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tv   FEMA Administrator Testifies on Agency Readiness  CSPAN  July 19, 2021 2:13pm-4:54pm EDT

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by these companies and more. >> the greatest town on earth is the place you call home. at spark light, it's our home too. right now we're all facing our greatest challenge. that's why spark light is working roubd the clock to keep you connected. we're doing our part. it's easier to do yours. c-span as a public service along with other television providers giving you a front row seat to democracy. c-spanshop.org is c-span's online store. your purchase will support our nonprofit operations and you still have time to order with contact information. go to c-spanshop.org. the security committee held a hearing with fema administrator recording the
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response to covid-19. distribution of disaster relief funds, climate change and fema's efforts to prepare for future nationwide emergencies. mississippi congressman chaired the committee. >> the committee will come to order. the meeting to receive testimony on an examining fema's reainess to meet this mission. without objection, the chair is authorized to declare the committee in recess at any point. the gentlewoman from florida shall assume the duties of the chair in the event that i run into technical difficulties. good morning. the committee is meeting today to discuss readiness to meet its mission. we're pleased to be joined by administrator chris, confirmed just two months ago. administrator chris brings to the job a wealth of experience
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from emergency management, leader of one of fema's national management assistants teams and two decades of service as a firefighter in the colorado national guard. i would also note she's the first woman to be confirmed by the senate and aapplaud the biden administration for selecting highly qualified individuals who reflect the diversity of our great nation. min strauter steps into the role at a critical junction as feast many contends with responses to previous disasters including western wildfires and 2017 hurricanes while also continuing to manage the covid response. the current disaster is season and other emergencies. for example, in mississippi we have suffered terrible losses from recent flooding and i know many other communities have dealt with similar disasters
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this spring and summer. over the weekend, we also watched in horror as a tragic building collapsed in miami area. and just yesterday tropical storm danny formed in the atlantic and looks to be headed for the coast as we are met with this predicted to be a busy hurricane season. fema is playing a key role in the response to all of these incidents. . the agency also continues to contend with long standing challenges like addressing a disaster assistance backlog, obtaining a qualified disaster workforce and addressing incidents of harassment and discrimination in employee moral. the men and women of fema have been doing this extraordinary time and we must do everything possible to support them and their efforts. the administrator will need to play catch up to address all of
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these issues. as fema's mission was hampered by the prior administration's failure to listen to competent leadership and plitization of disaster response and its denial of the science on climate change. under the biden administration, things are already changing for the better. on february 2nd, president biden announced that fema would provide 100% federal funding for states and local governments for their covid-19 response and vaccination efforts. additionally, the biden administration has provided assistance to families who lost loved ones to the pandemic, mobilized mass vaccination frts and deployed local vaccination units to help areas hard to reach and underserved communities. the biden administration is also investing in resilient critical infrastructure by providing $1
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billion to communities to fema's pre-disaster bill and communities program commonly called. with this funding, fema would also be able to help prepare communities for more frequent and damaging storms resulting from climate chain. fema's budget requests full funding for security grant programs and targeted try vooi lens and terrorism. these programs are essential to helping institutions at higher risk of targeted state and local governments, higher education and nonprofits. that being said, congress must restore the proposed $15.3 million reduction in both the urban security initiative and the state homeland security grant program. it could hinder our ability to
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prepare for, respond to, recover from and mitigate against all hazards. today ma faces historic challenges as it seeks to carry out its mission to support citizens and first responders as we prepare for, protect against and respond to and recover from and mitigate all hazards. i look forward to hearing from administrator about fema's readiness to meet its mission and what congress can do to assist. i thank her for being here and the members for their participation. with that, i recognize the ranking member, the gentleman from new york, for an opening statement. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for holding this hearing today. i want to welcome the witness. i appreciate your time we spent together last week. i'm confident we're going to have a good working relationship going forward. before i start my opening, i
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want to just acknowledge the recent tragedy in surf side, florida. i know he recently returned from there and my thoughts and prayers go out to all those working in the rescue operation. i would like to congratulate her on her confirmation. and i feel that it's traditional field dominated by men, she's the first woman to lead fema. for ab agecy formed 199, that's a long overdue achievement. i can congratulate you on being a trailblazer and thank you for being a role model for women already in the field. and those thinking about the career in the field. i hope that you are the first of many. fema has had its hands full for the past several years. after not hit by a major hurricane in over a decade, the and delaware stated the united states with three major
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hurricanes. harvey, irma and maria. it doesn't seem like things have slowed down since. hurricane michael made landful to become the first category 5 storm to hit the united states since hurricane andrew in 1992. 2019 also saw an above average hurricane season with 18 named storms and 2020, although somewhat overshadowed by covid-19, was the most active hurricane season on record. not to mention record breaking fire seasons over the past several years. in 2020 alone, more than 4 million acres were burned in the state of california. and then came covid. march 13th, 2020, president trump declared a nationwide emergency. eventually every state, commonwealth, territory and the district of columbia received a disaster declaration. that triggers fema. during the pandemic, fema and
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the private sector coordinated the delivery of 600 million rest raters, 2.5 billion surge k58 masks, 1.1 billion gowns and 56 billion gloves to state and local departments. well done. additionally, fema has distributed more than $80 billion in covid relief. they have helped to support 2,100 community vaccination centers and assisted in the delivery of 371 million vaccines. i applaud the work of fema and all the work they have done over the past several years and during the pandemic. these are certainly unprecedented times. despite the many successes of fema during 2020, i think this fema is facing multiple challenges today and will in the years to come. with the many undertakings, including now a mission at the
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border, with us must ensure we have an adequately staffed, well-trained and forward-thinking fema that is not only prepared for hurricanes, but for whatever challenges lie ahead. so think about it for a moment, if you will. it's a first time in fema's history they had a nationwide disaster declaration. and that ensure changed the metrics of things. i have concerned with the readiness and approach to dealing with state and local territorial and tribalen eptties and will highlight one of my experiences. i would like to note what i hope to hear in your testimony today. i would like to hear your vision for the following. how will owe ensure that fema is staffed for future disasters due to staff burnout and massive workloads as i detailed in my testimony? how will fema revamp the recovery process, frustrating for aplicants. how does fema plan to view grants moving forward and does fema think any changes should be made as they approach a 20th anniversary of 9/11.
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what role can fema grants play in shoring up the security of communities who have defunded law enforcement critical to the homeland security mission. how does fema view its role in future pandemics? should fema be the lead or play a support role? how does fema plan to modernize flood insurance program. what are the future plans for the brick program and how will you ensure this program is fruitly the transformational program that congress envisioned. i'm also interested in how fema will do more to work with rural communities. not all represent large areas and i have seen fema fall flat when it comes to work with smaller communities in new york. i know that my experience is not unique. president trump signed a major disaster declaration for multiple counties in new york due to flooding in 17.
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which amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars of shoreline damage at a min pulmo. i disagree with the decision in how we request for assistance by constituents were frustrate d by the length of time and the lack of transpaency in the process. additionally, i take issue with the process of fema's preliminary damage assessments. to improve this process, i introduced a bill that will prove the efficiency and consistency of the pda process. my bill establishes an a advisory panel from all regions to work with fema to enhance the process. in 2020 a previous version of legislation was passed by the house of representatives. on behalf of my constituents, i would ask you look at this legislation and vud meaningful feedback you think is helpful. fema plays an important role. it has a zero fail mission that
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needs to be able to respond to disasters at any hour of any day and across the entire united states from puerto rico. my two hearings, i want to be a krulktive member of congress and not just throw bombs without offering solutions. i would like to make the same offer to you. i look forward to working with you, and i know based on my conversations we will be able to work together. i look forward to hearing your testimony today and your vision for fema. i did have some criticisms, but there's many things fema is doing well. and i want to salute the men and women of fema who have gone above and beyond the duty and have done the work to help us get through this pandemic. and they did a fantastic job. so thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> thank you very much. other members of the committee are reminded that under the committee rules, opening
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statements may be submitted for the record. members are also reminded that the committee will operate according to the guidelines laid out in our february 3rd colloquy regarding remote procedures. i welcome our witness and i'm going to try to get your first name right deann, administraor for the emergency management agency, who is making her first appearance before the committee today. the administrator's full statement will be inserted in the record and i now ask you to summarize a statement in five minutes. >> thank you, chair thompson, ranking member and members of the committee. i'm delighted to appear before you today to discuss the president's budget request for
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feast na many 2022 and to describe how the vision guides my priorities for the agency. this past sunday i visited surf side, florida, in the scene of the towers collapse. and it's difficult to put into words the devastation that this community is experiencing. and our hearts go out to all the families and loved ones that have been impacted by this event. i am very grateful for the heroic efforts of the local first responders seen firsthand in how the community has come together in their time of greatest need. fema is on the ground. we have a recovery center that is working directly with families and loved ones impacted by this tragic event to get them the assistance that they need. we will continue to bring resources to support the ongoing response and recovery efforts. fema's mission of supporting people before, during and after disasters has never been more critical. our role supporting incidents
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such as the champagne towers collapse and numerous other acts of disasters, attests to the importance in responsibility of this agency to our nation. even fema's unprecedented mission requirements, the president's budget increases the fema budget to $28.4 billion, which is $1.9 billion more than the fiscal year 2021 enact the. the budget will allow fema to meet the challenges ahead. in my first months as fema min strauter, i'm focused on three key priorities. supporting the workforce and readiness, integrating equity into everything we do, and addressing climate change through risk production. i will describe these priorities in turn. first, we must support the fema workforce and our readiness. to protect the well being of our workforce and the community bs we serve and the covid-19 environment, we continue to rely
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on virtual operations where appropriate. we are evaluating how to enhance our operational capacity, promote ab agile culture, support the sauf return to the office. it begins with the right staffing levels. the 2022 budget supports increased hierg and would result in a 14% increase in the number of our staff employees. readiness also means ensuring the workforce has the training, tools and resources they need to do their job, and i'm excited to committing that to the workforce. next, we must integrate equity into everything we do. the nation deserves to have our programs and services delivered fairly and equitably. to meet this expectation, diversity, equity and inclusion must be core components of how we conduct ourselves and execute our mission. fema is currently soliciting
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feedback from the public and our partners to ensure we understand how our programs impacts survivors of different demographics and where needed, we are committed to making changes. this includes changes to our policies, procedures, and how we deploy and execute our mission. internally, this means building a diverse and inclusive workforce. externally, it means we must proactively identify and reach out to underserved communities of populations most in need of our help. we are analyzing our operational programs through the lens of equity and we are doing that for a reason. we know that disasters exasperate existing inequalities and we need to ensure fema assistance, which is everyone needs it. we must also identify the root causes offen differing recovery outcomes for survivors and work
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aggressively and collectively to ensure access for all to disaster response and recovery assistance. fema's commitment to equity is evident in our efforts to advance the accessibility of the covid-19 vaccine. at the president's direction, fema coordinated with federal, state, local, tribal and territorial partners to support the establishment and expansion of over 2,100 community vaccination centers. this included 39 pilot sites and the deployment of 18 mobile vaccination yupts to help reach traditionally underserved populations. 60% of all doses administered went to communities of color. as we execute our response to covid-19 and other disasters, fema will continue to prioritize equity across all our operations. finally, we must address climate change through risk reduction. as emergency managers, we must face the challenges that climate
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change poses to our mission head on and make generational level investments to reduce the impacts. developing resilient communities ahead of an incident reduces the loss of life and economic disruption. every dollar invested in mitigation saves the taxpayer $6 in future spending. to provide local partners with the financial support for mitigation projects, fema is expanding resources and technical assistance for the building resilient infrastructure and communities program, which establishes a reliable stream of funding for larger mitigation projects through a nationwide grant program. recently the president visited fema and announced that he was doubling the funding available for the brick program to $1 billion for the fiscal year '21 application. mitigating the increasing flood risk is particularly important as flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster in the united states. among other initiatives, the president's fiscal year '22
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budget requests more than $428 million for the flood hazard mapping and risk analysis program to allow for climate change data to be incorporated into flood risk analysis fema is also working to ensure that communities are protected financially from flooding. fema is updating the national flood insurance program methodology to fix inequities by closely aligning premiums to the specific flood risk of each home. the fiscal year '22 budget also includes a means tested affordability proposal to ensure that everyone who needs flood insurance can afford it. in conclusion, the pandemic is a important turning point for our country and challenges us to rethink our decisions and investments. this past year has not been easy, and i would like to republic news the professionalism and perseverance demonstrated in the workforce.
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i look forward to working with the members of this committee as we build a more ready and resilient nation. i'm happy to answer any questions. >> i thank the administrator for her testimony. i remind each member he or she will have five minutes to question the witness. i recognize myself for questions. >> what you're looking to do to enhance it and you have a number of working disasters all going right now. can you just explain to the committee what things you're doing to address worker exhaustion and other things that come with being overtaxed in
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disasters. >> it's some of the best public servants that the u.s. government has. and they have been working over the last several years in supporting multiple events, going back to the hurricanes of harvey, irma and maria in 2017. and what we're seeing is that we no longer have a cycle of normal seasonal cycle. our operational tempo is really consistent around the year. so the things that we're doing to address that right now is we are encouraging everybody to make sure that they are taking time for themselves right now, demobilizing staff from some of the current operations supporting covid-19 and other long standing recovery disasters, so we can make sure they are ready for the peak of hurricane season and what is expected to also be a very busy
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wildfire season. this rotation of readiness to make sure our staff have the time to take for themselves and reset is a critical part of how we make sure that they are prepared and that we have a workforce that is ready to respond when needed. >> thank you very much. the ranking member alluded to some experiences he had in his area. i talked about one of them currently undergoing in my district in mississippi. that part of my district, have you looked at fema's structure for declaring and approving natural disasters and based on the population and income of the area? what happens is if a high-income
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area gets hit, the sparsely populated community that's devastated, somehow doesn't meet the criteria. what we can do to make sure that those people are not being left out because of that current economic condition. >> i have seen firsthand the disproportionate impact that our communities experience. and our underserved communities across this country where they struggle day-to-day struggle even more when a disaster does strike. one of the things that we did during covid-19 for the first time was take social vulnerability index and data
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into our decision making for how we're going to anticipate or provide assistance. i have directed my tame team to continue this process and how do we now take this equity data that's out there into decision making process that we use for future disasters. that's something that we are working right now to figure out how we can institutionalize that so we can really understand the needs of the community as we're making our assessments. >> i appreciate it. and as soon as you can push that information down to state and locals so they understand it, they are still operating on the current thinking. and not the new way of thinking. >> yes, sir. again, our team and our regional administrators work closely with state directors.
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as we continue to mature this process of including this equity data into our analysis, we will make sure that we're getting that information out to our stakeholders and our customers. >> and i have a couple other questions. the chair recognizes the ranking member for questions. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to follow up on that. and illustrate a few examples to understand the gravity of the problem. there's a small town in new york in my district. fst had'd it had a horrendous rain of 8 or 9 inches and literally destroyed a good section of the town and their sewer systems and the dikes on the roads and everything. it didn't qualify for disaster relief despite the fact that it was to repair everything would cost many times more than the town's annual budget.
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so that's what he's talking about another example is lake ontario. there's two catastrophic floods in the last four years. i think you know this. those catastrophic floods cost hundreds of millions damage to lake front properties and communities. yet it didn't qualify for disaster declarations. so i would very much like to spend more time on this. perhaps in another setting with the chairman and maybe you can sit down with us because this is a very serious problem. and obviously, the big communities, expansive communities, when a hurricane hits, obviously, there's a disaster. but what happens to the small towns, the disasters are stunning. they can't recover from it. so i would really like to talk more about that going forward. i think fema should have some flexibility with respect to that. >> ranking member, we really have an opportunity right now as we have learned so much in our
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response to covid-19 and seeing the impacts that our underserved communities have. we have an opportunity to reflect on that and see what we can do to incorporate better assessment methodologies into the way we determine disasters going forward. so i would appreciate the opportunity to continue to have that discussion. i recognize that from my time in colorado as well. where these rural communities, they have a harder time meeting thresholds. >> let's do. let us know if something can be done. or whether it's something that needs a legislative fix. a legislative fix, i'm sure mr. thompson and i can draft something different. now that it's happened, i think it's going to happen again. it may see it more. it's really important that the
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initial assessment report that was done in september of 2020 about covid, hasn't been update ed. it you tell me the initial assessment report? do you plan to update it? >> so fema did an initial report prior to me getting here that really started to capture what i would call the initial lessons learned from our response. we're undergoing a more thorough assessment of the overall response as far as fema's role is concerned. so we will be releasing something when that is completed. >> do you have an idea of the timeline? >> i don't, but i'm happy to get back to you with where we're at in the progress. >> i think it's going to be important. there was a sea change nationwide. i want to make sure we're giving you the tools we need.
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i hope that's what we see. >> one of the witness was from my county. he testiied to the struggles of many officials faced. he specifically testified to the challenges he faced given the fact that resource allocation pursuant to the disaster declaration are dedicated to the state. i think a share went to some communities. rural communities and upstate communities that were less affluent really struggled to get a share of the fema resources. the vaccinations, the protective equipment and what have you. so don't know if you experienced that elsewhere, but can fema engage more local officials on the front lines of a future
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crisis? i would ask to take under consideration your assessment report. because some states did a good job of proportionally handing out things and other states have devices and politics. the distribution was not proportionate. if you could comment on that if you have a comment. if not, take a look at that in your initial report. >> yes, i have been in a local emergency manager in new york city as well as in aurora, colorado. i understand the struggles of working through the state to obtain fema assistance. so i appreciate jury comment and understand your concerns. as we continue our process of evaluating how we deliver programs, we'll certainly take that into consideration. >> thank you very much. i yield back. >> thank you. the chair now republic news other minutes for questions they may wish to ask. i republic news members in order of seniority alternating between
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majority and minority. members are reminded to unmute themselves when recognized for questions and to then mute themselves once they have finished. and to leave cameras on so they are visible to the chair. the chair recognizes the gentlewoman from texas. >> thank you very much, mr. chair. good morning to our new min strauter and congratulations for the historic moment that with find ourselves in with you as leading one of most outstanding emergency disaster organizations in the world. i am delighted to have the opportunity to work with you serving with the homeland security committee since 9/11 and having a great respect for the men and women of fema. before i start, let me offer my deepest sympathy and concern to our friends and neighbors in surf side, florida. and thank you for being present in that area.
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obviously, members of of congress from that area will be raising areas of concern. but we certainly hope fema is at its maximum in helping that community. fema is's responsibility is to prepare for, prevent, respond, recover from disasters. with a vision of a nation prepared. as you well know, i live in the gulf and i have experienced neighbors with katrina taking a quarter million people from louisiana into texas, and hurricane harvey. my first question would be by how much would the fy '22 budget's 14% increase in the number of fema staff that employees close the gap between the agency's workforce and the employees's agency needs to meet the challenges ahead. >> thank you for that question. the 14% increase is going to
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begin to close the gap. what we're doing are right now is assessing what is the fema that the nation needs and deserves and frying to determine what would that structure look like to support that. as i mentioned earlier, we're seeing a year round cycle of disasters and the tempo that we're deploying to is much more consistent. so i have directed my team to conduct this assessment so we can evaluate what is the appropriate level of staffing to make sure that we can meet these incidents that are now happening much more frequently. >> thank you. i appreciate the leadership in my region. they have beenen consistent and a very wonderful liaison to all of us. i want to ask the question, will state and local governments that have a history of dealing with emergencies and protected to continue to experience the climate change impact be
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prioritized for competitive grants. as we lost 150 people in the freeze, i would be interested in that. i want to give my last two questions. i'd like you to comment on the work that fema is doing with the unaccompanied children that are at the border since i know we were engaged with them and some of the issues of site selection. and then i would like to have the response a 2019 university of colorado report found that in wake of hurricane harvey, homeowners who lived on blocks with the greater share of residents as well as lower incomes and credit score hs a lower chance of getting approved for grants. many of those are my constituents and are desperate with blue tarps. i just visited louisiana in their storms and so i would be interested to answers to those questions. i look forward to following up with you. >> yes, ma'am. in response to the kpttive nature of the grant, we have
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such ab opportunity right now to invest in the reduction of risks that we are starting to see from climate change. one of the parts of our grant process is to be able to discuss the risks that communities face. so that's part of the consideration for the competitive grant process. but incredibly important that we work with our communities to help them understand what apply for assistance or for the grants. we are doing targeted technical assistance to help with that and make sure communities can think bigger about how they can improve and reduce the impacts that they're facing. on the unaccompanied children, fema's role is to coordinate. our specialty and our expertise is to coordinate across the federal government and bring appropriate stakeholders together. that's what we were asked to do in support of that mission for hhs. we currently have less than seven people on the ground
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supporting that mission, and our role was really designed to give additional assistance to hhs as they were standing up their operation. we have scaled back appropriately as they were able to take on some of that responsibility. >> what about not getting fair distribution for poor neighborhoods? >> oh, yes, ma'am. again, as i talked about earlier, you know, our underserved communities across the country, when they get hit by a disaster, it's even more devastating for them. one of the things that i have realized through my time, both at the local level and then coming back to fema, is that i believe one of the problems is ensuring people have equal access to our programs, as well, and that they understand how to get assistance that they need. so i have directed my team here to look at some of the barriers to the access so we can make sure that individuals that are eligible for assistance get all of the assistance that they're eligible for. the fact that it takes them
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longer or they don't understand the process is not okay. we need to make sure that we are bringing our services to the communities and helping them get the assistance that they need. >> thank you. i want to specifically work with you on that. thank you very much, mr. chairman. >> thank you. chair recognizes the gentleman from louisiana for five minutes, mr. higgins. >> i thank the chairman and the ranking member for holding this hearing and for administrator criswell for being here today. south louisiana, which i'm honored to represent, continues to face dire recovery needs almost a year after hurricane laura's landfall. my constituents are still deep in the rebuilding process and facing new uncertainty as another hurricane season has already begun. and the federal government is
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largely responsible for that uncertainty. let me explain. louisiana's governor issued a formal request to the biden administration in january for supplemental disaster relief. my office has pushed its request in every way through every channel. however, president biden and speaker pelosi, respectfully, have been somewhat of an obstacle to the swift approval of supplemental disaster funding for louisiana. topeka's office took some responsibility for this delay recently in a media interview, stating the democratic congress and the biden administration are going to, quote, unquote, consider the need for supplemental disaster funding for louisiana. may i say, we are beyond the time for consideration. it's been ten months. president biden visited lake charles, and we thank him for
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that. he was not there to survey damages, but it would have been impossible to miss those damages. we have repeatedly communicated louisiana's extreme needs to the biden white house and to madame speaker pelosi. yet, no effort from democratic leadership has been made to move forward with the supplemental disaster bill. mr. chairman, i ask unanimous consent to submit for the record several letters from stakeholders of southwest louisiana and the lake charles area, the city of lake charles, the state university, international airport, and others. i ask unanimous consent. >> without objection. >> thank you, mr. chairman. these letters are regarding major concerns with fema following last year's natural disasters, as well as i have several letters sent to congressional leadership out of
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my office and the white house on the issue. i ask unanimous consent to submit those letters for the record, mr. chairman. >> without objection. so ordered. >> thank you, mr. chairman. ms. criswell, you're familiar with madison. in federalist 62, he wrote it would be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood. that's largely reflective of these letters that i just submitted. the people that i represent are begging for help from fema to navigate through fema's own complexities to access existing funds through existing programs
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for recovery relief. i ask for your commitment to work with the people of southwest louisiana, to help them navigate through these complexities and to ease that pain. can i have your commitment from you and your agency, madame, on that? >> representative higgins, absolutely, you have my commitment. i recently visited louisiana and met with political leadership in southwest louisiana that were impacted by those storms. we have recently opened up a recovery center that's providing not just assistance to the current storm that was experienced in recent weeks but also to help them navigate the process for the previous storms, as well. and so you have -- >> i -- yes, ma'am. i ask for your commitment there. in the interest of time, in closing, i'd like to ask for your commitment and assistance to accomplish two things. first, louisiana delegation has been pushing for supplemental disaster funding for some time now, many months. i respectfully ask you amplify
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that request to president biden. second, again, i ask for your assistance with helping local governments in my district fully understand the pre-disaster mitigation grant process and other resources that are available to them. i thank you, ma'am, for being here today. i have several questions that i'll submit in writing. i very much look forward to working with you. thank you, mr. chair. i yield. >> thank you very much. chair recognizes the gentleman from rhode island for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. good morning, administrator. i want to thank you for being here today and for making integrated equity into everything fema does one of your first priorities. before, during, and after disasters, people with disabilities, as well as older adults, have unique needs, many
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of which differs substantially from those of the general public. how do you view the incorporation of these vulnerable populations in disaster management, of making them a forethought and not an afterthought, particularly in terms of your commitment to equity? >> representative langeman, i appreciate your continued advocacy for people with disabilities. as i've stated, equity is one of my priorities, and that i know -- includes people with disabilities. i've seen firsthand the struggles this community faces when trying to respond to or recover themselves from disasters. fema has made a lot of strides in that area. in 2009, fema established the office of disability integration and coordination. through that office, they've done a lot of work to increase our own agency's understanding of how to make sure our programs
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are accessible and that we are meeting the needs of the people that have specific needs. we continue to deploy disability integration specialists to all of our disasters, specifically to make sure that we are understanding the needs of the community and addressing that. so you have my commitment to continue forward with that process. would be happy to work with you and your staff if you think there are areas we can improve in that effort. >> very good. thank you, administrator. i'm glad you recognize the importance of considering the needs of older adults and people with disabilities. i take you up on that offer and look forward to working with i couldn't on that and many other issues. i do want to call your attention to one other thing, though. 2019 gao report entitled, and i quote, the title of it was, "fema action needed to better support individuals who are older or have disabilities." it revealed that fema partners,
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including states, territories, localities, and non-profits, have experienced challenges assisting these populations. so are you aware that fema has historically struggled to support older adults and people with disabilities during and after disasters? in part, due to the lack of planning for these populations? >> again, representative, i think that fema has done a lot since the development of that program in 2009, in bringing on the disability -- office of disability integration and coordination. i'll go back and look at the report specifically to better understand the challenges identified in that report. i apologize i'm not familiar with it. but i think that we all have work that we can do improve our approach and how we deliver services to make sure that we're planning appropriately for everybody. >> very good. thank you for your commitment to that and to looking at the
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report. i appreciate it. i know that fema will be doing a very better job under your leadership, and i thank you for that. so, you know, i'm currently working with senator casey to introduce what we call the ready act for disasters act. so this bill will support the development of disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and litigation plans that are inclusive of older adults and people with disabilities by creating a network to provide relevant trainings and technical assistance to state and local governments. it'd also expand the national advisory committee on individuals with disabilities and disasters so that its membership accurately reflects the diversity of the disability community and direct the department of justice to review the extent to which civil rights of people with disabilities and older adults are upheld during and after disasters. do you believe that our bill would help ensure that older
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adults and people with disabilities are supported in disaster management? do you think it'd be helpful? >> i don't have the specifics of the bill, but i know that our staff are working together on the development of this. we're happy to continue to provide technical drafting assistance to help this bill through the legislative process. >> thank you. i'd welcome your help on that. i guess, last, i wanted to get into does fema have any consideration of cyber-based disasters that would inquire an i.t.-focused assistance? >> fema coordinates really closely with cisa at dhs and other members of the emergency management community to increase our preparedness and our understanding of the cyber-related threats. we have $4 million in fiscal year '21 grants to support
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increasing the preparedness for cybersecurity. i know the fiscal year '22 budget is adding ten additional employees to the fema staff to specifically address and strengthen our own cybersecurity posture. >> thank you for the answers. databases are hijacked in a state or region, this would help supplement i.t. functions like communication, planning, and operations until they were back on their feet. i think it is important to look at. thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> chair recognizes the gentleman from north carolina for five minutes, mr. bishop. >> thank you, mr. chairman. administrator, you may be aware north carolina has been hit by hurricanes in recent years. matthew in 2016. dorian in 2019. fema's timely assistance is
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critical recovery efforts from these disasters. however, we can continue to see very long wait times and delivery of benefits in the public assistance program. i represent one counties in the district, robinson county in north carolina. one of the most economically challenged in north carolina. home, by the way, to most of the members an indian tribe which remains unjustly without recognition, despite commitments of many to supporting that. an elementary school and other buildings owned by the robinson county public school system were destroyed in late september 2016 in the first of these three storms, matthew. the school system's public assistance claim remains unresolved. 90 days, it'll be five years, spanning three administrations, without even a final decision about the amount of public assistance to be provided. fema persists in attempting,
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from my perspective, to apply a rule of repair versus replacement in a manner contrary to the plain language of that rule. the saga appeared, i guess, under the administration in just the last several weeks. the chairman and ranking member referred to the disaster declaration processes for rural americans, but the reference also is made to the public assistance backlog. and the public has become numb maybe to these stoies by now, but this seems to be an egregious example of this problem. your testimony, ma'am, said fema intends to integrate equity into everything we do, but that seems to be an empty promise if fema is diverting resources, for example, to facilitating the entry of illegal migrants at the southwest border, despite leaving unaddressed the replacement of destroyed elementary school and the challenge of american counties for five years. what is fema's most current assessment of the aging of
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unresolved public assistance claims from past disasters, and how are those being addressed? >> i thank you, representative bishop. it's a really timely conversation. there are, you know, several disasters that are currently open across the country, dating back many years. the recovery process, as we continue to see more frequent and more severe disasters, becomes even more complicated. bringing in multiple different recovery sources to assist with that process. one of the things that we're focused on is trying to make sure that we're helping to increase the capacity of our state and local jurisdictions so they can better manage their recovery process, as well. we can work together to facilitate getting these projects through. i don't have the specific numbers in front of me to address your question specifically. we can certainly get that to you. i understand that it is a challenge. under my leadership, we're going
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to work on how we can start to improve and expedite that process and streamline it so it does not take as long. >> thank you, ma'am. as long as i'm on the subject about your commitment to integrate equity into everything we do, you made reference to fema's internal diversity, equity, and inclusion program. does fema use critical race theory concepts and doctrine in internal training of its workforce? >> diversity, equity, and inclusion is such an important part of our internal workforce, and being able to have people in leadership positions that they can relate to and they can understand, just seeing myself in this position really allows women across the country to see what is possible for them. we will continue to provide anti-harassment training to support our leadership teamand work on increasing the diversity
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within our leadership. >> do you know if you're using critical race theory concepts in that training? >> we are not using critical race theory concepts. we are using established anti-harassment type training that has been around for decades. >> thank you, ma'am. mr. chairman, i yield back. >> the gentleman yields back. chair recognizes the gentlelady from michigan for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. administrator, you're welcome here. congratulations on your confirmation, and thanks for taking on this really critical job. i'm from michigan. we have just experienced really extreme flooding, and it is still raining there. by some measures, we got six months' worth of rain in a day. we got 6 inches of rain in less than five hours in places like detroit and deerborn are literally under water. cars flooded down the highways. flooded basements across the country. can you just confirm for me if
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governor whitmer submits a proposal to fema to declare a national emergency, that you all will move swiftly to confirm it? >> representative, i'm familiar with the flooding that's currently ongoing in michigan, and michigan is my home state. it is where i grew up. so i have a lot of attachment there, and all my family still lives there. as they're going through the assessment process right now, and they see the request, i will commit to swiftly assessing that and determining if it meets eligibility. >> great. well, it makes me feel much better that you're a michigander. you won't leave us hanging. the second thing is, you know, a lot of the residents who have been hardest hit, a lot of them are seniors. a lot of them do not have access to the internet. i'm concerned the claims they're going to file, that you were requiring people to file, are going to require facility with the internet. can you also help us understand
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your plan if we do have a declaration of an emergency to get boots on the ground, people who can help us go door to door? time is of the essence. can you talk to us about that, given not everyone is, you know, fluent in the internet? >> absolutely. you know, again, the one thing that we have learned from covid-19 is that we need to meet people where they're at. we've seen that in other disasters, as well. fema does have a process here, a team of our workforce that is the disaster survivor assistance teams that, you know, if the disaster is declared, they can go out and help with that in-person approach. you know, i think as we've discussed already, access to the assistance that's available is one of the big barriers that we face.we are leaning forward into that to eliminate the barrier access and help meet people where they're at, to get them the assistance they're eligible for. >> thank you for that. then on just the bigger picture, you know, i think everyone who
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has already asked a question has got -- has had to deal with some sort of disaster in their home state, in their home community. we've all experienced them over the past, you know, five, ten years. my question just as someone who used to work for the pentagon is about how fema plans. i mean, we know that we're likely to see just, separate from politics, an increase in the number of storms and increase in severity of the storms. we're going to have more historic droughts like we're seeing on the west coast. if we take that as a national security and homeland security issue, tell me how fema is changing plans for budgets, for staffing. what more can we be helping you with since all of us need fema from time to time, and the need is going to go up and not down over the next decade. >> the first piece to that question is we are seeing more
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severe, more frequent storms that are impacting communities across the country. we have an opportunity to make generational level investments in trying to reduce that risk. reduce the impact they're feeling from the disasters. that's one of the first steps we need to do, as far as the planning piece of this. making sure we are working with our communities to help them apply for the mitigation programs that we have, to reduce their own impacts, so there's not going to be a need to respond. as we do respond, and until we can get mitigation projects in place, we do want to make sure that we have the appropriate staffing. as i mentioned earlier, on this year round cycle of response now, instead of the more traditional peak in the summer, while it's still peaks in the summer, our teams are deploying out around the clock now, year round. we are assessing what that looks for us so we can make a determination on what the right
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posture is for the workforce. happy to be able to come back to you once we understand better what our needs are. seeking your assistance and getting to the level of staffing and support. >> i think this committee would recognize a forward-looking, bold, interesting concept that's appropriate for the disasters that are ahead of us. thanks very much. mr. chairman, i yield back. >> chair recognizes the gentleman from new jersey for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman and ranking member for holding this committee. administrator criswell, thank you for testifying before the committee. fema is a critical agency, part of the homeland security, and i'm grateful for the work that you do and the work that the agency does. new jersey, as i'm sure you know, is in consistent, constant
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peril from natural disasters. superstorm sandy, for example, was nearly $30 billion in economic damages to this state. obviously, that number does not account for the number of the impact of the storm and the impact the storm had on families who lost loved ones and the countless other tragic implications the storm imposed. governor christi stated that at the time, the damages were going to be almost incalculable and the devastation on the jersey shore would be the worst we've ever seen. unfortunately, he was correct. members of this committee must ensure that fema has the tools and is prepared to respond. administrator criswell, i understand that fema -- and this is very important to me -- is updating the national flood insurance program risk rating methodology. through the latest system, risk
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rating 2.0. while the program states one of its goals is to deliver sound and accurate rates, i am concerned for many of my constituents, they will be forced to either pay much higher rates or move as a result of not being able to pay. neither are viable options, especially pause the cost of living in new jersey, as i think you all know, is just about the highest in the nation. is there a strategy in place to assist residents who will not be able to afford flood insurance as a result of the updated risk rating methodology? as part of this methodology, are we going to try to control the cost as much as we possibly can because flood insurance is so important to so many, yet so many expensive.
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>> representative, thank you for that question. under the crisising system, nfip policyholders share the burden to the cost of the insurance premium. under risk rating 2.0, the burden is shifted to those based on an individual homeowner's risk. all policyholders would see an increase going forward. those without high risk will see a decrease in policies, but some will have an increase. your point of, are we going to control the cost and make sure that we have an affordable way to do this, this isn't new methodology. we are committed to an affordability framework. we have put that in our fiscal year '22 budget, to help
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homeowners who can't afford this new increase do that. we're also doing this in a phased approach. homeowners that are going to have an increase in their flood insurance rates will not experience an increase until next year, until april of next year. it's capped at 18% per year. there's also going to be a maximum cap once they reach the maximum amount of the insurance policy. it will not go up further after that. we welcome the opportunity to continue to work with congress on the affordability framework so we can make sure everybody can afford the insurance. >> well, 18% a whole lot still to me. i imagine we thinkcerns of a gr. it is easy for all of us to have conversations here. when you get back to the district and tell people something is going up 18% at a regular level until a certain point, they're not going to be
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happy folks. i also know that you know it is going to be a real interesting conversation because we've been through this before. who is more at risk or not, and what methodology is used and what parameters are used. this is an area of continual agitation and concern. you know, it's important because the economic growth of certain areas of this country, and it's not only oceanfront like i have and bayfront, but it is rivers and other areas, as you know. these folks, with everything else happening, if they're hit too hard by fema and these costs, it's going to be tragic. it's a really big issue, and i really appreciate your work. i'd love you to come to new jersey sometime. i'm sure you've been there. everybody has been to new jersey at least once. just see some of the challenges we have. certainly glad to take you around and really show you what's going on.
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concern level from 0 to 100, i'm at 100, to let you know, and so are other people. you don't hear a lot about it now, wait until the 18% increases come forward. you're going to get so much noise, it'll be unbelievable. new jersey people can be so loud, believe me. >> gentleman's time -- >> i yield back my time. pleasure to talk to you. >> chair recognizes the gentleman from missouri for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, administrator, for being with us today. the chairman and mr. katko raise the issue that i'm concerned about, so i won't go through it, but i'm sure you're certainly aware. the missouri river is the longest river system in the country, only by a little short
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of 100 miles from the mississippi river. longer than the mississippi river. so we're going to have problems every single year. the $8.9 million is a problem. i represent a farming community along the missouri river, and it is devastating to get a town like one with 800 people. if you wipe out the downtown area, you may not go to $8.9 million. it's devastating. you've already heard that. i'm not going to bring it unagain. -- up again. i do need to say, i'm not sure -- i'm going to try to find out today, whatever this racial
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theory is. i've never heard of it. i have a master's, but i guess i'll try to find out what it is. it's kind of confusing to me. i heard of it, i think, a month ago, and i'm not sure if fema is in charge of racial stuff. i don't know. i don't know if they changed it, your job description. anyway, what i want to talk about, though, is the vaccination effort in rural communities. i represent a large rural community in missouri, and, you know, my rural area is a hot spot, one of the hottest spots in the nation, for covid-19. particularly as it relates to this new delta variant. and i'm hoping with this
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dangerous increase in rural america, my district, in particular that i'm talking about, can you give us any kind of update on how fema is being involved in the local community with the vaccine distribution? >> yes, fema has had a strong role in the rollout of the covid-19 vaccine and played a significant part in getting america vaccinated. we did this by supporting over 2,100 community vaccination centers across the country with either resources, funding, or personnel. we also established 39 federally-run community vaccination centers. the federally-run centers that we established, we worked really hard and close with the state and local officials to identify where they needed them, where they wanted them placed, so we could reach those underserved
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communities. it's a real success story. of all the vaccines we delivered through these, nearly 60% of our vaccines were administered to underserved populations. the federally-run centers have been closed, but we're still supporting local jurisdictions through their established centers, as well as mobile vaccination units that we have in different areas and available to deploy. as we see the changes with the delta variant, if the need arises, fema is ready to reestablish any assistance we need, in case we need to continue to get the vaccinations out there. >> my time expired, so thank you very much. i yield back, mr. chairman. >> thank you very much. the chair recognizes ms. meeks. >> thank you, mr. chair and
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ranking member katko and administrator criswell for being here today. fema uses the phrase, locally executed, state managed, and federally supported. this concept requires all of us to have actual capability and depth at every single level. in the past, i've asked fema, as they set up vaccination clinics, the level of their health personnel and emergency personnel. given that fema is not -- doesn't have expertise as a scientist or health personnel as part of your personnel, can you explain to me or discuss with me how the chain of command and delegation of responsibilities work due to work with the assistant secretary of pandemic response, cdc, hhs, local public health? who should be the head agency when we're deal winning a pandemic? do we need to rethink how, you know, how to score true readiness at the state, local,
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tribal, and territorial levels? >> federally supported, state managed, locally executed, i think is an important concept to bring up. i've been a local emergency manager. all disasters start and end with the local jurisdiction. that's the locally edge cuted part. the state and the federal government need to be part of the process to make sure they're successful. the federal government does that in a number of ways by making sure we're increasing their capacity to be able to perform their mission. when it came to supporting the vaccination effort or supporting the covid-19 response in general, coming from my own experience in new york city, it truly was a collaborative approach, of making sure that the federal government, while supporting, they understood the needs of the local jurisdiction, and letting the local jurisdiction set the planning assumptions for them, for the
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assistance they were going to provide. i think it's a critical piece, of making sure, again, that the federal government is supporting the actual needs on the ground of what the local communities say they have. when it comes to the federal coordination, that's where fema is an expert. we can bring in the federal partners. we're very good at coordinating the stakeholders and bringing in the appropriate people to coordinate a response. that's what fema did during the response to covid-19. i think we have an opportunity to see where we need to build capacity across the federal government for certain disasters when they don't squarely fall into the disaster response role that fema typically does. would be happy to work with you as we continue to have the conversation. >> given the scientific and medical nature of this particular natural emergency, who was responsible for messaging? as a physician and former director of the iowa state department of public health, there was confusion in the
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messaging. was that the responsibility of cdc? >> the messaing was critically important through this. as you know very well, the stuff we learned about the covid-19 virus changed on a regular basis. as part of the leadership role that fema ended up playing, we had hhs experts and medical experts embedded with us as part of the operation. as you stated, we don't have that level of expertise. it was truly a coordinated approach. i would always defer to the message to be those who are the experts and fema can amplify the message. >> thank you. during disasters, fema moves resources from unaffected areas to affected areas. however, the covid-19 pandemic affected the entire nation almost simultaneously, which led to significant supply shortages of personal protective emergency and other necessary supplies. a report published by fema in january found in order to mitigate further supply shortages, fema should establish
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a long-term strategy for engaging with the private sector. how has fema engaged with the private sector to address resource shortfalls? >> we learned so much through the covid-19 pandemic and the critical and often fragile nature of our supply chain in where we depend on things. we were able to put in some new methodologies, working closely with the private sector to make sure we were meeting the needs of first responders. the it was the first time, with disasters across the country, that we really faced a resource shortage at this level. we are working closely with the private sector to establish better relationships and understand how we can bring them in better. we can never replace the resources the private sector brings to bear to support disaster response, so we need to understand better what their capabilities are. we are having ongoing conversations with different sectors across the private sector to make sure we
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understand how to get them back online fik erfaster and how the support us. the conversations are ongoing. >> i yield back my time. >> thank you very much. chair recognizes the gentlelady from new york for five minutes, ms. clark. >> thank you, chairman thompson andranking member cot co- -- katko. thank you for administrator criswell for joining us, offering testimony. let me also congratulate you on your recent confirmation. i know firsthand the excellent, hard work and diligence that you've exhibited as our emergency manager commissioner in new york city. i have full confidence that you will lead fema with this same steadfast dedication. as you're aware, the climate crisis is not only an existential threat to our planet, it also presents a major and immediate danger to our communities. like so many americans, i
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watched in horror last year as wildfires and storms ravaged our nation. unfortunately, the predictions for this year are equally as alarming. back home in my congressional district in brooklyn, new york, many of my constituents are struggling to still recover from the devastating impacts of superstorm sandy that inflicted permanent damage to our critical infrastructure. climate change has fueled a troubling rise in extreme weather disasters and events over recent decades, making fema's job of protecting americans more critical yet more challenging than ever before. that's why i'm astonished that when the trump administration in 2018 took unprecedented steps to ignore science and remove the term climate change entirely from fema's strategic plan, not even the term sea level rise
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made it into the final document. to me, this isn't just words. omitting climate change from the strategic plan represents a broader attempt by the previous administration to play with people's lives in the name of partisan politics. administrator criswell, under your leadership, what steps is fema taking currently to re-incorporate this into the agency more broadly? >> thank you for the question. we are seeing an incredible rise in the number of disasters, the severity of disasters, and how rapidly they're intensifying like we've never seen before. this is a direct result of our changing climate. we have to be deliberate and brave about our approaches to reducing the impacts that we're seeing from climate change. as i've mentioned, we have a number of mitigation grant programs that are a first step in helping communities reduce future threats and future
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impacts from climate change. we're also taking a look at where do we need to be more proactive in our own efforts here. fema has established a climate enterprise steering group composed of components or members from across our agency to take a look at all our programs to see where we need to be more deliberate and aggressive in our approach to climate change. this group is also part of the dhs secretary's climate action group, so we can coordinate our efforts. fema has a strong role to play in fighting the climate crisis, and this is the first step in us being able to accomplish that. >> thank you. the previous administration's failure to act on climate change is why it is important congress take action now to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the american public from future climate impacts. that is why i recently introduced legislation.
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hr-744, the fema climate change preparedness act would help fema address the natural disaster --. among other provisions, my legislation would direct fema to perform an assessment on the natural disaster risks that climate change poses on our nation, as well as on our capacity to prepare for and mitigate climate impacts. administrator, is this something your agency is currently looking into, and is this something that your agency is currently looking into, and do you think that such a national assessment could be a useful undertaking? >> i believe that we have an obligation to be looking at the future risks we are going to to face. efforts at not just fema but across the emergency management community have often focused on historical risk. we really have an opportunity in an obligation, frankly, to look at the future risks that we're
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facing and make sure we understand them and are investing in mitigation to reduce the impacts from those risks. i believe it is important for all of us to have the mindset as we go forward. >> i look forward to speaking with you about this legislation, and i look forward to supporting your work in this endeavor. with that, mr. chairman, i yield back. >> gentlelady yields back. chair recognizes the gentlelady from tennessee for five minutes, mrs. harshberger. gentlelady needs to un-mute herself. still not quite hearing you.
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says you're un-muted now. we're having some technical difficulties. we'll go to mr. klein for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman, for holding this important meeting. thank you, administrator criswell. i appreciate you being here and providing the information that you have. in march of this year, fema was deployed to help address the surge in illegal migrants at our southwestern border. secretary mayorkas routinely stated he would not say we have a crisis at the southern border, yet he deployed our nation's emergency response agency, fema. ma'am, how would you describe this situation at the southwest
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border? >> fema's role in the southwest border is, again, part of what we are really good at. we are good at coordinating across federal agencies. in this case, we came in to help hhs and cdp with the execution of their mission. we only had a very small number of people that deployed in support of this mission, and it is from a coordinating standpoint. >> okay. so fema is only engaged in a crisis, is that not right? they wouldn't have been engaged if we didn't have a crisis at the border? >> fema, they're good at coordinating federal agencies for any type of an event or an incident, and we often do this for planned events as well as disasters or emergency responses. so it's that coordinating capacity that fema springs in to support agencies and helping them accomplish their operational capability.
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>> okay. would you or would you not call it an emergency at the southwest border? >> again, fema's role was really just to coordinate the federal government and -- >> you didn't answer my question. all right. so fema's budgets is stretched thin. are resources at the border better utilized elsewhere? >> the role fema played in that mission was very limited, and we never had more than 100 staff deployed at any given time. currently, we have less than seven people or approximately seven people that are still supporting the coordination. that is a small number of people compared to what we have available. >> would your office be willing to provide us a written statement concerning the extent of your agency's mission at the border, so we on the committee can review how the border crisis impacted your operations? >> yes, i'll have my staff get that to your team.
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>> great. what funding from fema has been allocated to address the illegal immigrants, has any? >> fema is actually getting reimbursed from hhs for our support. there has been no funding allocated from the disaster recovery fund in support of the mission. >> how much has fema spent already, though? >> i don't have those numbers. we certainly can add that to the report we give you. >> okay. there is articles in the news the $86 million non-complete dhs contract to family endeavors is under a microscope now to see whether or not it was proper. is fema helping i.c.e., hhs, or other government agency with the contracts? >> i'm not familiar with the contract. our role, again, in supporting that mission is to help
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coordinate the federal family that is involved. >> with that, that's all the questions i have. i thank you for your support of the crisis at the southern border. we need to get that fixed. with that, i yield back. >> gentleman yields back. chair recognizes the gentlelady from las vegas, ms. titus, for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. it's nice to see the administrator again. we just visited with her in subcommittee that oversees fema, so thank you for being with us once more. i just want to ask about something i raised with the secretary. i won't belabor it, but it's about, do i see funding -- the president's budget proposed a 15. -- $15.3 million decrease in
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funding, and the criteria focused on domestic terrorism, making this program even more important for communities like i represent, las vegas. i'd appreciate a commitment to try to work with me to be sure that we get the full funding or it remains a good resource and an effective one, as we move into kind of a new emphasis or a new direction. >> the homeland security grant funding has done such an amazing job at building the capability and preparedness of our state and local jurisdictions. as we saw in the early days of the program, it was really about building a lot of capability. what we have seen over the past several years is that much of the requests that are coming in are for sustainment. the adjustments to the program themselves are minor, and we do not feel they will impact the ability to sustain the capabilities that have been built. but as you stated, the secretary has also asked us to take a look
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at how we are evaluating risk in jurisdictions. our team is doing that now so we can make sure we are addressing the emerging threats that we're facing. >> thank you. i appreciate that. it's really important to us in a place like las vegas where we have to keep our residents protected but also 40 million visitors who come every year. they're coming back at a rapid pace. also, i'd ask you that whenever the president grants a governor's request for fema's individual and household programs following a disaster, it can currently provide very little assistance in the disaster area for people who are without homes before the disaster hit. now, their situation is even worse. in las vegas, we have a rate of 228.6 per 100,000 people who are in this situation. you see it a lot across the
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southwest. people go where it's warm, where they can survive. our non-profits do a lot of good work. our local governments try to. i wonder if there's some way fema in its new emphasis on equity and resilience could have a plan for these folks, as well? >> fema's programs and the individual households program, you know, is designed to help people that have been impacted by disasters. the programs themselves aren't designed to make them whole. they do provide assistance to help with the temporary repairs. if they are not homeowners and they're renters, with some temporary lodging as they find new assistance. i think if i'm understanding your question specifically, maybe more about the homeless population. these programs are not designed to support that. however, we do have the emergency food and sheltering program which is one that is run by fema that can assist local communities. that grant funding is available
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to help them with that homeless situation. i'm happy to get your constituents in touch with the people that run that program to see if there is a way that can help. >> that would be great. if we can reach out and get more information to help these folks in las vegas, i'd really appreciate it. thank you, administrator. mr. chairman, i yield back. >> chair recognizes the gentleman from florida for five minutes, mr. jimenez. >> thank you, mr. chairman. also want to thank the ranking member. ms. crcriswell, good to talk to fellow former firefighter and emergency manager. i served as a firefighter with the city of miami and also the emergency manager for the city of miami. really good to talk to you. you stated that storms are getting more frequent and more severe. do you have -- could you submit some data to my office on the number of landfalling hurricanes
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since the year 1900 and their severity, so that i can look at that data and see if, in fact, that's true? >> yes, representative. we can certainly get you that information. >> okay. flood insurance remains a big issue in my district. you spoke about certain caps for the florida insurance program. what are the caps going to be? is that by region, or is there a hard cap nationwide for the flood insurance programowner? >> the risk 2.0 program is based -- insurance rates are based on their individual risk. with an increase that is not too exceed 18% per year. again, based on the individual homeowner's risk, there is a certain amount of premium that
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they will pay as a cap. again, based on their individual risk. that is once they reach that, under the current program, there is no limit, but under the new program there is. >> but there's not a hard cap nationwide, it's pa based on th individual property? you said there is a cap, so what is that? describe that for me. really quick because i only have five minutes. >> absolutely. maybe two sides of this. there's an 18% cap per year that the rates can't go up more than 18%, which is set by congress. >> got it. >> there's a maximum amount of what their insurance policy will be. when they reach that, it won't go any higher. >> i know. again, the question is, is that on individual property, or is it a nationwide cap that no insurance policy can be, say, more than $5,000? >> it is based on their individual risk for their home. >> and so that could be, they
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are --theoretically, $100,000, $200,000, depends on the home itself? >> it depends on the home itself but we can get more specifics. >> thank you to fema for the surfside incident. that's a town that i used to be the mayor of that county, so thank you. how many teams does fema have in support right now? >> currently, the two teams that are located in miami and miami-dade are part of the national system, and they were the first teams that were involved. again, it's a real good example of how important these teams are to be embedded within the first responder community so they can respond quickly. so those two teams are already activated, and we have additional teams that we are working right now with the local incident commander to determine -- >> i know all that. ma'am, i know all that. i mean, i actually created the second team, okay. i want to know how many teams do you have in the system. that's the question.
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>> oh, in the system. >> -- in the system, yeah. >> how many -- i believe -- i don't have the exact number in front of me, sir. i'm sorry. i can get that to you. >> that's fine. okay, that's fine. all right. now, when it comes to hurricane mitigation, we have more communities, more people living on the coast now than we did, say, in the year 1900. when you stated there are more -- the severity of storm and the frequency, are you talking about the actual number, or are you talking about the dollar amount of the damage they cause? >> sir, i think it's both, right. i think that we're seeing more billion dollar disasters than we've seen in the past. we're seeing more storms brew, more hurricanes in the atlantic. we're seeing an increasing number of wildfires across the west. i think it is a combination of both. >> well, i mean, you being a firefighter, you know fire needs three things.
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it needs oxygen, an ignition source, and it needs fuel. so how does climate change factor into those three things? >> for the wildfire season, an increase in the number of wildfires that we're seeing is the fact that the vegetation is more dried out than it has been in the past, which increases its ability to have the ignition source more quickly. >> okay. but it could also be that the -- that there's less management of those forests and they're not being cleared the way they should be. because you and i both know as firefighters that if you take away the fuel, you won't have these kinds of fires, right? >> exactly. that's the mitigation that we talk about in trying to reduce the impact, right? so the more that you can mitigate the potential impacts that you're going to see, the less that you're going to have to respond. >> right. we can't take away the oxygen, and we can't take away the
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ignition source. you know, that's problematic. we try to. at the end, it's always about the fuel. the fuel is the vegetation. we start clearing that out, we may actually start to see lessening of these devastating forest fires. would you agree with that? >> i could agree with that. >> okay. >> the gentleman's time has expired. >> thank you very much. i yield the rest of my time which is zero. thank you. >> chair recognizes the gentlelady from florida for five minutes. >> thank you so much, mr. chairman, and administrator, it is great to see you again. as a native floridian and former first responder, i am no stranger to responding to and living through a disaster. but as you know, administrator, we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory with the tragedy in surfside, florida. certainly, our thoughts are with the victims, the families, first
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responders. i'd like to thank you and your workforce for immediately deploying to south florida. being there on the ground. i also want to commend you on the strong partnership that fema has and has had with state and local emergency responders. we know that it is essential to preserve and protect a life. it is appreciated, i believe, by all here today. administrator, administrator, the 2020 atlantic hurricane season was the most active and the 5th costliest atlantic hurricane season on record. the season was so active, in fact, that we ran out of names and had to use the greek alphabet. this year, the national oceanic, and atmospheric administration has predicted another active season as you all know. in fact, we have already seen up to three hurricanes from the atlantic. with hurricane season in full swing, and i know we talked somewhat about this today, but you know, covid-19 was also a
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curve ball with all that you have to juggle as well. so with the season in full swing, how are you balancing these many times unpredictable national disaster along with still being pretty much involved in the response to covid-19? >> it's a great question, and our hearts do go out to those that are still suffering in miami right now. and as we see, you know, the threats that we're facing continue to change. our normal cycle of disaster response isn't just in the summer anymore. it's really year round. and so as we prepare for this season, for this season summer time, we have an effort to reduce the number of staff we have deployed to ongoing operations and make sure they have the opportunity to rest and get reset so we have the
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appropriate levels to respond to what we might see over the coming months. but we're right now taking a big look at what is it going to be for us in the future, and mow do we want to start to posture ourselves for this more year round response. and we are doing an assessment to see what it would make for a true readiness cycle that would support a continuous adequate rest, and information they need, and have significant personnel for the threats we continue to face. >> thank you very much, administrator. fema has had disaster with the contracting work force level. in its 2017 after action report, fema indicated that its disaster contacting work force due to the unprecedented number of contracting actions that had to process during the 2017 hurricane season. this is understandable consider fema obligated 4.5 billion for the 2017 disaster, whereas the
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three fiscal years before then, you only had to obligate about 1.3 billion. told, as you know, fema has obligated nearly 48 billion in response to covid-19 alone. this is astronomical compared, of course, to previous years. where does fema's contracting work force level stand now, and does fema has the work force it needs during the 2021 disaster season? >> the contracting work force is such a critical part of what we do because we need to make sure that we have the right tools and the people to execute those tools to support disaster response. i don't have the specific numbers of our contracting work force. i'm happy to have my team get back to you. but we are looking across all of our cad our, to make sure we're recruiting quality people to serve in what i think is the best agency the government has. >> with the limited time i have, i do realize that our human
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beings are the most precious resource. sometimes you may not always feel like it, but human beings are the most precious resource that we have. we know that fema ranked 322 out of 420 agencies in terms of employee morale. i know the chairman talked a little bit about the work force. could you very quickly explains some of the steps you were planning to take to address specifically employee morale? >> the work force is my number one priority. we have such an important mission that we can't fail at, and the way to do that is to make sure that we have a qualified, trained and supported work force so they can execute their mission. we've done a number of things to reach out to our employees and i think one of the biggest things we've done is created these employee resource groups where we get input from our employees and what their needs are and how we can better support them in accomplishing their mission. we're also going to continue to
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make sure that we have enough personnel, and we provide the right training and resources and support that employees need to conduct their jobs effectively and efficiently, and the other piece to add to that is making sure that our work force is diverse and inclusive and so we can represent the people that we serve. >> imagine that. thank you so much, administrator. mr. chairman, i yield back. >> gentle lady yields back. chair recognizes ms. from tennessee for five minutes. we can't hear you still. no. we are going to come back to you again. chair recognizes ms. laturner
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from kansas for five minutes. can you unmute yourself, mr. laturner? i see you going on and off. well, we'll go back to florida. ms. canley for five minutes. >> can you all hear me? >> we got you. >> woo. >> val's laughing. oh, man, well, i appreciate it mr. chairman. thank you so much, and good to see you again administrator criswell. i'm going to jump right in on
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questions because i've got a lot, and i don't think i'll be able to it through them all. so going to start with the first question being your fema all hands on deck meeting. you identified employee burnout as one of the major issues, and we talked about that last week. and you had mentioned the importance of work force readiness in your testimony, and then again when we were chatting on friday. now, i had asked this question to secretary mayorkas a couple of weeks ago, and again, several months ago. and i'm just kind of looking for some clarity on this. when i had asked if fema had the resources that it needs to effectively respond to the pandemic, the border crisis, and upcoming storm season at that point, he had stated fema had every resource that it needed in order to do that. do you agree with the secretary's assessment that fema is not in need of any additional
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resources? >> as we prepare for this season, we have the resources that we need to support the ongoing responses that we're currently running as well as what we expect. i think as we discussed and we're seeing this year round response to disaster and new emerging threats, we're doing an assessment to see how we can better prepare and have a stronger readiness cycle that gives our employees more opportunities for rest and reset so they're not deployed so much continuously. >> okay. so just so it summarize, yes, fema has all the resources it needs to do the job, work force, everything, personnel, border crisis, pandemic, incoming delta variant, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfire season, everything? >> i believe that we are well postured to support that. we do have a request for additional resources in our fiscal year '22 budget as well
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to help increase that readiness capability. >> okay. now, you guys are seeing the distribution of 2 billion in covid-19 related funeral assistance, and this is the largest funeral assistance program that fema has ever handled. as of june 28th, approximately 447 million has already been distributed to 66,000, almost 67,000 people. now, what are we doing to make sure the aid gets to those who are truly in need in this very tough situation and that there aren't bad actors working to exploit the system? >> the funeral assistance program is truly unprecedented, on a scale of nothing we have done before. as we were putting our plan in place for how we were going to roll this program out, we knew there was going to be a lot of opportunities for fraud. we did put measures in place to help reduce the potential for fraud and we're seeing very low
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incidents of fraudulent claims. one of the things we are doing to make sure everybody gets assistance as well is they are registering through the 1-800 number directly. that also helps to reduce fraud by not going online, but then we have personnel that are talking to individuals and helping them work through the paperwork requirements to provide the documentation to get the assistance. >> once the applicants go through the process to just trust but verify? >> i mean, that is part of the process, right, so as an individual calls the 1-800 number to get assistance, we work with them to get the appropriate paperwork. we verify that paperwork to make sure that it's authentic and work with them to get additional resources or additional paperwork they need until they finally get their claim settled. >> okay. excellent, thank you, and something else that i had asked of secretary mayorkas a couple of weeks ago that he was going
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to, i think, ask you about was the food, emergency food and shelter program that fema has. so i've been to the border a couple of times this year, and i have actually been on a plane where i recognized the migrants we picked up with border control in the days leading up to my flight. it's my understanding that the emergency food and shelter program that fema has has been supporting the travel cost for these migrants. how much of this program has been expended on migrant travel? >> as you stated, the emergency food and shelter program is a grant program available through fema for nondisaster related expenses. i don't have the specific information. i am aware of the flight that you mentioned. i don't have the specific information about the costs that were spent, but it is something that is eligible through this program as it's administered by
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the local volunteer agencies. >> could you follow up? i know my time has expired. could you follow up with me on the total number of dollars that have been expended on migrant travel this year? >> we will certainly follow up on that and i would just add that congress did appropriate $110 million for this program to assist. >> the gentle lady's time has expired. the chair recognizes the gentleman from california for five minutes, mr. swalwell. >> thank you, chairman, administrator, i want to thank fema for standing up its oakland coliseum vaccination site where thousands of bay area residents were vaccinated. it was a real success. i was able to meet with your team on the ground there early on after having the vaccine and i would say it's the second best thing that's happened at the open coliseum this year other than the third best baseball team, the oakland a's.
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thank you to fema for that. administrator, my district in california has suffered from wildfires in the past year as well as yesterday we had a 4.1 earthquake in the city of castro valley. so we face a range of natural hazards, and we found that climate change is exasperating many of these disaster and the effects and i know you understand as a former firefighter, the importance of resiliency and predisaster mitigation. congressional action over the past few years has emphasized predisaster mitigation, and fema has put a greater emphasis on pre-disaster mitigation through building infrastructure and communities program, the brick program. a total of 500 million was available in 2020, and president biden has approved for fema to provide 1 billion for this fiscal year. now, it's been an effective way to support pre-disaster
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mitigation, but we were only able to fund 500 million of the approximately 3.6 billion requested. what do you think is the best way to address the demand for predisaster mitigation funding? >> i'm sorry, did you hear what i started there with? >> i didn't. go ahead. >> i think we weren't unmuted. i apologize. pre-disaster mitigation fuding is a critical component to reduce the impacts we're seeing from climate change, and we were very excited about the authorities given to us in the disaster recovery reform plan to be able to implement the brick program, the building infrastructures program, and as we saw the first year, it was amazing the amount of need that was out there as you stated, $3.6 billion in applications. i think where we're going, now that we have additional funding that was available this year,
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double what we had last year, $1 billion, we're going to continue to be able to address these projects to do the system wide mitigation, instead of a more incremental approach that we have done in the past. but brick is just one of the programs that we have, and so if there's applications that were not selected during this program, we also have our hazard mitigation grant program, postdisaster grant that state and local jurisdictions can apply for as well. and that comes after every disaster, and we have recently also created hazard mitigation funding eligibility for fire management assistance grants, which specifically goes to those communities that were impacted by the fires to increase their ability to reduce risk. >> now, administrator, to qualify for brick funding, a state must have issued a major disaster declaration in the past seven years. as you know, because of the covid-19 pandemic, every state has been under a major disaster
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declaration. has the anomaly of simultaneous disaster declarations across all 50 states because of the pandemic affected fema's administration of the brick fund? >> it hasn't, and i think it just gives us a greater opportunity now to be able to invest in communities across the country to help them reduce the impacts from these threats that we're facing. >> great, well, we are going into sadly another fire season on top of that a drought and as i said, a reminder yesterday that we are at risk of, you know, a major earthquake in the bay area, and so we need you all more than ever. welcome aboard on the job, and again, your team on the ground in san francisco really did an excellent job in getting our community vaccinated, and we have over 80% of alameda county has received at least one vaccine and that is a leader in the country in part because of fema's work, so thank you very much. >> the gentleman yields back? >> yes.
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>> chair recognizes, ms. harshbarger again. >> i've got you on the phone now. >> are you good? >> i apologize. the gremlins are still with us. >> okay. can you hear me on the phone line? >> we can hear you on the phone line. >> okay. let's just do it that way. who knows what's going on. hey, if it was as easy to fix, i should call fema, maybe they can do that. so anyway, i just thank you chairman, and ranking member,
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and madame administrator. i just wanted to talk a little bit about something some of my colleagues have already talked about, and that is the -- the disaster declaration, some of these smaller counties. i have a small county in tennessee, and they had a flood event in march of 2020, and they just received money as of last month due to that flood that damaged some of the roadways, and, you know, they weren't able to meet your threshold, and they finally did the paperwork, and my concern, even after they were approved, it took eight months to receive their money, and you know, in the small county, when you have maybe two employees, it takes one doing this full-time in order to do the paperwork to get the money from those disaster, and it's all the documentation, and things like that. i want you to be aware that madame administrator, that
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sometimes on these smaller counties, it took over a year to get that money to them, and they have to figure out how they're going to budget that in order to make those road repairs, so that's a concern, and i kind of want to switch gears and talk about our national stockpile problems. and covid-19 made those very apparent, as far as supply chains are concerned, and it affected the country's response to the pandemic and put our economic and national security in jeopardy, and i can tell you this, being a pharmacy owner n three weeks i could not get medications. i couldn't get hydroxychloroquine. i couldn't get the powder to make it, supplements, vitamins, and that's just in a three-week period, and that is critical. i consider that critical infrastructure as far as the nation goes. it is imperative that we have those, and as a nation, we left clear understanding of the
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supply chain outside of the department of defense environment, and industrial supply chain must be comparable to how it manages the space, including procurement, acquisition, long-term contracting, asset viability, material distribution and tracking of emergency threats that proactively support supply chain assurance. i guess my question is core capabilities like supply change security and risk management have been under invested and how should our nation determine in detail, and understand the interdependencies of the public safety industrial supply chain and the impacts it will have on operations if interrupted? >> what we learned through covid-19 is truly, as you stated, how critical our supply
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chain is, but just how fragile it can be as well. as we were working through our ability to maximize and support the supply chain to make sure that we could keep resources moving, we learned a lot of lessons about our hole, and how we can interact with the private sector. we have two roles, one is how do we during disaster get the supply chain up and running quickly so they can continue to bring supplies in because fema can never replace what the private sector brings to the table, but also how can then we integrate the private sector into our operations to support the initial response needs. fema has started a lot of conversations across the private sector in different sectors, health care, housing and so forth to see how we can work better together to improve the resiliency of the supply chain, to make sure that we don't have or are reducing any potential impacts to disrupting the supply
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chain. >> thank you for that. after i have had such microphone troubles, i'll yield back chairman. thank you. >> young lady is very kind. thank you very much. the chair recognizes the gentle lady from california, for five minutes. ms. baragon. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for holding this hearing. thank you administrator for being with us today, and all of your work. the trump administration took unprecedented steps to criticize natural disaster survivors and continuously threaten to deny or withdraw aid to jurisdictions such as puerto rico and california while praising and announcing more money for areas that had a large number of trump supporters. their actions threatened the recovery process for disaster survivors. while it is the executive branch that carries out various response and recovery programs to help communities rebuild after a disaster. it is congress's responsibility
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to conduct oversight to ensure the american people are receiving a fair effective response from the federal government it is not only important for the disaster survivors currently putting their lives back together but for the future survivors who will benefit from a response improved by lessons learned. the trump administration's politicalization of disaster assistance stands against everything we as public servants stand for. administrator, what effects does the politicalization of disaster relief have on affected communities? >> start your answer again. we kind of had a delay. >> unld. disaster that impact communities, they do not discriminate whether you're republican or democrat, and fema's assistance is not
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restricted in any way based on that. we provide assistance to communities based on their need and one of the things we have learned through covid-19 is our ability to understand and identify our under served populations to make sure that we are getting them the assistance they need but also making sure that they understand how to access that assistance. and that's fema's role. we are going to help people before, during and after disaster, making sure they get what they need to recover from whatever that event was. >> and do you agree it would be dangerous if we started to politicize who gets disaster relief? >> it would absolutely be dangerous. we should be basing disaster assistance on the needs of the community, and the impacts that they experienced. >> thank you. how can we assure that never happens again, that we are politicizing the disaster need? >> you know, the policies that fema has and the stafford act
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that guides our ability to provide assistance clearly sets out how we provide assistance, and as long as we're following the guidance set forth in there, we will be able to continue to provide assistance to all communities that are impacted. >> thank you. administrator, i also want to thank you for the work that you have done in working to cross agencies to help at the southern border. i have been there firsthand. i have seen what the difference has been in getting children out of border patrol custody and into hhs, and the role you played and how it's been hopeful. i want to thank you for that. my next question is about, you know, reports that the sites, the fema assistance sites of the mass vaccination centers are winding down. they're coming to a close.
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and assisting in the vaccination efforts, is there any consideration given on reopening these mass vaccination centers when maybe say boosters are going to be necessary for, you know, the population? >> fema has supported the vaccination effort in a variety of different ways. we are supporting approximately 2,100 community vaccination centers across the country. 39 of which were federally run community vaccination sites. our ongoing support for the 2,100 continues by providing financial assistance, personnel, resources as needed based on what the community needs and how they're doing with their outreach to their populations to get them vaccinated. we have wound down our 39 sites and primarily that was based on the fact that we saw limited numbers of people coming and more of the population that we're going to pharmacies, their
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doctors office and other places to get the vaccine. you know, as we look to the future, we will be ready to stand up additional sites if needed. if there's a booster that's required, we remain flexible to be able to support this ongoing effort to get america vaccinated and whatever that might look like in the coming months. >> thank you, administrator. fema has literally helped save lives, taking this logistical challenge of getting the vaccine out, and we have seen the difference that you and this administers have made. with that, mr. chairman, i yield back. >> chair recognizes the gentleman from kansas, mr. laturner for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i apologize for the technical difficulties we had earlier, and thank you to you, and ranking member for holding this hearing. administrator, very pleased you're with us today. we like to say in kansas that you can experience all four
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seasons in the same day, and along with that weather comes disaster, with tornadoes, flooding and the wet season, wildfires in the dry season, and we need fema to be ready and able to support those communities in kansas and across our country that are affected by disaster of all sizes. i also recognize the role fema has played in providing resources and relief across the country during the covid-19 pandemic, which we all home we're nearing the end of. i have a couple of questions for you. the first is in the president's fy '22 budget, he has $100 million to support, sustain new initiatives. in the past fema has had with safeguarding personal information could you give us the specifics on the i.t. initiatives that fema will be focusing on? >> i will certainly have my team get back with specifics for you, but what i will say generally, some of the i.t. initiatives is
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modernizing our i.t. infrastructure as well as our grant systems, so we can make is easier for state and local communities to apply for assistance through that. those are some very general big picture pieces of our i.t. infrastructure that we are requesting funding for. i'll certainly have my team get back to you with specifics. >> i appreciate that, administrate. since the nationwide emergency was declared on march 2020, there was a lot of confusion as to who was leading the response, fema or hs and as fema took the lead, questions remained as who should take the charge during a prolonged pandemic. while fema has the capability to coordinate resources and manpower, what should fema and hhs's role be for future similar events? >> it's a very good question. you know, fema is very good. what we excel at is being able to collaborate across the
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federal government to bring the stake holders together to solve the toughest problems we have been facing in recent years. i think we have work to do to make sure we are working with our partners across the federal government to better understand what the capabilities are, and where the roles and responsibilities need to be delineated. and so i commit to being able to work across the government by helping to better understand capacity and where is the roles and responsibilities need to be defined. >> administrator, could you get a little more detailed on that? do you think that needs to take shape in the form of legislation? are those conversations that you're currently having now? or ones you're planning to have in the future. >> they are conversations we're having now as we work with hhs and our continued response to covid-19. if there's a point in time i think it needs legislation i'm certainly happy to get back with you and how we would make that happen. >> as you know, a number of state governors are moving in their state's incident period
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for covid-19 major disaster declaration. does fema have a projected time line for when the covid-19 major disaster declarations might end? >> we are reviewing that currently on when that might happen. it's not going to happen in the very near future. i mean, we will make sure we're providing ample notice for jurisdictions so they understand what the impacts of that might be. >> i appreciate that. you touched on this a little bit earlier, but if you could go into a little more depth. ending the state's covid-19 major disaster declaration, affect the resources available to states, and what resources will be available to states under the nationwide emergency declaration, after this is over, it would be nice for states to have some idea of what's going to be available to them. >> we're seeing states in their emergency declaration, and we're having conversations with them through our regional administrators on what that means as it relates to the national disaster, the major
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disaster declaration, and our ongoing incident period, and so we'll continue to have those conversations, our regional administrators have been reaching out to our states continuously to help understand some of the guidance and what the future impacts might be as we continue to refine the future of the disaster declaration. >> are you doing personal outreach, or is it done region by region, primarily? >> we like to have our regional administrators do the majority of the outreach. i have been communicating with the national organizations that bring together the leadership from across the country to answer some of these same questions. >> administrator, i appreciate your time, and i yield back mr. chairman. >> gentleman yields back. chair recognizes gentleman from new york, mr. torres.
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>> good morning, administrator, you were the new york commissioner of emergency management for the cataclysmic challenges confronting health and hospitals during covid-19. health system in the united states that came under greater strain than health and hospitals, new york city was the epicenter of the first coronavirus wave and health and hospitals as a safety net health system was the hardest hit not only by the rapid influx but by the sheer intensity and complexity of coronavirus cases. fema provides reimbursements to expanded medical facilities in order to keep pace with what the "new york times" infamously described as a quote apocalyptic coronavirus surge and yet inexplicably, fema refuses to reimburse health and hospitals for that capacity expansion.
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can you explain to me the inexplicable decision to deny or delay reimbursement for health and hospitals? >> representative torres, yes, i was there. it was the most challenging year that i have gone through, and i worked closely hand in hand with my colleagues at health and hospitals as we were expanding that capacity. it was not just in health and hospitals but the alternate care sites that we set up across the city to support the numbers that we were projecting. i don't have the specifics of the denial that you're talking about, but those types of costs are eligible costs under the disaster declaration, and so let me get more information about the specifics of what you're talking about, and i'll be happy to get back with you with any information. >> absolutely. and i just want to read for you a letter from the ceo of health and hospitals, mitchell katz to
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your agency, you directly. fema region 2 asserts that health and hospital facilities were not expanded in their entirety. and that health and hospitals must prove which portions of our systems were expanded versus unexpanded and then the contracted search staff to only expanded areas in order to be eligible for fema funding. as health and hospitals has explained previously in writing and multiple working sessions with fema region 2. this is neither required by fema guidance nor feasible. moreover, it does not reflect the operation or clinical realities experienced by health and hospitals during the height of the pandemic. given the terrible volume and intensity of the first wave of covid, all health and hospital facilities were expanded in their entirety to battle the virus. everything the ceo said is entirely true, as you know, during the early wave of the pandemic, the whole health and hospital system became a covid emergency. there was virtually no testing, so everyone entering the system
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was presumed to have covid-19. it was a severe shortage of testing. a severe shortage of ppe. there were medical personnel with minimal ppe falling ill to the virus, hence the need for staffing. if the eleven hospitals do not qualify as expanded medical facilities then no hospitals in america qualify as expanded medical facilities because no health system was as overwhelm as health and hospitals. >> thank you for reading me that letter. i have not seen that letter yet. but i will look into this and see what the specifics are and get back to your staff. >> quick questions about puerto rico, i have concerns about the electric grid, ravaged by hurricane maria, in recent weeks, what is the status of the $10 billion allocated for puerto rico's power grid?
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>> i don't have the statistics on that. we have a team working with the puerto rico government to thep them as they're going through the recovery process as well as the mitigation efforts they are undergoing. we'll get back to you with the status of where we are with those projects. >> and are you aware that loomer energy, a private firm has taken over the power grid? >> yes. >> and does fema have confidence in loomer? >> we are working closely with the resiliency group out of the government of puerto rico. they took over early in june. they responded for their first event. it seems that went well. we're working closely with them to be sure they have the capacity and capability to support. >> and what mechanism oversights are in place to make sure luna is accountable for spending the billions they will receive properly and efficiently, and
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that will be my final question. >> we have an extensive team that's on the island supporting this ongoing process. i recently visited puerto rico in my first few weeks here on the job to get a better understanding of where they were at with their recovery, and our team is working hand in hand with them to make sure that things are moving and progressing but also being spent in accordance to the way they're supposed to be. >> the chair recognizes the gentleman from michigan for five minutes. mr. myers. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you administrator criswell for appearing here today. you know, i think during the covid-19 pandemic, we saw the importance of emergency preparedness, and having a well supplied strategic national stockpile for personal protective equipment and other supplies we need to deal with
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public health crises. i want to make sure we are learning all the lessons that we can from this pandemic and that we have put those towards preparing for crises that may come down the road. typically fema can move resources from unaffected areas to affected areas during disaster. you know, when you have one region that's impacted or one state, we can surge supplies from others. when we have something that impacts us nationally as covid did during a pandemic, we saw the significant supply shortages that arose when we had more of that regional impulse rather than some assumption that we would be having to act on a national level. along with the strategic national stockpile at the federal level, michigan maintains its own michigan strategic national stockpile, managed directly by our department of community health. i just want to drill down on how fema works with state programs and if there are important
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lessons to be learned from the pandemic or other steps that congress can take to help facilitate coordination in the future and a flexible rotating stockpile approach. so i guess administrator, to put it directly, how can the strategic national stockpile program and state strategic stockpile programs work most effectively together across a range of disaster scenarios. >> as you stated the covid-19 pandemic was the first time our resources have been needed across all 50 states and our tribes and territories. and it really stretched our ability to move resources from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. i know that state and local jurisdictions have been building their own stockpiles for many years, and some of the things that our role is helping them understand what their needs are, where their gaps exist, and help them fill those gaps through whether it's applying for grant funding that we have or through
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other resources. our focus is really to work with the state and local jurisdictions to better understand where their capabilities are and help them to close those gaps as needed through whatever federal resource might be part of that. >> you mentioned those federal resources. do you believe that fema or that congress or some play between the two should be incentivizing states that don't already have their own stockpiles to create them. >> i think that having your own capability, that's the first stop, right, where disaster all start and end at the local level. and so the more capacity that we can build at the local level, the better they're going to be able to respond and not need support from the federal government. that level of capacity building is the first step in creating a prepared and resilient nation, and whatever we can do to help generate that level of capacity building is a step in the right direction. >> and you know, on the
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household level, one of the recommendations that fema gives is, you know, to have sufficient food on hand, i think it's a week's worth of food is usually that recommendation. but that whole approach of in your pantry, you know, you have the canned goods, you put the newest one in back, and take from the front so that you have that depth, right, you know, we're dealing with a lot of projects in our strategic stockpile, whether masks or ventilators or a range of additional equipment that has an expiration day. does fema work with the states to manage that optimal balance where items that may have an expiration date at five year's time, you have a five-year window of supplies that get drawn down and replenished consecutively, if that makes sense. do we have that mechanism in place to best optimize the
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efficiency of the stock piles. >> where our role comes in with that is working with our states to understand where their capacity is at and where they can best maintain that capacity, and we provide technical assistance to states that request it to help them work through those level of details, and we will be able to continue to provide that assistance through our national preparedness division. >> a final quick question, do you feel in your experience that states without their own stockpiles are at a disadvantage when it comes to federal assistance? >> i wouldn't say they're at a disadvantage when it comes to federal assistance. i think that, again, we're trying to build capacity at the federal, state and local level, and if there is through our process of trying to understand that capacity through some of our established practices the threat hazard risk assessment process, we have an idea of where those gaps may exist and so we can better prepare as we're seeing storms or other disaster happen so we know where
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those gaps might be so we can be prepared to respond appropriately. >> thank you, administrator, and thank you, mr. chairman, i yield back. >> thank you very much, the chair recognizes the gentleman from texas for five minutes, mr. green. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. chairman, i have intelligence indicating that a 2020 rand survey conditioned by fema found serious cultural issues at the agency for people of color and minorities. the survey assessed identifiers, sexual harassment and gender discrimination. this survey found 29% of the employees expressed the view that their civil rights were being violated. 20% reported experiencing civil rights violations based on sex, and 18% reported having experienced civil rights violations based on race or ethnicity. so this begs the question, what
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is fema doing to address these allegations. so madame administrator, thank you for being with us today. sorry to rush right into this. i have been busy with some other committee assignments as well, and if this has already been broached, this issue has been brought to your attention, i beg you to forgive me for asking twice. >> it's a very important issue, absolutely, and i'm familiar with the rand study that the previous administration commissioned. as a result of some of the actions that we found were happening across the agency. harassment at any level is now tolerated and, i have worked with my team to better understand where we were at in addressing the findings within that rand report. prior to my arrival, they had created a culture improvement action plan to begin that process. and we have recently reviewed that plan, added some more metrics to measure our approach
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to addressing that, and have reissued it out to the work force so they understand this is a commitment of mine to make sure we hear our employees, understand what their concerns are, and we are measuring our progress against addressing those concerns. the rand study also suggested we do a follow-on survey, which we have done, and we are right now compiling the results from that survey, but we are going to continue to tackle this head on because this is an incredibly important issue. our work force is our number one priority, and that level of harassment and discrimination is not going to be tolerated. >> i appreciate your answer. but let me just add one additional commentary. the survey reported that 40% were told to drop the gender claims and 42% were told to drop their racial claims. i know that you're doing what you can and you're moving into this area as expeditiously as
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possible, but that does create some concern that people are encouraged to drop their claims. any comments that you would like to give on the claims that are being dropped? >> it's a very concerning claim, and i would say one of the things that we did to address that directly was we established an office of professional responsibility, and so this is something that we did not have in the past and now it provides a mechanism for employees to reach out and report misconduct, and we have an actual investigative unit that can address those and research them, and identify the validity of that claim, and then take action as appropriate. >> well, i do thank you very much for looking into this. and i'm eager to hear what the results are. if at all possible, could you please keep me informed as to how we proceed with it? >> yes, sir. >> i'll sort of track it if i may. and by the way, i'm going to salute for you a great job. it's just important that i stay
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on top of this. >> yes, sir. absolutely. >> i yield back the balance of my time. >> the chair recognizes the gentleman from texas for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you administrator for your time today. i would like to just ask you a couple of questions to start with, and thanks for your service as a firefighter. i understand that there's a lot of good lessons learned there, as somebody who has served in the military, you know, i think those types of jobs can really teach us about preparedness. would you say that covid-19 is a concern to fema? >> i think covid-19 is a concern across the country, as we continue to see new variants develop, we want to make sure that we are staying on top of the situation and putting measures in place to protect our work force. >> yeah, and i appreciate your
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statement fema taking necessary measures to prioritize work force health and safety within the covid-19 environment, and also, would you say that fema is committed to taking every step towards mitigating any disaster? you kind of say that as a firefighter, you understand the impact that mitigation has. are you committed to taking every step you can if you know about disaster that fema is working on? are you committed to taking every stop possible to mitigating them? >> i think that we have a responsibility and a tremendous opportunity right now to increase our approach to mitigation and reducing impacts from future disaster, and so it's one of my top priorities to make sure that we are being very proactive and deliberate in our efforts in that. >> that's good to know. for months we have seen an unparalleled immigration and humanitarian crisis on the southern border. each month, u.s. customs and
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border protections is encountering a record number of migrants crossing the border illegally. the impact has trickled to every corner of the united states. when you look at the vaccination rates in honduras, guatemala and el salvador. the infection rate in honduras is 3 times that of the u.s.. the vaccination rate in guatemala is less than 1%, but 2 1/2 times per capita compared to the united states. so administrator, talk to me about title 42. you're going to mitigate to the best of your ability. i assume you're in favor of continuing title 42 for our protection of our own country with regards to covid-19? >> representative, i can't speak specifically on title 42. what i can tell you is that we are taking the steps and the actions that we need to continue
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to roll out covid-19 vaccines, for anybody who is eligible for cdc guidelines, and we'll continue to support our federal agencies and coordinate as needed. >> i understand. you are the administrator responsible for being a voice for the emergency disaster relief and the things that hit our country, so wouldn't you be a voice to mitigate something, and to say if we can prevent further infection, you've just told me in this very short five minutes you're going to do everything you can to prevent the spread of future variants of covid-19. so doesn't that include title 42 expulsions? >> sir, again, i can't speak to the title 42 aspect of this. fema's role is to make sure that we are supporting the covid-19 vaccine mission as well as coordinating with our federal
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partners to help them establish or to continue their operations. >> okay. so fema basically has no role in being a voice for mitigating other outside infections and sources of infection to this country. >> fema's role is to support mitigation of natural disaster. >> the natural disasters we have is using something like title 42 that we don't continue to have increases in a pandemic that are impacting our country, impacting our own population. and so i would expect that with your professional experience, as a firefighter right now in your professional role, you would be a voice for that. midland, texas, is the heart of my district. in march, with almost no warning from dhs, zero warning from dhs
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or hhs, the administers established an emergency intake site to house children. thankfully it was closed in three months, this week. in a letter i received from dhs, it was determined by fema and referred to hhs office of refugee resettlement, it was basically top -- can you tell me what that selection criteria was from fema's? >> our role in supporting this operation was to provide a coordinating mechanism for hhs and cvp, and a second role was to help them in the establishment of these emergency intake sites. i can't speak specifically on to the selection criteria. our role was to support hhs and cvp as they were standing up those operations. >> gentleman's time from texas has expired.
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chair recognizes the gentleman from new jersey. >> thank you so much, mr. chairman, and thank you administrator, i want to actually start by thanks you and fema for the extraordinary progress you made in new jersey. i know you're representative to support our vaccination efforts. we had one site in newark, new jersey, a fema run site where more than 220,000 people were vaccinated. that's one reason why we are doing very very well as a state, when feeding back this terrible disease. to my questions, i want to turn to the climate risks. you mentioned self-times, including your testimony, and i appreciate in your testimony you note the context that fema will always be ready to respond when
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disaster occurs, but the true success rests in mitigating the worst impacts of disaster before they occur, and so this that -- in that spirit, i want to ask you, i want to talk about one word, and that word is resilience. we have a bipartisan infrastructure deal, the $40 billion of resiliency. don't get me wrong, i want to support it. i want to support what fema does on resiliency. i'm concern that sometimes some of my colleagues treat that resiliency money as if that is somehow green. and i would note one story that i'm sure you recently saw that the city of miami asked the army corps recently, what are we going to do about rising sea levels. how are we going to protect yourselves, and the army corps came back, and said, well, here's what you do, build a
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seat. it's going to cost $6 billion, nobody in miami happy to hear that news. i have seen estimates to protect every community in the united states just by building sea walls against climate change that is already happening, the army corps doesn't have that money. abounds to appropriate. so obviously the wealthier protecting themselves, communities that are less wealthy, probably won't do anything. i want to ask your thoughts on this. i presume obviously fema will do what's necessary to protect our communities. our communities agree that it would be better if we made these investments to prevent the catastrophic change rather than
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investing in the source. >> yes, sir, we are really at a pivotal time, right, we're seeing more impacts from disaster, more frequent disaster, and we have an opportunity to really make a generational level difference in the investments that we make to protect not only our children but our grandchildren from the impacts of these future threats. fema has a small role in that. we do have several mitigation grant funds available, but they don't come to the level of the types of projects that you're talking about. but what we do have is within the programs, the brick program, and the infrastructures and we have increased the amount of federal share so we can do community wide and system wide projects in the communities, and we also as part of the process encourage them to partner with other types of mitigation efforts that are ongoing to reduce the impact.
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i think it's through this type of a partnership across many different agencies, whether it's federal agencies, private sector and the communities themselves, that we really work together to better understand what they think their future risks are going to be, and we do some long-term visionary planning for how we can reduce the impacts from those risks. >> i think it would be helpful just going forward, the more you can help us estimate the long-term policies. because obviously your budget is not nearly what it needs to be. again, just dealing with the level of climate change we are currently experiencing, i mean, honestly, we did nothing to prevent the effects of climate change within ten or 20 years, like the entire federal budget will be resilience, and i just want to make the point that while i am for doing what's necessary, resiliency is not
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climate policy, resiliency is resignation, and this is why we've got to do some of the bold and ambitious, yes, costly things that president biden has proposed, but much cheaper than the alternative. thank you, and i yield back. >> thank you very much. the gentleman yields back. let me thank the administrator for her testimony and the members for their questions. madame administrator, you have been an excellent witness. an excellent example for fema and its role here in responding to disasters. let me assure you that our commitment stands ready and willing to continue to engage you in whatever endeavor you have. it's important that as americans we do what we do in the interest of protecting our country.
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but as important i want to get your commitment to reassess how you look at some of those underserved communities in disaster declarations. it is unfair and i think, you know, there has to be some smart people somewhere who can help us figure this out in a short period of time. the other thing i'd like to get, you're committed to doing something for puerto rico. there's a little island that has been just devastated to no end. we have been kind of taking that as a project. we want to try to help the people on that island.
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you might have seen correspondence down through the time, raising the issue about the adequate sale to respond as well as the ongoing challenges the island has. so we'll be talking to you a little more about that. the members of the committee already indicated they have an additional question for you. we ask that you respond expeditiously in writing to those questions. the chair reminds members of the committee the record will remain open for ten business days, without objection. the committee stands adjourned. here's what's coming up live oven tuesday on c-span3. dr. wolinski, dr. anthony fauci and other members of the
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president's covid-19 response team will testify before the senate health committee. live coverage starts at 10:00 a.m. on c-span3. and tuesday afternoon, deputy defense secretary kathleen hicks will testify on sexual assault in the military. c-span is your unfiltered view of government. we're funded by these television companies and more, including charter communications. >> broadband is a force for empowerment. that's why charter has invested billions in building infrastructure, upgrading technology, empowering opportunity, in communities big and small. charter is connecting us. >> charter communications supports c-span as a public service. along with these other television providers. giving you a front row seat to
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democracy. watch book tv now on sundays on c-span2 or find it online any time at booktv.org. it's television for serious readers. transportation secretary pete buttigieg spoke with a bipartisan policy center about infrastructure investments and clean energy initiatives. after that, representatives from the afl/cio, a utility company and investment fund were part of a discussion about the infrastructure deal recently agreed to by the white house and a bipartisan group of senators. >> well, good afternoon. welcome to this special event.

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