remained faced with the daunting task of rebuilding their lives.
i will give you a couple of examples of where this is evident. it has been found at approximately 19,000 homes have the armyged, however corps installed 3368 blue roofs. it became a long negotiation with fema. this rapid repair program was announced in late february. six months after the storms. homeowners are still awaiting inspection and approval. beginst hurricane season june 1. including appliances and scrap metal, mounds of hurricane debris are disposed near public
schools and pose a real health and safety risks to the people. on st. croix, the collection was run by the local government. the debris was collected three times faster. six months for debris removal. the cost share for debris measures has ended. unanimous consent to submit for the record a letter written emergency team letter from
breaking member peter dimaggio on the committee of transportation infrastructure and bennie thompson. requesting of the president that this extension be granted. >> without objection, so ordered. >> thank you. the territory has not physically been able to visits -- finish these. it does not have the financial resources able to call the local match on the remainder. is still awaiting modular structure for use of schools and medical centers. public schooling for the children of the virgin islands is operating on for our rotations. this is expected to continue .nto the next school year access to care at hospitals remains limited. dialysis patients and other
services in the entire u.s. virgin islands remain up island. they must structural demands only gives when requested or prepped by local governments. this is a structure that must be changed. it does not support the best interests of american citizens living in disaster areas. is willing and needs the support of congress to streamline the process so that results in support get to the people. these examples are just a few of the issues that they remain months after the hurricane. i look forward to the discussion and questions on how to resolve these issues. >> the lady yields back. thank you. i want to thank you and all members of this committee.
it allows us to be here in such an important matter. i will think the witness for answering the call and coming before congress to answer for the response to an unprecedented millionsthat affected of american citizens, including puerto rico and the virgin islands. it has been more than five months now since we saw that event that none of us expected to see an american soil in our lifetimes. of the size ofn , is that lost all power generation capabilities, nobody would allow connecticut to be without power for so many months. that is the size of puerto rico. it is the failure of all technological resources which we count on in our daily lives. that, we stilln
have 90% of generation. that does not mean people get power in their homes. if you are looking at the goal to finish the job, most of the agencies are saying that can be march or may of this year. we are talking about five or six months waiting for power. not to account for the hundreds of people with diseases or medical conditions that require for them to get a generator or have power in their houses. according to fema and the u.s. army corps of engineers, this has been the biggest mission to restore in this agency's history. puerto ricans at themselves, what is taking so long? one of my biggest questions will be, how much more resources will many to finish the job? finishg will it take to the last line of help in the
center of the island? we still have a lot of towns with less than 40% power. both things are currently under discussion. the restoration should be done by the end of march. we are not talking about having a reliable system. we are talking about the level of destruction defying everyone's expectation. my biggest concern will be here. any part of america spending months with the utilities down, what could happen? you would have a lot of people angry waiting for that kind of response. i think the people of puerto rico are being very patient waiting to receive that kind of help. we know that our ancient infrastructure was in a bad shape before the hurricane.
that is the reason i think all members of this committee who voted to assign resources. the supplemental will help island of puerto rico in terms of recovery. one of my biggest questions will be, how long will it take? what do you need to finish the job? we cannot say that may or june or july are the best scenario. we are going to face the hurricane season again during the summer. this is one of the biggest challenges we have. consent toanimous allow a letter that i just sent asking the army corps of engineers to extend the mission of the was army corps
that are set to expire march 19, if you allow that to happen. >> without objection, so ordered. >> we have a lot of questions. the biggest of all of those questions will be, do we have the resources? do you have the materials and crews to handle those issues? i do know that is not the mission of the corps of engineers. at a moment like this we want you to finish the work that you begin. with that i yield back my time. >> we will go back to members of the full committee. >> thank you. good to have you here. it is refreshing to finally have a witness that does not have an access before this committee -- committee.re this i have been in this business 32 years.
i was elected as a local committee commissioner. i have seen a lot of disasters over that. of time. of time.eriod it is a herculean effort to come in and to recovery. i have always seen disgruntled local officials. we always will. they are never going to be the perfect recovery. we need to remember how far we have come. after the hurricane that struck new orleans, that was a very poor performance. by anybody standard. fema has come along way since then. i was on the committee down in portland string that. -- during that. this fema administrator is top quality. they are doing a good job. they have done a good job in this last year with these overwhelming numbers of disasters.
we need to keep in mind that protection is never going to happen. with that, there was a story that came out the disturbed me. it wasn't a great. it was reported that an entrepreneur was awarded hundred $56 million contract to provide some 30 million meals to puerto rico in the wake of hurricane maria. she delivered only 50,000 with some limited staff working for her. to describent on how shoddy those meals were and how incapable she was. it turns out she had been getting government contracts from a lot of different departments over the years. she was not able to perform. how is that happening? how did this woman get this huge contract that she cannot keep? how did it happen? there was never an alert on
the background that this company was not able to perform to meet the ramifications of the contract. let me back up to talk about the magnitude. going into the 2017 hurricane season, we had 59 pre-position contracts to do whatever. 1973d to initiate additional contracts to cover the entire country, from california to the virgin islands. nearly 2000 contracts we had, only three were canceled. she was one of them. there was no alert process that said, stay with from this company. companies that defaulted on the three contracts, two of them had no taxpaying dollars.
we canceled the contract. three out of those nearly 2000 contracts were canceled. now my agency, as a result of there mayugh this, have been some other parts of government that did not do their due diligence. it is upon my agency to make sure that if the actions that were not taken, that we alert them into the system. let me ask you, shifting gears. during these multiple disasters, how did your emergency communications work? given the fact that power has been out for so long. did that affect the ability for your first responders to communicate with each other and local folks? obviously, the problem is
that we do not have a resilient communication network. >> why? >> with reach out to the private sector partners. we are being desensitized to our cell phones and digital technologies. we stepping away from land lines. in the california wildfires, a good portion of the capability was burned up. it was blown out by hurricane armor -- irma and maria. you lose situational awareness. you lose the ability to, for example, there was not enough food on the island. it was communicating to people where to go to get food. it makes everything difficult. we have to go back and navigate by stars, per se, to enter people into our individual assistance programs. we have to strike up a very thoughtful conversation with the private sector of how we build a system that does not go down, that is prepared for all hazards.
it is crucial. it is beyond fema's ability to do. >> thank you for your service. i yield back. >> gentleman yield. -- yields. >> levy thank the chairman and ranking member for very wise comments. let me in knowledge that, to date, the numbers may be somewhat inaccurate. there were 88 deaths due to hurricane harvey in the state of texas. 30 as of september 4 in my surrounding area, including my constituents who were a family of six and drowned trying to escape. i think it is important to when wee, again, that
speak we speak for brothers and sisters in the virgin islands, and puerto rico, certainly in florida, louisiana, and california. we speak into different formats. being atpreciation, the command station from the ,oment hurricane harvey hit being based at the convention center in houston. there was no doubt that it was a collective effort that we were dependent upon the fema rescue part of their work. them, the coast guard. i personally am reminded of the first responders as we were sitting, police and fire, with two phones to our ears as people were calling it to be rescued. those were difficult and dangerous and troubling times. many of my colleagues have been involved in it in their own respective districts.
, as youay thank you and know, i had more than 300 individuals gathered in my district, not even enough, on monday last who were denial people in hotels that were crying and frustrated about whether they could stay or find housing. we are still in a. of recovery. -- a period of recovery. we must also be honest on where we are today. let me quickly try to express my interests and concerns with breaking up fema or having to them i have components of the rescue. , that early-stage. i have a text on my phone from a that inspectors came and i was four feet of water and they said it was four inches and denied it. my meeting was based upon recovery and asking people to bring their denial letters.
all of our local officials will acknowledge that the numbers of denials were enormous. it hit minority communities. indicated that the inspectors were not assessing some of our older homes properly. one statement, which i'm trying to research, i think it is important. there were too many black employees that were hired that were temporary. we hope that is not true. what is your thoughts about reforming fema? question,wer the would you answer the question about the enormous number of vacancies that i hope to put into the record. i do not know how you could possibly do your job as you have indicated with so many vacancies.
question -- the texas general in office is trying to staff up. we need 90. i understand there are 33. i do not know if the mobile help. -- if fema will help. could you start on the reordering of fema and the staffing and how we are going to cover? turneracknowledge mayor and are harris county judge. i yield to you. >> thank you. in regards the response, it is my job to courtney the fire power down to do the lifesaving mission. from where i sit, it was pretty unprecedented. the number of lives that were saved.
the problem is that it has to be more than fema in the recovery. it goes back to a true culture of preparedness. there is too much of an insurance gap. we learned that in harvey. we have to go back to the basics and say that any houston flood, regardless of if you are shown in a flood not or not. we have to double the number of insurance policies. the neville of assistance that fema puts out is $5,000. if you are properly insured, the payout in harris county is a hundred $10,000. how do we help people get insurance? people hold. we still have a huge population in hotels. the toughest part is transitioning them out of the hotel and into a more housing solution that is on their property. that is going to require more
than fema. we are not housing experts. that is what i'm asking of the granting authority, to give the governor the ability to purchase their own trailers, purchase their own innovative housing capabilities that are out there. i believe that a governor can do a faster, quicker, and cheaper than fema ever could. i have to physically by manufactured homes. buy manufactured homes. i put travel trailers back on the table. there is more volume and easier access to be able to do that. i am not the housing expert. we have to have more conversations with high, -- hud. >> time is expired. i recognize mr. perry. >> thank you. i am over here. i will start out as a guy who
was worked in this region a little bit. state and federal disasters. i'm just wondering, especially in these broad disasters, from fema standpoint, is there anything the guard can do better? is there anything that inhibits us? i know it is hard to pre-position certain -- you do not know what you need sometimes until you need it. states withferent different services, whether it is the air guard or the army guard, with different requirements. i'm just wondering from your standpoint, is there anything that we fall short on? is there anything that we can improve, state to state, to respond and be helpful and responsive in a critical time of the -- need? >> hats off to the coast guard. they're one of the critical partners that we have. we saw them do humans work when andomes to delivering
arteries to saving lives. the issues that have been raised to me by general miguel and with thells in line emergency management mutual aid assistance. speed in which national guard assets are reimbursed. i do not have the authority -- if you were the governor of new say, you worked out an emac deal into a going to provide the other governor with your national guard, i do not have the ability to reimburse you directly. all of my reimbursement authority has to go through the governor to you so that you are dependent upon that governor reimbursing you back. that is the problem, as i understand it. i do not know how to solve that problem. >> that is not a fema relationship. it is more of a guard bureau. emac is a governor to governor
contract. i do not know if you want fema involved. >> i want to know where the shortcomings are so we can find a proof. >> if i get involved, they have to it here to my procurement rules. you do not want that. it is essentially the speed between which governors come to agreement and inform you? >> right. and then reimburse each other. they have to cut that contract up front. >> another question. i'm sensitive to some of the good friend miss gonzalez spoke to, regarding power. ,art of the information i have september 20 was when the hurricane hit puerto rico. irma 10 days prior. they already sustained damage from irma. now we are nearly seven months off. march 20 will be seven months.
from the admiration i have, puerto rico power has been restored. i'm curious about generation -- the information i says power has been restored to customers 90%. the question i have is, we had a hearing some time ago about how folksruise -- crews, the that re-strengthen a power, how many were available. the ports of entry, whether air or sea, were damaged heavily and it made it hard even if you had repositioned assets. all those things withstanding, how the cruise you know arsenal on the ground on the island to do this work? how many are required?
>> i would have to deal the general jack. he has the information. >> think you for that. at the height of activity on puerto rico, we had about 6000 line workers. they fell underneath a corps of engineers. today, we have a corps of engineers with 1300 folks on the ground. prep the has 2100. that has changed over time. there is something called a unified command group, which is headed by the governor's storm response grenada. group, including the corps of engineers and represented us in the governor's office. they and look at material availability, liner pair, they make decisions on how lines are assigned. >> i'm out of time.
to know what your estimate is of 100% distribution completion on the island, if you know that. >it is a long time to be without power. >> we are estimating that it will be mid-may before 100% of all the stuff is done. >> thank you. i healed. -- yields. >> thank you. thank you for being here and i appreciate your testimony. staying focused on the territories in puerto rico. one in three schools lacks electricity. many also lack consistent access to clean water. this has forced many schools to operate on a limited daily schedule, leading to school age
children missing out on more 20 million full days of learning. what plans you have in place to ensure that no displaced child is out of an educational setting for more than 30 days in the future? i would have to get back to you in writing on that. i do not know. we have situations that i have brought up in the past surrounding children. and their needs during disasters. we feel that more attention have to be paid to the special , not being with her parents, parents reconnecting with them after disasters. most is,le that i use
several years ago, the tornadoes in oklahoma, was an issue about reuniting children with their parents after the situation. identify areasto of learning. day care centers sometimes are listed and first responders went right past because they are in private areas. how we to designate locate children, as well. that i have been a proponent of, making sure that they areome type of -- not little people. their children. they need guidance and someone
to look out for them in these issues. please, as you formulate your mission going forward, keep that in mind. we can also discuss it more as a later date. >> just a couple of resources. we do have resources for children and disasters. i agree with you. we have to do more. i have two young boys. this is far greater than fema. ip.s is a partnersh statistics.s of spousal abuse goes up after disasters. we have to be able to recognize these things. again, i do not know if fema is the expertise when it comes to this. we need partners.
fema in the past has developed programs such as the mass evacuation tracking systems for large-scale disaster evacuation, trying to reconnect. we have established concepts after disasters as well. tomight just be, we need further promote and train at the local and state level as to what the availability of our resources are. year, fema had the national advisory council recommend the creation of something along that line to support center of excellence type training. that might be an area to look at as well. thank you. i yield back. >> he yields back. >> think all three of you for coming and sharing your expertise. i'm the chairman of the subcommittee of this committee that deals with emergency preparedness response and communications. ise minutes of questioning
not enough time for us to delve into all the areas. i was wondering if there is a weight could compile for us lessons that we have learned from these disasters. it is amazing to me the amount of disasters that you had to orl with, simultaneously, consecutively with the resources that you had. we have not even talked about the wildfires and mudslides in california. as chairman, it would be very helpful for us if we had a computation of all the things that you learn from this that we can help you. places like puerto rico, the virgin islands, florida, texas, louisiana, they are going to get hit with other hurricanes. is withstanding
hurricanes we follow these models and patterns of storms developing off the coast of africa.r -- it would be hubbell for us if we had that so we could help you. i visited puerto rico three weeks after the storm. recently, i went down with jennifer to see how the recovery is coming. the island was consumed. the storm was bigger than the island. they moved there -- at eight miles per hour after it hit landfall and took 36 hours. it is more rain than puerto rico experiences in an entire year. when we flew over with black hawk heller copters -- helicopters. we went to observe the devastation. the island was brown. challenges of getting supplies to folks who were
isolated because they are an island. disaster, on the mainland, you can drive supplies. it is very difficult. your first responders on puerto rico being victims themselves. very challenging. when we went back a few weeks you we witnessed how -- have to take telephone poles by helicopter up to the mountains to get them into the ground. i helicopter, stringing along the electrical wiring to provide those poor folks up there with electricity. it is amazing talent. one that would be helpful if you could tell us in some type of report of what we could do to better be prepared for the future. one of the things i would also brock, io do for me,
have a lot of attached housing where live. i represent parts of new york city. for flood insurance, a lot of people that live in my district cannot raise their houses. if fema could come up with some mitigate or for those folks who cannot raise their homes so they can experience reductions in their flood insurance, that would be very helpful. the last thing i would like to i have constituents who took that responsibility and are trying to get flood insurance. they are not able to pay it in full. part of the insurance portability act of 2014 created the system where you can pay with a payment plan. who reachedar woman out to me and try to do that in the system but it was on place yet. i would appreciate it.
trying to do the right thing, protective properties by having national flood insurance, but cannot paid in full or in whole. they want to use this payment plan that we have put into place. if you could look into that for me i would appreciate it. i yield back the remainder of my time. >> the gentleman yields. >> thank you so much. thank you for being here today. thank you for all that you do to restore families after natural disasters. , stillup in florida represent florida. i served as a first responder. i am no stranger to hurricanes. i want to ask you, according to reports, fema has denied about 23% of the 2.9 million applications for individual assistance after hurricane harvey, irvine, murrieta.
a majority of those denials are in florida. several of my constituents report that their applications have been rejected for technicalities. or an admitted document rather than a plain request for additional information, they received a four-page denial. had the opportunity to assist one of the families whose -- destroyedvoid --/ . to help them resubmit their application and may qualify for an additional 18 months of continued rental assistance. is, how does this denial rate compared to prior disasters? what factors might explain the difference, if any? >> i do not know where that rate compares.
the fundamental problem, when it goes back to reducing the complexity, one of the problems that we have is that we immediately go out and say, color number. we blanket communities. the problem i have is that we need to change the dialogue on that. , call the number if you meet specific criteria is to wear aid can be rendered. it sets up a negative relationship with the disaster survivors first is our agency read off the back. it leads to too many calls being rejected. citizens are being not afforded individual assistance because of several technicalities, i would like to work with you directly on what those technicalities are so that we can streamline. maybe we got it wrong and i can refer you back. i would be happy to do that. we regularly have dialogue like that.
i believe it is incumbent upon us to make sure we leave no stone unturned when it comes to the citizens. ifwould you say the process, a person did not have all the documentation that they needed, you know if the process is an automatic denial at that point? >> i would not say it is a denial. people do not come prepared to the first phone call. say,e not doing enough to when you call, make sure you have your insurance information, social security number, and in some cases it is a messaging problem. maybe they come back and are put in. if there is a fundamental flaw with the system in the way it is designed, i am all years and i would be happy to understand it. >> thank you for that. earlier you talked about texas and it being a model. inelieve you said that,
order to appropriately respond, it has to be federally supported , state managed, and locally executed. is that correct? could you talk about the florida response. me calling out texas is no shot at governor scott by any means. florida is also a model. order has also been a gold standard. they are flush with resources, too. when a governor takes over the itponse and recovery, and -- provides me clear outcome goals that i can better the resources. i would like fema to become more
of a block granting agency. response and allowing the community to respond and recover the way that they see fit. i do not know florida better than you do. i do not know florida better than governor scott. support arrange the down to where florida can recover the way that they want to? it is my goal to provide technical expertise to the director who will be testifying with you. here are some best practices, here is the way to use this funding to ultimately create more resilient florida. i am tired of going back into communities as an emergency manager and repeating this vicious cycle of things getting blown out and repaired. that is why i believe we also have to do more mitigation on prevent this.to the insurance gap is only growing. when people are uninsured or let that becomes an
individual assistance program. my individual assistance program grows daily. the need is growing daily. i wanted to go the opposite direction. we cannot do it alone. >> thank you. i yield back. >> mr. higgins is recognized. >> thank you for your continued service. thank you for being here today. i represent south louisiana. we are certainly well experienced regarding hurricanes and natural disasters. in the recovery thereafter. my state provided support to pre-stage and a rescue operation. i went into texas immediately
after harvey and participated in rescue operations on the ground in texas. i would like to talk about infrastructure challenges in the continental united states versus puerto rico. regarding the process for reimbursement to the state, for domestic response, what he believe is an acceptable time frame for reimbursement? the process improve for reimbursement to states that at their own expense, sometimes tremendous, immediately participate in sheltering and rest during operations in the wake of a natural disaster? we started to look at expedited public assistance payments, particularly if there are liquidity issues.
i believe it is a success. we need to continue to do it. wastee to protect against or inaccurate funding. >> you think it would be included in your vision for and streamlining the operations? to allow the governors of the 50 sovereign states greater flexibility on how to respond quickly. >> absolutely. we have to do it. it would be a delicate process to make sure that we, we are the taxpaying dollars but affording the governor to truly find ways to be resilient. i believe governors can do business quicker and more innovatively than the federal government. i agree and support that
effort. good luck -- regarding infrastructure post-storm, houston is one of the most advanced cities in the nation. certainly by any measure. houston,he city of both air traffic control towers at the two major airports in houston were down after harvey. first responders, commercial traffic was shut down. air traffic was handled through the memorial air traffic control tower. it struck me, the level of and infrastructure is quite different to puerto rico.
in texas, and traffic control towers were down immediately after harvey. regarding the standards for construction, my sources advise 20%hat prior to the storm, of the grid was down in puerto rico. was that correct? >> the grid had some significant deferred maintenance issues and operability issues before irma hits. when it came through a cause damage to the grid. it was not repaired before maria came in. rico,r efforts in puerto have you essentially established restored the grid with pre-storm performance? >> the stafford act allows us to restore the grid in its current configuration. the grid and puerto rico is
about 44 years old. the average grid in the rest of the united states is about 15 years old. as we have gone and repaired the lines and the towers and all the weponents of the grid -- have not been given any authority to work generations. we are continuing to build that back. it is going to be a much better grid that it was only inherited state that itthe was then when we took over the restoration effort. it is not changing and configuration. lines.not burying we are replacing what was ,amaged with modern equipment up to code. the puerto rico grid had 15 types of transformers. the industry standard is for. we had to put different components back into the system. >> thank you for your thorough
answer. i yield. >> gentleman yield. >> thank all of you for your service. this is titled, lessons learned. to get into i want is that those lessons should gear toward mitigation the future. i want to associate myself with everything that is being said by the other members. i want to appear in on my district in particular. it is the most coastal area. it is the south coast, cape cod. i want to address some of the important issues. wehink this boils down to, cannot be expecting all of you with the cycle of climate change. district, there are some
the personal there, the administration there, communication is excellent. we work together. we strategize together. they do a great job. again, the real issue is, we do not have enough money to do this. there is no way to prioritize for everything that is of equal or greater need. we have to do a job here. i'm talking about the appropriation process here. we have been able to do that and work together. i understand the constraints that all of you are sitting under. if you have comment about not notg funded adequately -- just his administration, but administrations before. the plain fact is, you just cannot do all of these things with less.
i would ask you, if you could outside the hearing, deal with our staff here on that end. we are dealing so well with your staff in regional levels. could, comment with a factor of not having enough resources to please everyone. i'm not talking about budget numbers and getting yourself compromise. >> i would be glad to do that. authorized unconstructive projects top $96 billion. we are only able to generate over one billion every year and construction funding. there is not a limitless federal budget. there are a lot of demands and hard decisions that need to be made. that is just the fact of what we have to deal with every day. we are working very closely with the administration.
they are putting for us their infrastructure package the congress. he talked about the speed in which we operate. identified a number of legislative proposals that will help us move faster. we are working a number of proposals inside the administration to help us operate more quickly. we are participating in all the different initiatives that the demonstration put forward. administration put forward. us and all of the resource agencies to be able to try to move faster than we have in the past. >> i will certainly work with you on that. my time is running out. i would like to say, on the flood insurance, we have questions outside of that. there is good bipartisan work being done. >> we need a lot of work. it is not a healthy program. we need to make it financially
solvent, no doubt. ,ne thing i want to point out the bread and butter of emergency management is the state local levels of emergency management and government. it is not just whether or not fema has enough money. it is our governors and state legislators really taking a look. the state emergency management agency have what it needs? advance -- e vents, fema is not going to be involved. i would ask the remainder of the questions be kept within the time. we recognize florida. >> thank you. three coastal counties in northeast florida.
my question is, is sand dune contraction -- construction treated differently than other mitigation for storms? >> it is not treated any differently. >> ok. here is my question. i was glad to you say that we are looking for ways to speed the process up. colonel clark has been great to work with. him and his personnel. one of the issues we're looking at, i have homes. one has already fallen into the ocean. edge ofe are on the falling and. literally. they have already been undermined. fdep is working closely with us. monthmonths --
study seems really long when your house is on the edge. other other ways to get funding for the state, after they pick up their views of it as they should, are there other ways to get that funding to them are quickly so that we can address these houses that are on the verge? >> i can to you right now, we are wide open to any ideas that you are your staff might have, as well as the florida state government. we have been in a number of discussions with them about how to move faster. the study process that you referred to is driven by the environmental review process. the ministration has been looking at it very closely to try to get it done quickly. with less ability for other federal agencies to have long-standing decisions that cause us to redo different portions of it. we're going to work really hard on that.
the supplemental that the congress passed has given us some broad discretion to look at areas that either need to be studied, are being studied reg out, or need funding for nourishment. they have been very specific about waving 902. when we do build the beaches back and built them fully designed. there is a lot of great potential for the projects you are talking about. >> thank you for that. i look forward to working with you on that. as airst responder -- first responder myself, am familiar with equipment and mitigation after some of these horrible storms. the last thing you want to do is pre-position your equipment on an island that is about to get hit by a category five storm. that is about idea. idea.ad
was a pre-positioning of some goods in a city that i represent, jacksonville, florida. i think the american maritime industry did a fantastic job in to puerto rico's needs. within days of the ford opening, those goods were on the ford. mayor of san juan to stand there and criticized the response with thousands of container units stacked up behind him. challenge, know the the challenge was distribution. you mentioned that. communications. transportation. all of that out in the way of distribution of goods and services. to somebody who has been responsible for that, i
understand completely what you all were facing. i would mention that the jones act was so politicized. there were folks on the news talking about how quickly the president suspended the jones long it took for puerto rico. it was one day difference. i went back and checked. in addition to that, so much misinformation about the jones act and the cost of goods and services. folks were actually improperly describing how the jones act even works. i heard anut -- individual talking about, the recent cost so much is because foreign vessels have to sail into an american port, drop those goods off, and then reload those goods onto an american flag ship and sell it down to
san juan. wrong. can sail directly into san juan in the do it all the time. there was a lot of politicization of a was going on down there. i would like to ask one thing about the contract issue. auld it help if we created database of these bad actors through these contracts? >> i believe the database system exists. it was not put in prior to us reaching out. there was a resource chain. this is a story that is not being told. 1300red approximately puerto ricans to be part of the response and recovery in the future arm of emergency management. what we are doing to prepare for the next hurricane season, we are starting to build a network
of emergency management at the commonwealth and local levels that did not exist to get -- exist. we have planned a series of training exercise that will culminate in a full-scale exercise in june with the governor, mayors, specifically defined around the distribution of commodities. you do not just execute and the ship shows up immediately. it takes eight days to fully execute the comfort in motion, and ships like that. we are doing a tremendous amount of work that is not being talked about. it is not fema doing it for puerto rico in the commonwealth. we are working with the commonwealth to make sure that they will have the state level and local level capability to manage this disaster in the future. i have several other questions but my time is up. i yield back. >> the gentleman yield. thank you mr. chairman.
thank you for your testimony. let me start with administrator long. climate change continues to increase the incidence of major storms and flooding, especially threatening the lives and livelihood of residence in coastal states like my home state of rhode island. what steps are fema and the army corps of engineers taking to prepare coastal communities like mine for this increase risk and to mitigate the damage of each disaster? >> there are provisions in mitigation planning. we require states and local medication to create -- mitigation plans that are signed off by fema. there are sealevel rise provisions. the problem goes back to, you
have to get hit with a disaster to check to be able your plan. we have to get the predisaster mitigation upfront so that people can execute those mitigation plans before the disaster occurs or things like sea level rising it covers -- rising occurs. >> after superstorm sandy, the core worked with all states in the northeastern part of the united states to identify coastal risk. the study identified a lot of risk areas and things that the federal government and localities could do to address what you have talked about. we are in the process right now of working with all the states on the northeast side that were impacted by sandy to try to address those mitigation measures and lower the risk to the communities that are on the coastline. we incorporate everything that we know about climate change and
sealevel rise and our designs. as we conduct studies on coastal resilience in areas that we no have significant risk, we coordinate everything we know about that, and those are implemented in our design standards. essential thats we be as forward thinking as we can on this issue. anything we can do to mitigate it, everyone will be better off in the long run. natural disasters like hurricanes and floods and fires we sought in 20 were devastating to countless people and communities in the past. for individuals with critical health conditions or disabilities, these effects are
magnified significantly, despite requirements that disaster planning consider and include accommodations for individuals accessible modes of communication or transportation. leftund out too many are to fend for themselves when catastrophe strikes. administrator long, in your testimony, you mentioned learning lessons about meeting the needs of survivors with access and functional needs. learned from last year's disasters? what changes have been made to procedural guidance, and how are these recommendations monitored , and her people with disabilities carefully
considered? >> first of all, i believe as a allon, not just fema, but entities need to bake in functional access needs into part of their dna. i cannot force a city to be ada compliant, but what i can do is start to organize recovery dollars that go into community dollars after the fact or mitigation dollars to help communities and emergency managers achieve a higher level access needs. recently, i hired a lady who is now fema toss office of coordination. i asked her to go out and work across the lines of fema's recovery office to say when this funding comes down, how do we actually help these communities improve facilities and a manager that becomes more functional and needs compliant to ensure inclusion, not only through the future of the infrastructure that is built but also within our shelters?
as ad a lot of work to do nation, but we are working to address it every day. i will be happy to set you up with linda. she is phenomenal. phenomenal lady. she's also a lawyer, so she's well-versed and i think you will see changes in the way we handle functional and access needs. >> thank you. i look forward to that meeting and continuing our discussion on this topic. i look forward to bringing my questions to the record, and hopefully, you can get back to me as soon as possible and we can continue discussion on this important topic. thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> the chair now recognizes the gentleman from nebraska. >> thank you. i want to thank all three of you for your leadership. you were put in a tough situation with the triple
hurricane, airport down, roads, power. i mean, what a challenge. my first question is for administrator long. what are the criteria for considering a mission complete? >> we are still there. we are going to be there for years. early to great myself or say mission complete. bottom line is we are going to be administering dollars to help these communities overcome for years. the one thing i think we are missing is there were not just for infants less year. right now, my staff is in 14ntly working different states. last year, we picked up a new event every three days. every three days. >> just to clarify, you think you will be in puerto rico for years? >> absolutely. >> we are in puerto rico now. i have an area office there.
we work with the federal government there on a daily basis. we will always be in puerto rico and we will be supporting fema as long as mr. long has mission assignments for us to follow up on. >> what would be the largest unexpected challenge you had in puerto rico? >> getting the power back on salt so many problems. that was thes toughest challenge. i do not control and aging system. i do not control deferred maintenance on a power grid. i have to fix what i have inherited. we rapidly put forward the mission assignment to the army corps of engineers, this is the only situation where the army corps of engineers is rebuilding the grid. we have to get to a model to wear the grid is rebuilt five private industry. in my opinion similar to the way it was done in california,
texas, and florida. bankruptcyhe efforts? recovery >> liquidity issues as a whole are difficult and compromises simple things. people demand 100% right off the bat to do work when you bring in private contractors or other support for fear that they may not be repaid. we are working closely with the treasury to make sure that we solve some of these problems and that response and recovery does not slow down. what kind of relief is necessary to help you speed up those efforts? >> i think the administration has already taken a look at that. they are looking at streamlining all reviews that result in
permanent and other things we are involved in. i think everybody has been participating in that effort. >> i know your time is short. i will go back. -- i will yield back. >> thank you. >> chair recognizes mr. bonnie watson. >> thank you, sir. mr. long, high. more than a decade after hurricane katrina, your office is still involved in audit disputes, including efforts to get a $2 billion settlement with roads and infrastructure of the city overturned. do you think that there is a limit on how long after an event audits should last? is it an inefficient use of resources to monday morning quarterback in years long audits more than a decade later? are the communities affected this summer going to face
decades of audits and no relief? >> i think we have to follow up putprocess, and the process in place is just for due diligence purposes, we have to follow out the process, but when there are audits in question, and i have seen this as director performancema management agency, when there are obligations or audits in question where there are large amounts of money looming over a community that may be the obligated, it can impact their credit rating going forward, so i do think we have to move quickly to make sure things like that do not occur. we have to move expeditiously -- >> but do you agree that two years is not moving expeditiously? that it is too long? >> what situation are you specifically referring to? >> am talking about katrina. that's what i was asking about. dispute thatlar
has been in audit for two years. >> i would have to get back or we would have to work with you. .'m not sure which one it is >> listen, may we have a specific update on why this is taking so long, what is being done, why are you lacking the resources to respond to it after two years, and when can we expect relief? mr. long, can we get that? >> absolutely, but i would also refer to mr. kelly. >> that audit was initiated and completed within roughly a year .f additional obligations very little was done immediately after katrina. the inspector general's office has changed its system of auditing. we try to be more proactive and
much closer to what is being spent. >> this is all good hypothetically, conceptually, and all that kind of stuff. we are talking about communities that are ravaged, people who have been displaced. people who cannot get jobs. people who had become ill because of the terrible hurricanes. look at what happened in the virgin islands and puerto rico. for the life of me, maybe you can answer this question, mr. long. with all the resources, with all the armed forces, with all the rescue, emergency, and whatever this greatis that country, the united states of america, has at its disposal, if you cannot get of a road to , vitally needed , why was thatlive situation so inadequately
it still, and why is so inadequately addressed? >> first of all, with all due respect, i believe we live in the greatest country on the globe -- >> i never said we didn't, sir. >> the amount of resources the federal government put down, the links to which our government goes to help disaster victims can always be improved, but it is unmatched, second to none. >> you know what? i don't need you to make excuses. i need you to tell me why you failed there. >> we have not failed. >> yes, you did. >> no, we did not. my agency made a herculean effort to put food and water in every area, and it's more complex, and it's not going to move as fast. when you're talking about your stations in the air force systems are completely blown out, supports are completely blown out -- i don't own the cranes. i don't know the airports. we have to rebuild airports. >> you have collaborative
capacity, and that collaborative capacity did not serve the citizens of puerto rico well, so my concern -- it is not just you, sir. it is why did the united states of america, with all of its vast resources, not due its very best for people who are indeed our people? with that, i yield back. >> the administrator has very limited time, so i will recognize the three, but if you can keep your questions within a short period of time, it would be very much appreciated. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to first of all thanks the representatives from the army corps of engineers and from fema for all the hard work they have been doing. we acknowledge that, although we still know there is a lot to do
still. i want to thank you for your being always available for calls with meetings with mayors. i know you do that personally because i have been calling you mostly every day to ask you about different issues. my first question would be -- what resources would be necessary to you to finish the in terms of the restoration of the power? >> we have the materials that we need to finish that that are on order, and they are either in transit or on the island right now, ready for distribution to contractors, and they will be continuing to flow onto the island until the end of april. until we get everything on the ground, that is a physics problem. everything had to come off production lines. we had to special order material
to meet the unique specifications of the power grid. we have enough linemen on the ground to do the work that needs to be done. it is just a matter of them working through an energizing the lines and getting the pieces and parts put back together. there's really no other resources that we need that i can think of. everything that we have asked for that we have needed to do this mission we have been provided. it's just a matter of the physics of putting together a very complicated system that will take us some time to finish. >> my concern with that is that the crews, one will be on the 19th of march, the other the seventh of april. that means the resources will not be there to finish the last mile of the process. whenill the island feel
you are downsizing the army corps presence to those areas? it would take a month or month and a half for them to do the contracting process. >> when we originally asked to do this, there were no mutual assistance workers available. now there are 1000. i know numbers go up and down based on how they get recalled back to their state. unified commanders look at the numbers of line workers required to do the mission based to behat is left completed. they look at that every single day, and this decisions that are made. fema, the government of puerto rico, the government, the corps of engineers all involved with
making, and it could be the one company we have that will be done in april, maybe they get extended longer. we are looking every single day to make sure the progress of the work that we have in front of us to finish is not impacted at all by a lack of people. there is no lack of evil. even though we are downsizing the big contracts that we awarded in october, it's only because the numbers we have there are not needed anymore, and they have been replaced by mutual assistance workers who should have been there in the first place. the changing of who is doing the our is not impacting ability to get the overall grid restored as fast as we can get it restored. >> are registered you to consider the downsizing of the army corps on the island. i think we do not have enough personnel to do that kind of work, and it would take longer to do the recovery process in those areas. i recommend extending the
until thentracts mutual alliance linemen will be arriving. away 68 ofstorm took those linemen to new york. we cannot continue to be waiting for personnel to arrive. >> we are not waiting. everyone is there, it's just they are going to be different people. in some cases, it's the same subcontractors that are working for different contractors. they have about 2200 line workers on the ground now. their own organic workforce and ers thather subcontract are doing work. >> for the last sheet of members, we are about 20 minutes past the administrator's hard stop, so if you could keep your time at a minimum. >> i will make it simple, mr.
chairman. send you, mr. long, some of my questions so that you can send your answers to my office. what youackson, i hear are saying to the congress lady from puerto rico. you are downsizing and element for prep and to continue to do the work with some of the subcontractors that they have. given their that conditions, should that provide any comfort to the people of my hometown where hurricane maria made landfall, and to this day, they have no electricity? yesterday, iussed am confident only because the experts that are making the decisions on how we determine
how we apportion the workforce are fully confident that they support demonstrated capabilities that the line workers that are there from the organic workforce and the subcontractors they have a more than capable of doing the work and are continuing to demonstrate their capability -- >> why is that you could maria madeere landfall, six months later, what is it? >> and think the biggest problem is it was a point of impact and had sustained the greatest damage, so the most work -- been there four times and i never saw any crew until just my last visit. i want to thank you for getting back to me yesterday and our telephone call where i raised some of the issues that the people are facing today. my question to you is regarding preparedness for
the upcoming hurricane season, particularly in the area of norgy, it seems to be that matter how much money we put into the reconstruction of the grid, unless we ensure the entire grid is strengthened to withstand category four or five, we are just throwing money away. can you comment on the repair work being done so far? >> i would be glad to do that. the mission we were given was to restore the power and get people's lights back on as fast as possible, so that is what we are doing. what you are describing is a more long-term goal that we are working on as part of fema's team, as part of the governor's team to help the government develop a long-term recovery strategy which will take into account all the things that you discuss, including things like taking the capabilities, making the more modernized, putting them closer to what the
population centers are, which allows us to more economically very lines where now, as administrator long talked about, these lines crisscrossed the island and that is with the power system and transmission system is based upon. that will be presented to the administration some time at the end of the summer. >> thank you. been pursuingve an effort that will undermine accepted regulatory and accountability practices. as inspector general, can you provide some detail on the importance of oversight of government institutions? if this type of entity is weakened, how do we ensure good ?tewardship of taxpayers' funds >> that's going to be very reducelt to do if you
oversight, especially on an organization that has known risks. that is a recipe for disaster. >> thank you. >> the gentlelady's time has expired. >> thank you, mr. chairman. to as well try to bring a bunch of questions in writing, which i hope you will respond to as quickly as possible. i know that with bureaucracy, it can take time, but the fact that these answers come back to us, the better, i think, for everyone. administrator long, one of the things i brought up in the opening statement, and i'm hoping you can give me some definition for is -- who is responsible and what is the timeline for the modular units that are going to the schools as well as to the hospitals in the ? rgin islands >> ultimately, in my opinion, the governor of the virgin islands is responsible. it's my job to make sure he has
the mechanisms and funding to do so, and we are working very closely with him, but i would be -- y to respond in writing >> i would appreciate it. it seems like the circular discussion department of education says they are waiting for fema. fema says they are waiting for this. the people want to know who it is. in terms of the discussion about full federal cost share, you have received the request. i know the white house has received a request. do we know when there will be an answer to if the virgin islands will receive an extension of time for full cost share for debris removal? >> i do not know. obviously, i do not control the white house, but i can reach out to them as well. >> i wanted to know if you were aware that under the insular area act, all federal agencies have the discretion to waive local match for insular areas, defined to include error is likely to be go for federal funding programs. has the messiah to waive the
local match for all disaster funding for the u.s. virgin islands that the >> i believe is a request that has to come in from the governor, and am not sure we received any request to do so, so i will go back and check. >> the reason i'm asking is because the insular areas have long had underfunding and under inclusion across a litany of programs, and when you are facing a disaster such as this, it's that kind of express statutory discretion you have which seems to be the appropriate time to do so. what you just said was something that again i brought up in my opening statement, that you are theing for a request from governor, and oftentimes, i'm not sure if governors and other individuals in these areas know that you have made these specific request and the attention between fema and other agencies are such that you wonder if our governor is spending money on having outside consultants come and consult,
and it seems that it's not the most efficient use of funding. >> congresswoman, my approach is i have asked them and in their training, their soul purpose is to go out and say, governor, this is what you are entitled to based on this event, and if they are not doing that, that is on me. i can go back and check, but we never hold back. it is our job to administer the stafford act and the policies out there. we have no reason to hold anything back. the is not the enemy of governor or a disaster survivor. andhat is your position, would you support an extension of stafford act language so that it's not only bringing resilience to those things that are considered emergencies,
which is defined as power, water, communication, but would also extend to other public assistance projects such as roads and public housing. >> i'm not sure i understand the question. we do fix roads. >> an amendment to the stafford act, which would provide embedded resilience. the resilience you are now going to bring to areas such as power and border communications does not extend necessarily to roads and public housing. would you be in favor and supportive of an amendment that dresses that stafford act? >> i'm all for resilience. let me be honest. i want to reduce -- we need to work the a out of a job through resilience and mediation. i believe the program, which is something that is on the table with the governor as well, allows for more alternative projects and resilience projects to be built in. the stafford act may allow us to
do that for the roadway systems, but that is a conversation that we can have off-line as well if you would like. >> i would like to put three questions on the record for mr. long to hear. as it relates to houston and texas, answer directly to me, writing, by phone, on the fema denials and if you will inomatically extend those the hotels, the importance of working with local government, that is the difficulty. local governments are really on the ground working with the day to day complaints. then i think one of the solutions to these large contracts that you have that have not been helpful to us is a .ontract with local entities sometimes the entire region is not devastated. there are local contractors that important job.
housing, food services, a beasley degree. i think it is important for fema to look at counseling, casework, be done by local entities, and i would like to reach back to you on those questions, and thank you for having your staff the ad my meeting on march 5. i give back, mr. chairman. >> thank you. i want to thank the witnesses for your patience. i know this went well over schedule, but you stood by and answered all of our questions. i appreciate that very much. i would just like also to say major general jackson, i look forward to working with you on the reservoir project, and to administrator long, the first bill i got passed in congress was a fema reform bill after katrina, so i think there will be some great things we can work together to make it more streamlined, effective, and efficient, and a want to thank you for the job you are doing right now. >> thank you, sir. thank you. >> we're going to take a brief
>> it was announced earlier congresswoman louise slaughter dart at the age of 88. first elected to congress in 1986, she spent more than three decades representing the city of rochester, new york eerie she became the first woman to chair the house rules committee and the oldest woman in congress. she is survived by her three children. in reaction to the news, house speaker ryan ordered flags at the u.s. capitol the lowered to half staff. he also said that louise gracious was tough and and unrelenting and fighting for her ideals.
with her passing, the congressional community has lost a beloved leader and a cherished friend. >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies, and today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme eventsand public policy and washington, d.c., and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. >> kelly major joins us, and appropriations and budget call -- for cq roll kellie