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tv   FEMA Administrator Testifies on Agency Readiness  CSPAN  July 20, 2021 8:54am-10:01am EDT

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on c-span2. >> who was confirmed just two months ago, administrator criswell brings to the job a wealth of experience from her role as city management, leader of one of fema's national incident management assistance teams and over two decades of service as a firefighter in the colorado national guard. i would also note that she is the first woman to be confirmed by the senate to lead fema and i applaud the biden administration for selecting highly qualified individuals who reflect the diversity of our great nation. administrative criswell steps into the role at a critical juncture as fema contends with ongoing responses to previous disasters, including western
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wildfires and 2017 hurricanes, while also continuing to manage the covid response, the current disaster season and other emergencies. for example, in mississippi we've suffered terrible loss of recent flooding, and i know many other communities have dealt with similar disasters this spring and summer. over the weekend, we also watched in horror as a tragic building collapse in the miami area. and just yesterday tropical storm danny formed in the atlantic and looks to be headed for the coast as we are near what is 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 longstanding challenges like addressing a disaster, a backlog, recruiting and retaining a qualified disaster work force, and
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addressing incidents of harassment and discrimination and during employee morale. the men and women of fema have been doing yeoman's work during this extraordinary time and we must do everything possible to support them in their efforts. administrator criswell will need to play catch up to address all of these issues. as fema's mission was hampered by the prior administration's failure to listen to leadership and politicalization of disaster response and denials of the science of covid and climate change. upped the biden administration things are changing for the better. on february 2nd president biden announced fema would provide federal funding for state and local governments for the covid response and vaccination efforts. additionally the biden administration has provided
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funeral assistance to families who lost loved ones to the pandemic, mobilizing vaccination efforts and deployed mobile vaccination units to help hard to reach and underserved communities. the biden administration has also invested in the resilient critical infrastructure by providing one billion to communities and fema's pre-disaster bills and infrastructure and communities program commonly called bric and it would help prepare communities for frequent and damaging storms resulting from climate change. fema's budget requests full funding for nonprofit security grant programs and targeted violence and terrorism prevention programs. these are for helping the institutions at higher risk of targeted violence like state and local governments, higher
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education, and nonprofits. that being said, congress must restore the proposed 15.3 million dollar reduction in both the urban security initiatives, and the state homeland security grant program. it could hinder our ability to successfully prepare for, respond to, recover from and mitigate against all hazards. to date, fema can face challenges as it seeks to carry out its mission to support citizens and first responders, as we prepare for, protect against, respond to or recover from and mitigate all hazards. i look forward to hearing from administrator criswell about fema's readiness to meet its mission in what congress can do to assist. and i thank the members for their participation. with that, i recognize the ranking member, the gentleman
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from new york, mr. katko, for an opening statement. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you f . >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for holding the hearing today. i want to welcome the witness. i appreciate your time we spent last week together. i found it helpful and informative. i know my thoughts and prayers to those involved in the tragedy and including fema. i would like to aggravated assault her on her confirmation and feel traditional dominated by men. first woman to be confirmed by a long overdue achievement. i can congratulate you on being a trailblazer and thank you for
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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 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
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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 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.
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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 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
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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 applicants. 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. 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
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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. 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 transparency in the process. additionally, i take issue with the process of fema's preliminary damage assessments. to improve this process, i
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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 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
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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 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, administrator for the emergency management agency, who is making her first appearance before the committee
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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 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
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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 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
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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 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
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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 feedback from the public and our
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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 aggressively and collectively to ensure access for all to disaster response and recovery
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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 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
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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 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
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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. 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
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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 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
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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 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.
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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 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
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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 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.
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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. 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
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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
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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 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.
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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 initial assessment report that was done in september of 2020 about covid, hasn't been update
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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. i hope that's what we see. >> one of the witness was from my county. he testified 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
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engage more local officials on the front lines of a future 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
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of seniority alternating between 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. 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.
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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 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
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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 prioritized for competitive grants. as we lost 150 people in the
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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,
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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
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nature of the grant, we have 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. some of the barriers to the access so we did make sure that individuals that are eligible for assistance get all of the assistance they're eligible for. n
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the rebuilding process and facing new uncertainty as another hurricane season has already begun in the government is largely responsible. let me explain. louisiana governor issued a formal request to the biden administration and january, supplemental disaster relief. my office pushed his request and every way through every channel. however, president biden speaker pelosi respectfully have been somewhat of an obstacle for swift approval for disaster in louisiana. the speaker's office has response ability recently in a
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media interview stating the democratic congress and biden administration are going through well unquote, consider the need for supplemental disaster funding for louisiana. we are beyond the time for consideration. this past ten months president biden, he was not there to serve damages to what happened possible dismissal. we have repeatedly indicated to louisiana's extreme needs to the biden white house and speaker pelosi yet no effort from democratic leadership has been made to move forward with the supplemental disaster still. mr. chairman, i ask unanimous consent to submit for the record several letters from stakeholders in louisiana and lake charles area. they need state universities, international airports, i ask
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unanimous consent. >> without objection, so ordered. >> thank you. these letters are regarding major concerns with fema following last year's natural disasters as well as several letters, congressional leadership out of my office the white house. i ask unanimous consent to submit those letters for the record. >> without objection, so ordered. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> missed read as well. you are familiar with madison. in 62, he wrote that it will be an avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice they cannot be read or so incoherent they cannot be
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understood. laws are reflective of these letters i submitted, the people i present our baking for help from fema to navigate through fema's own complexities to access existing firms through existing programs to recover relief, i ask for your commitment to work with the people in louisiana to help them navigate through complexities, can i have your commitment from you and your agency on that? >> absolutely you have my commitment. i recently visited louisiana and met with liberal leadership in southwest louisiana impacted by the storms. we've recently opened up a recovery center providing not just assistance to the current storm experienced recently but to help them navigate previous
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storms as well. >> yes, ma'am and i asked your commitment and assistance to accomplish two things. first, louisiana delegation has been pushing for supplemental disaster funding for some time now, many. i respect leak asked the upper five at request to president biden again, i asked assistance helping local government in my district, fully understand disaster mitigation grant process and other resources available to them. thank you for being here today, i have several questions i'll submit in writing and i look forward to working with you. thank you and i yield. >> thank you. the chair recognizes the gentleman from rhode island.
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>> thank you, mr. chairman and good morning, administrator. how to thank you for being here today and integrated equity. a first priority. before, during and after disasters, people with disability's and older adults have deep needs, many of which are in the general public. how do you view the incorporation of these vulnerable populations, a forefront not an afterthought particularly in terms of your commitment to equity. >> i really appreciate and thank you for your continued advocacy for people with disabilities and as i've stated, equity is one of my priorities that includes people with disability's and i have seen firsthand the disaster i have responded to, for
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starters this community faces when trying to respond to or recover themselves from disasters. fema has made a lot of strides in the area. 2009, fema establish integrate and ordination through that, they don't a lot of work to increase our own agencies understanding how to make sure programs are accessible and we meet the needs of the people that have specific needs and we continue to deflect disability integration specialist to all disasters, specifically to make sure we understand the needs of the community and addressing thump so you have my commitment to continue forward with that process and would be happy to work with you and your staff if there are areas you think we can improve and that effort. >> thank you, i'm glad you recognize considering the needs of older adults with disability, i will take you up on that offer
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and of the other issues. i would like for your attention on one of those from his 2019 ga zero report entitled, fema action needed for individuals who are older or have disabilities. with fema partners including state territories and nonprofit, the various challenges in these populations so are you aware fema has currently struggled to support older adults and people with disabilities during and after disasters through lack of finding planning. >> i think fema has done a lot in the development of that program in 2009 and bring on the disability integration and coordination. i will go back and look at that report more specifically so i
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understand some of the colleges identified in that report. i apologize for not familiar with it but i think we all have work we can do to improve our approach and how we deliver services to make sure we are planning appropriately for everybody. >> thank you for your commitment to that. i appreciate it and i know fema will do a much better job and i think you for that. i'm currently working to introduce the ready act disasters act this bill will support the development of the response and recovery. providing relevant trainings and state and local government.
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would also be the advisory committee on individuals disability's and disaster so membership accurately captures this directing the department of justice and the rights of people with disability during and after disasters. do you believe this would help ensure that older adults are supported in disaster management, do you think it would be helpful? >> i do have the specifics of the bill but i know our staff are working together on the development office and we are happy to continue to provide technical drafting assistance to help us get through the legislative process. >> thank you, i would welcome your up on that. wanted to get into, does fema have any considerations of disasters with it focus assistance?
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>> a fema coordinates closely with dhs and other members of emergency management community to increase preparedness and understanding of cyber related threats. we do also have available $4 million and 21 france to support increasing preparedness for cybersecurity 90 the 22 budget will add ten additional employees to fema for specifically address our own cybersecurity posture. >> great, my time has expired but thank you for the answers. they are hijacked in some state or region, this will help these functions such as communications and planning so i think it's important to look at. thank you and i yield back. >> the chair recognizes the
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gentleman from north carolina for five minutes. >> thank you. thank you for being with us. he may be aware north carolina has been hit repeatedly by hurricanes, matthew 2016 from dorian in 2019. >> timely existence recovery of strip efforts, we continue to seek long wait times and delivery for the assistance program. i represent one of my counties is robertson county in north carolina, one of the most economically challenged in north carolina. i go to most of the members and it remains unjustly despite commitments of many of you supporting that our schools and other fillings owned by the public school system there were
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destroyed and september. 2016 the first of these three storms, matthew, physical systems public assistance claim remains unresolved and it will be five years, spanning three administrations without a final decision without assistance provided in fema process in a country at least from my perspective to apply rules concerning this contrary to the ruling while this appeared this administration in just the last several weeks. the chair and ranking member refer to the disaster declaration process is the role americans but reference was made to the public assistant backlog in public has become numb to these stories by now but this is an egregious example of this problem. your testimony says integrate equity into everything we do but
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that seems to be an empty promise as we must divert resources to facilitate illegal migrants at the southwest border despite leaving unaddressed replacements of the destroyed elementary schools and challenge american counties for five years. we must most current assessment of unresolved public assistance for past disasters, how are they being addressed? >> thank you, representative. it is a timely conversation, there are several disasters currently open across the country dating back many years and the recovery process as we continue to see more frequent and severe disasters, it becomes even more complicated in bringing in multiple different recovery sources to cut that process, one of the things we are focused on is trying to make sure we help to increase the
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capacity of state and local jurisdictions so they can better manage their recovery process as well and we can work together to facilitate getting these projects through. i don't have a specific number in front of me to address your question specifically, we can certainly affect you but i understand it is a challenge and under my leadership, we're going to work on how we can improve and expedite that process and streamline it so it doesn't take as long. >> thank you. on the subject about your commitment for equity into everything we do, he made reference to fema's internal diversity and inclusion programming the lens of equity, this critical race theory in the training of the workforce? >> diversity equity and inclusion is an important part of our internal workforce and being able to have people in leadership positions they can
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relate to and understand, to see myself in this position allows women across the country to seek what's possible for them. we will continue to provide exact harassment training to support our leadership team and work on ways we can increase diversity scores applicants to get more diversity within our leadership. >> you know about critical race theory concepts about training parks. >> we are not using critical race theory concepts, we are establishing exact harassment type training that's been around for decades. >> thanks, ma'am. i yield back. >> the gentleman yields back. the gentle lady from michigan, you have five minutes. >> you're welcome here, congrats on your confirmation thanks for taking on this critical job. i'm from michigan and we have experienced really extreme
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flooding it's still raining there. by some measures, we got six months worth of rain a day. 6 inches of rain in less than five hours in places like detroit are literally under water, flooded highways, cars flooding down the highways. can you confirm for me if governor submits a proposal to fema to declare a national emergency that you all will move swiftly to confirm it? >> representative, i am familiar with the flooding currently, i'm going to michigan michigan is my home state where i grew up so i have a lot of attachment there and all my family lives there. as a culture the assessment process, i will commit to assessing fat in determining if it meets eligibility. >> that makes me feel much better that you are a
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michigander, you won't leave us hanging. the second thing is a lot of the residents hardest hit, a lot of them are seniors and not have access to the internet. i'm concerned the claims they are going to file, you are requiring people to require aesthetic with the internet. can you help us understand plan if we do have a declaration to get boots on the ground, people get boots on the ground, people who can help y us go door to do, time is of the essence, can you talk to us about that given that 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 peopleve where they're at and w have seenoe that in other disasr well. fema does have a process here, a team of our work force that is the disaster survivor assistance teams that, if the disaster is
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declared, they can go out and help with that in-person approach. you know, i think as we've discussed balready, access to e assistance that's available is one of the big barriers that we face, and we have to makee sure that we are leaning forward into that eliminate the barrier access, and help meet people where they're at to get them the assistance that they're eligible for. >> thank youhee for that. and then on just the bigger picture, you know, i think everyone who has already asked a question has got, has had to deal with some sort of disaster in their home state, their home community. we have all experienced them over the s,past, you know, five ten years. my question just as someone who used to work at the pentagon is really about how fema plans. i mean, we know that we're likelyor to see just separate fm politics an increase in the number of storms, an increase in severity ofri those storms. we're going to have more historic droughts like we're seeing in the west coast.
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so if we just take that as a national securityns and homelan security issue, tell me how fema is changing your plans forll budgets for staffing. what more can we be helping you with, since all of us need fema from time to time, andec that nd is going to go up and not down over the next decade. >> i think the first piece to that question is the m fact tha we are seeing more severe, more frequent storms that are impactingg communities across this country. and we have an opportunity right now to make generational level investments in trying to reduce that risk, reduce the impact that they'rein feeling from the disasters and that's one of the first steps that i thinkie we nd to do as far as the planning piece of this is making sure that we are workingti with our communities to s help them appl for the mitigation programs that we have to reduce their own impacts so there's not going to be a need to respond.e as we do respond and until we
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can get mitigation projects in place, we do want to make sure that we have the appropriate staffing as i've mentioned earlier on thisin year-round cye of response now instead of the more traditional peak in the ou summer, while it still peaks in the dsummer, our teams are deploying out around the clock now, year round, and so we are assessing what that looks like for us. so we can make a determination on what the right posture is for our work force and happy to be able tog come back to once we understand better what our need are in seeking your assistance and helping usat get to that lel of staffing and support. >> yeah, i think this committee would welcome a really sort of forward looking, bold, interesting concept that is appropriate for the disaster that are ahead of us. so thanks very much, mr. ir chairman, and i yield back. >> the chair recognizes the gentleman from new jersey, mr. van drew, for five minutes.
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>> thankan you, mr. chairman, a administrator. ms. criswell, thank you for being here, i'm grateful for te work that you do and the work that the agency does. new jersey, as i'm sure you know is in consistent, constant peril from natural disaster. superstorm sandy, for example, caused t nearly $30 billion in economicic damages to the state. obviously that number does not account for the impact of the storm. and the impact the storm had on families who lost loved ones and the countless othert tragic implications the storm imposed. thebl governor stated that at t time the damages were going to be almost incalculable and the devastation on the jersey shore is probably going to be the worst we've ever seen.
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unfortunately, he was correct. naturalse disaster have life alteringem consequences, which why memberss of this committee must ensure that fema has the tools and is as prepared as it can possibly be to respond. administratorve criswell, i understand that fema, and this is very important to me, is updating the national flood insurance program risk rating methodology. through its t latest system cald risk rating 2.0. while the program states that one of itsiv goals is to delive sound and accurateen rates, i a concerned that 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 of these are viable options. especially because the cost of living in new jersey as i think you allll know is just about th highesto in the nation.
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is there a strategy in place to assist residents who will not be ablele to afford flood insuranc as a result p of the updated ri rating methodology and 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 somebody, yet so very expensive. >> we're going to leave this program at this point for a live hearing. you can watch the rest on cdc director rochelle walensky and dr. anthony fauci and other members of the president's covid-19 response team are getting ready to testify before a senate health committee. you're watching live coverage here on c-span3.
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good morning. senate health education, labor and pensions committee will please come to order. today we are holding a hearing on our federal response to the covid-19 pandemic. ranking member burr and i will each have an opening skpimt statement and i will introduce our witnesses. senators will each have five


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