tv FEMA Administrator Criswell Testifes on Agency Response Following... CSPAN November 29, 2021 12:19pm-2:33pm EST
authorized to declare a recess of the committee at any time. i now recognize myself for an opening statement. the committee is holding this hearing to address the serious and growing crisis imposed by natural disaster and extreme weather events driven by climate change. between august 29th and september 1st, hurricane ida devastated the u.s. from the louisiana coast to new jersey, and my home state of new york. this deadly hurricane resulted in over 100 deaths, including 13 in new york city. in new york and new jersey, more than a thousand miles from where this storm first made landfall catastrophic flooding trapped people and flooded basement apartments and stranded vehicles. in louisiana, hurricane ida took down the electric grid, knocking out all eight transmission lines that deliver power to new york through orleans and downey, more than 30,000 utility poles,
nearly twice as many as hurricane katrina. more than 1 million people were left without power. some are still without power more than a month later. the unprecedented destruction unleashed by hurricane ida is part of a growing trend that the federal government cannot ignore. from record breaking fires in the west, to devastating hurricanes in the south, to rising sea levels threatening 40% of americans near our coastlines. the destructive impact of climate change is rapidly escalating and the cost of ignoring this problem is growing. during the first half of 2021, the united states experienced eight climate disasters with losses totaling more than $1 billion. initial estimates put losses from hurricane ida at between 53 and $64 billion. the government accountability office had climate change on its high risk since 2013, in part
because of concerns about the increasing cost of disaster response and recovery efforts. today we are honored to be joined by fema administrator deanna criswell. thank you so much for being here administrator criswell. i know you and your team are working around the clock to respond to the ongoing recovery efforts and other pressing issues. your testimony is crucial today because there are thousands of people in new york, new jersey, louisiana, maryland, and other impacted communities who are desperate for information about how to get help and when they will get help. that includes understanding what steps fema is taking to speed up the installation of temporary roofs on damaged homes in louisiana, and to work with vulnerable populations to make sure their applications are complete and approved quickly. i am also interested in hearing about fema's efforts to address inequities and disaster readiness and recovery. vulnerable populations like
people of color, people experiencing homelessness and undocumentsed immigrants are more likely to suffer the consequences of extreme weather events yet often face the biggest barriers to getting help. the biden administration is taking important steps to make it easier for disaster survivors to receive assistance, including waving the requirements that survivors have deed or other formal proof of home ownership to receive assistance. fema has also taken steps to assist vulnerable populations by developing fact sheets tailored to renters, and nonimmigrant speakers. these are important steps but more needs to be done. it is crucial that we invest in climate resilience, and disaster assistance to advance racial and economic justice so that we do not leave behind our most vulnerable communities. administrator criswell, i also would like to hear from you today about how we can improve
efforts to build climate resilient community, one critical step the administration could take is to improve federal data on the full extent of climate change on our communities by leveraging data across the public and private sectors. we can better understand the future risks, community action to keep people out of harm's way. congress also must act. today i reintroduced the federal agency, climate prep act. this bill will ensure that communities have a say in how federal agencies implemented their climate action plan, which is crucial in making sure our taxpayer dollars are put to work where they are most needed. last week, i was proud to support the $28 billion for victims of hurricane ida that congress approved but i was disappointed that 175 of my republican colleagues voted against in bill, including many
members whose constituents are in dire need of the emergency funding approved by democrats. i'm hopeful that as extreme weather becomes more frequent and deadly, we can agree on a bipartisan basis that impacted americans deserve our help. but recovery funds are not enough. still need to make long-term investments to stop global warming before it is too late. that's why i call on my colleagues to support president biden's build back better act. this transformation bill will make essential investments to solve the climate crisis while also upgrading our infrastructure so we can better prepare for future disasters. in the long run, the investments will save money by reducing the extraordinary costs from natural disaster and extreme weather caused by climate change. i now recognize by distinguished ranking member, mr. comer for an
opening statement! thank you, chairwoman, maloney, and i want to thank the witness, fee na administrator criswell for her willingness to come before the committee. i'm pleasantly surprised the biden administration has called someone to appear befores committee. while i appreciate fema administrator criswell's testimony and looking forward to hearing more about the efforts of impact by natural disaster. it's critical to mention who from the biden administration the democrats on the committee have refused to call to testify. chairwoman, maloney, when will democrats call department of homeland secretary mayorkas to discuss the crisis along our southern border or secretary austin to explain the debacle of afghanistan withdrawals or
growing inflation that stores like the dollar tree are raising prices on american consumer. in fact, chairwoman maloney, i have sent three laters to call a hearing to examine the biden border cross. since january 2021, thousands of illegal immigrants, including unaccompanied minors across the board. there's no end in sight, and no clear policy to address this issue from the biden administration. as i've outlined in my letters to chairwoman maloney, one of the most troubling issues is the number of unaccompanied children entering the border and currently in u.s. custody. to date, thousands of unaccompanied children are in u.s. custody. the biden border crisis became so dire in march of this year that the administration was forced to activate fema to support the response for unaccompanied children. over a period of 90 days, fema supported dhs, and hhs to get
unaccompanied children out of dhs custody and into hhs placements, that fema, the agency charged with the admission of assisting american citizens in recovery from disaster had to be activated further illustrates the extent of the biden administration disaster policy. administrator criswell, i hope you can address my concerns with regard to the activation of fema. americans face with natural disaster to respond to crisis created by this administration at the border with regard to unaccompanied children. chairwoman maloney, i would like administrator and members of the committee to hear directly from mr. higgins, with regard to issues he and his constituents have faced with fema's response to natural disaster recovery in louisiana. i understand there are still people waiting on critical assistance from fema, and we look forward to getting answers to that. i will yield the balance of my
time to the gentleman from louisiana, to give an opening statement. >> i thank the gentleman and ranking member, and i thank chairwoman maloney for holding today's hearing. thank you, mr. comer for giving me a few moments to speak. while this hearing is focused on hurricane ida, i would be remiss to not speak on ongoing hurricane recovery in southwest louisiana. just over a year ago, southwest louisiana was ravaged by brutal hurricanes, florida and delta back-to-back, only to be followed by severe weather from winter storms and major flood events. southwest louisiana is appreciative of the $1.6 billion that fema and other agencies have delivered to help with immediate response costs, but this is insufficient for what's needed for long-term recovery. hurricanes laura and delta alone have been estimated to cost 16
billion in damage to the region, meaning we've delivered thus far about 1/10 of what's estimated the costs of laura and delta. even with the passage of the continuing resolution, these funds over a year late and fall short of the necessary federal response, the entire louisiana delegation, including our governor has written 14 letters to an administration and congressional leaders to get the funding out the door and political realities have injured the lives of southwest louisiana citizens for over 400 days, and in closing, i would hope, madame, although we can recognize intellectually, we may struggle as a body to address what's been referred to as extreme weather. perhaps the chairwoman would agree to work with myself, my office, and republican members
of the committee to deal with the extreme bureaucracy that we face. we can certainly address that whereby response to natural disasters across the country that affect americans at one time or another in a very negative way, that we could work together to streamline the bureaucracy and red tape that we face as citizenry is attempting to recover. and madame chair, i yield, and mr. ranking member, mr. comer, thank you for yielding me time. >> gentleman yields back. for my good friend of the committee is not conducting oversight. we have today the administrator, deanne criswell, who did an incredible job and a job similar to this in the city of new york to answer all of your questions. she has been to new jersey and other sites to work with people
and respond with fema, and the truth is that this committee is actively engaged in waste, fraud and abuse. the committee has a joint investigation with the select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis in to the emergent biosolution, a firm that received huge vaccine contracts, but had to destroy millions of doses, due to deficiencies in manufacturing. our bipartisan investigation into the f 35 joint force fighter helps push lockheed martin to return $70 million to the department of defense's programs to compensation for defective spare parts. and the committee helped create the pandemic response accountability committee, and the committee of inspector general over at the scene with trillions of dollars in response
to the pandemic. saved roughly $17 for every dollar spent, and we have not shied away from constructive oversight of the biden administers. in the last two weeks, we conducted oversight of the treatment of haitian asylum seekers, held a classified briefing which was the request of the minority on afghanistan, and sent a bipartisan letter on the fbi's handling of ransomware attacks. our oversight record stands in strong contrast to republicans who turned a blind eye to four years of outrageous abuses byes former president. with that, i would like to get back to the critical importance of today's hearing. first i'd like to introduce our witnesses. today we are privileged to hear from the administrator of the federal emergency management agency, deanne criswell. the witness will be unmuted so
we can swear her in. please raise your right hand. do you swear or affirm that the testimony you're about to give is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god. >> i do. >> let the record show that the witness answered in the affirmative. thank you, and without objection your written testimony will be made part of the testimony. with that, administrator criswell, you are now recognized for your opening testimony. thank you for being here. thank you for using your public service in new york prior to coming to the federal government. thank you. >> good morning, and thank you, chair maloney. ranking member comer, and members of the committee. i thank you for the opportunity to testify about our response and recovery efforts following hurricane ida as well as the longer term investments we must make to increase our nation's resilience in the face of climate change. climate change affects every single american. it is the biggest crisis facing our nation, and it is making natural disaster more frequent,
more intense, and more destructive. mitigating the effects of the climate change is one of my top priorities for fema. and hurricane ida has demonstrated the challenges presented by our changing climate, the benefits of mitigation investments and the importance of equity in our response and recovery. fueled in part by warmer than normal waters in the gulf of mexico, hurricane ida's wind speeds intensified from 85 to 150 miles per hour in less than 24 hours. this category 4 storm became the fifth strongest hurricane to make landful in the continental united states. storms normally break apart quickly when they make landfall. ida remained a category 4 storm for four hours. and ida's impacts have affected states and communities from the gulf of mexico to the northeast. ida left a million people in louisiana and mississippi
without power at a time of sweltering heat. after transitioning and accelerating to a posttropical cyclone, ida caused widespread flooding in northeastern united states breaking multiple rainfall records and causing catastrophic floods in new york, new jersey, and pennsylvania. hurricane ida caused over 100 direct fatalities, and my heart goes out to all of the families who lost loved ones. for all its severe impacts, hurricane ida was also notable in other ways. first, the storm came ashore 16 years to the day after hurricane katrina made landfall and caused widespread flooding in new orleans. but this time the levees in new orleans held reflecting significant investments made in the aftermath of katrina, strengthened the levee system. second, fema was well prepared for ida. thanks to congressional action in the 16 years since katrina,
we have authorities that give us the flexibility and the ability to lean in quicker than we have in the past, to bring the full force of the federal family in position to we can respond quickly. we pre-positioned millions of liters of water, millions of meals, specialized response teams and numerous resources from our federal response team, to deploy on the immediate needs after the storm had passed. we see that disaster response is locally executed, state managed and federally supported and i'm proud of how well we supported our state and local partners in responding to the storm. this is particularly true given the special challenges involved in responding to a disaster amid the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. third, as this storm hit the united states, fema was ready to implement important policy changes to help under served
community, which are often disproportionately impacted by disaster to obtain individual assistance to the full extent that they are eligible for it. previously, homeowners may have run into difficulties proving that they own their homes. if their property was handed down informally through the years. to address this, we have expanded the forms of documentation that can prove ownership, including documents like receipts for major repairs or improvements, court documents, public officials letters, mobile home park letters, and applicant self-certification for mobile homes and travel trailers as a last resort. in addition, fema has also changed the way it calculates the threshold for property losses to qualify for direct housing, such as a trailer or mobile home. this ensures equitable damage, regardless of the size of the damaged homes. the recovery phase for hurricane ida continues as we speak, and
we will be dealing with the consequences of this hurricane for quite some time. but even as we do that work, we must make the kinds of generational level investments necessary to reduce the impact of climate fueled disaster that we will face in the months and years ahead. investments are incredibly worthwhile. an independent study by the national institute of building sciences in 2019 found that every dollar in federal hazard mitigation grants invested in mitigation saves the american taxpayer an estimates $6 in future spending. at fema, a corner stone of our mission efforts, the building infrastructure program or brick. i would like to thank congress for providing the legislative tools to create brick to the disaster recovery reform act of 2018. by establishing a reliable string of funding for larger
mitigation projects through a nationwide grant program, the brick program provides a critical opportunity for state, territorial, tribal and local government to invest in a more resilient nation, reduce disaster suffering, and lessen future disaster costs. earlier this year president biden visited fema to announce that he was increasing the funding available for the program to $1 billion for fiscal year 2021 application period. these are the kinds of investments that will protect lives and property in the face of the future storms we're going to face. another important element of fema's mitigation efforts is the hazard mitigation grant program. in august, president biden approved more tha $3.46 billion for the hmpg program for the covid-19 disaster declaration, as a result, every state, tribe
and territory, that received a major disaster declaration in response to the covid-19 pandemic will be eligible to receive substantial levels of funding to invest in mitigation projects that reduce risks from natural disaster. for eligible mitigation projects, hmpg funding can cover 75% of the total costs while states or communities cover the remaining share. we will be urging relevant agencies in your state to ensure that these funds are delivered to disadvantaged communities and would welcome your support in this effort. one more critical piece is the fema flood mitigation assistance program or fma, which helps provide financial and technical stance to states and communities to reduce the risk of flood damage to homes and businesses through buyouts, elevation and other opportunities. funding is the most common and costly natural disaster in the united states, and the direct
average annual lockers have quadrupled from 4 billion in the 1980s to 17 between 2010 and 2018. the bipartisan infrastructure investment jobs act approved by the senate in august would provide 3.5 billion over five years for the fma program. the biden administration has urged the house to approve the bipartisan infrastructure bill without delay and i would like to add my voice today in calling for its swift passage. mitigation is particularly important for under served communities that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. in administering our mitigation programs we will keep equity considerations top of mind, and will include them in competitive scoring processes for programs such as fma. equity is one of my top priorities at fema, and the intersection of climate change and equity is of particular
concern for our agency, as the impacts are worse for our vulnerable communities. in closing, i would like to thank all of the first responders across our nation, our amazing fema work force, and our inner agency partners for their tireless work in responding to hurricane ida. they continue to answer the call to respond to disaster fueled by climate change which truly is the crisis of our generation. the intensification of natural disaster will be our new normal. if this is a call to action, and i look forward to continuing to work with congress to make our nation more resilient. i would be pleased to answer any questions you have. >> thank you. thank you very much for your testimony today and i recognize myself for five minutes. administrator criswell, i know you visited new york city with president biden and myself after hurricane ida. and saw firsthand the devastating loss and suffering it brought to new yorkers.
as a former commissioner of the new york city emergency management office, this is the office that rebuilt new york after 9/11, an incredibly important deposition, you know how unusually intense ida's rainfall was for new york city. it overwhelmed drainage systems and caused a flash flood. the ground in their basement apartment, divers had to retreat including a 2-year-old. you can see on the screen a picture of what remained after one basement apartment was flooded and when we look at the addresses of the five homes where new yorkers died on fema's flood map, i was surprised to find that all of them are located in areas marked as having minimal flood hazards. so administrator, i understand
that fema flood maps are meant to be limited tools. but is it true that local emergency responders sometimes use fema maps to determine which residents should be evacuated and what areas to prioritize after a flood, yes or no? >> thank you so much for the question, and my heart goes out to those families who lost loved ones due to this event. as you stated our flood maps are designed to be tools that account for river flooding, and they do not take into account the storm sewer system. as you saw, we had a record rainfall in new york, broken by the previous record which was just a couple of weeks before that, and it's a sign that our infrastructure has an opportunity to be upgraded and mitigated against so we can prevent future flash flooding urban events, and these are the types of projects that are eligible under our hazard mitigation programs. we're going to continue to see
these severe rain events across the country. we need to take action to help mitigate the types of effects of these events. >> that is great, and i'm sure the localities will be applying for it, and we saw that the storm water and drainage systems were overloaded. will you commit to updating flood maps in new york city to better reflect local limitations such as storm water and drainage systems. >> chair maloney, the flood maps are community maps, and we will help updating maps with the information they have available so we can make them more accurate. >> great. in addition to updating manslaughter, does fema provide funds to communities to upgrade storm water and drainage systems so that they are more resilient to the flooding such as what we saw with ida, and extreme weather. >> some of the upgrades are certainly things that could be eligible under our hazard
mitigation programs. i would encourage communities to check with their hazard mitigation specialist to see if they are eligible under that program. >> we saw in hurricane ida, the crucial importance of investing in infrastructure before a hurricane hits. you noticed new orleans has a special system to reduce storm risk which includes raised levees and fortified flood walls. this helps protect new orleans. new york city also invested in protecting water front areas vulnerable to storm surges and sea level rise after hurricane sandy, but ida brought a different challenge with more than 3 inches of rain per hour, far more than new york's 100-year-old drainage system can handle, how can fema help new york and other cities assess the new climate risks that we're facing now. will fema give advice to cities across our country on how to become more resilient to extreme
weather. >> you raise a really great point, chairman, and again, the levee systems are designed for a certain type of event. as we continue to see more and more of these severe rain events that are going to happen across our country, we need to think about the future risks. we have technical assistance that we would be happy to work with the local communities to better understand the risks today, and the future risks they're going to face. >> and my time is running out, but administrator, do you agree that it's important that federal agencies, including fema plan ahead for the next disaster and that local communities have a voice in that plan which is like the prep bill that i'm introducing today. >> i think it's critical that we continue to plan for what the future disaster might be instead of always focusing our efforts on our historical events. as we have seen this year, continues to change, and we're going to continue to be faced with more severe events. >> thank you so much.
and i now recognize the gentleman from louisiana, which was very hard hit, mr. higgins is now recognized for five minutes, thank you, mr. higgins. >> thank you, chairwoman, and before i begin my statement and questions, i would like to introduce several documents for the record. in the interest of time, six of them are local articles, detailing fema's actions in my direction, and south louisiana. one is an official fema document discussing risk rating 2.0 changes. >> without objection, all are accepted. >> thank you, ma'am. thank you, good lady. administrator criswell, thank you for being here today, and for visiting louisiana in late august. let me clarify that virtually every public entity, including parish school board, cameron parish, jeff davis parish, the port of lake charles and the city of jennings have numerous
public assistance applications still outstanding from the 2020 hurricane season. this delay in funding has real world consequences that force the small and local government entities. to attempt to fund recovery gov attempt to find recovery efforts from very slim margins of revenue, and the leverage state bond funding and other revenue streams. the fact that over a year after these incidences these cities and towns are still waiting for public assistance that they qualify for, on some cases even to have fema inspectors come and appraise the damage a year later. it's shameful. administrative criswell, as a biden administration official to participate in oversight hearings and first in congress, i appreciate you being here. i look forward to our
discussions. fema's response to the 2020 and 2021 disasters is an issue within itself. but an overall federal response is always seemingly late while politicians and bureaucrats discuss the need for better mechanisms to respond to these disasters, the answer is definitely not to create more bureaucracy. the bureaucracy we have is slow and thick. as we discuss potential changes to federal programs to better respond to future natural disasters, meeting our citizens' needs should be our top concern. an increase to focus on timely responses between the federal government and state and local entities. that should be primary. and better and proactive action. congressman criswell, i wrote to
you on october 10 concerning public applications. this is an example of the bureaucracy that we're frustrated with from fema. the school board has two category a, 21 category b and 82 category e projects currently outstanding. this is from the storm a year ago, ma'am. while some of these applications have been approved, there's very few. most of the requests are still outstanding. jeff davis parish has $2 million worth of requests. they cannot afford to carry that for a year for programs that they qualify for. additionally, regarding fema's 50% rule, the port of lake charles has submitted multiple projects in order to receive funding and has yet to receive one validation.
can you explain why it's taken 300 days to receive reimbursement that they clearly qualify for? is it a funding issue, is it due to inspectors or is it due to bureaucracy,higgins, i certainly appreciate your advocacy for your constituents in lake charles. we discussed this previously in the committee on homeland security. following that, i did make a trip down to lake charles. i visited with mayor nick carter to better understand some of the struggles he has been experiencing and i brought my senior leadership team with me so they can follow up directly. some of the things we learned brand new during that visit and my team has been following up on it. i don't have the specifics on the school district that you mentioned, but it's taking too long is what it sounds like.
i commit to you that my team will continue to work with the representatives there to make sure we're moving this forward as fast as we can. i thought we had made some progress after that visit, but i will follow up and make sure it's continuing to move forward. >> thank you, administrator, for your candid answer. we will communicate directly with you and your office, ma'am, with further details and specifics. madam chair, thank you for holding this hearing today, and my time is expired, so i yield. >> the gentleman yields back. the gentlelady from the district of columbia, ms. norton, is now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, madam chair, for this hearing. as you indicated in your remarks, this hurricane was felt in the northeast as well. fortunately the district of columbia, my district, was spared. but administrator criswell, we see a rising number of natural
disasters. i think that's because of climate change. and, therefore, increased reliance on the federal government. your own national advisory council has indicated that the public assistance program most benefits communities that can afford to pay the required match and can navigate the complexities of the contracting agencies. so my question is, what actions is fema taking to assist existing action for recovery programs to ensure that recovery is more equitable for all communities, including those that cannot afford to pay the required matching funds? >> congresswoman norton, thank
you for that question. all of our programs always have opportunity for some improvement, and since i arrived here, i have worked with my team and directed them to take up people first and remember that we can't have programs that come in with a one size fits all way of applying our programs. we have to be able to understand the needs and the unique needs of individual communities and individuals themselves, and bring our programs to them instead of forcing them to always maneuver their way through the bureaucracy. we made several changes going into this hurricane season in order to approve the equitable delivery of our individual assistance program. this is just the beginning. we're going to continue to look at ways that we can reach our communities more equitably, understanding i've seen persons in our underserved communities who already have difficulty, are
more disproportionately impacted after a storm has passed. so you have my commitment to continue working with our programs to find ways that we don't always go with this one size fits all approach. we understand the unique needs of communities and individuals. >> thank you, administrator criswell. indeed, gao has noted that some communities simply don't have the technical staff, engineers, grant managers, the capacity, in other words, to submit a complex grant application. and y'all have recommended that fema include a central inventory of hazard litigation resources on the fema website. has fema developed an inventory of resources yet? >> what we have developed is our
mitigation action portfolio which provides examples of mitigation projects that have been done across the country that can help communities better understand the type of projects that could be eligible. i'm not sure if that's exactly answering the question on resources, and if it's not, i'll certainly look into it and see exactly what you're talking about. but i would also like to say that we also provide technical assistance. we understand that not all communities have the ability to hire somebody to come in and write a competitive grant application, which is why we're doing directed technical assistance to our new building resilient infrastructure and communities program. we offered this to ten communities during the first round, and we doubled that to 20 communities, and i've been working with our state partners to help identify those communities who need this type of assistance the most so we can reach those populations that would otherwise not try to apply for this type of assistance. >> administrator criswell, thank you for that.
the gao has provided a report and we note the complexity of the application process. the timeliness to grant awards and the technical capacity require to incessantly apply and is a problem. what specific opportunities has fema identified to simplify or shorten the application process? >> again, there is a couple of ways that we can help communities with this. one is through technical assistance, right, that's one of the key ways that we can help communities better understand how to navigate some of the complexities. but with other programs like our assistance to firefighter grants program, we have shorter applications for certain amounts that can help get those through quickly. but there's always opportunities for us to improve, and i have asked my grants section here to take a look, an overarching look
at all of our grant programs to get a better understanding of where we are missing some communities and then understand what the barriers are for them trying to reach out and ask for assistance so we can address that root cause to the problem. >> the lady's time is expired. >> i welcome the opportunity for technical assistance. of course i yield back. >> thank you. the gentleman from south carolina, mr. norman, is recognized for five minutes. mr. norman? >> thank you, chairwoman maloney, and congresswoman criswell, thank you for coming. i'd like to address your question to congresswoman higgins, but before i do that, you talk about a crisis. we've got a crisis on the border. in seven months we've had over 170,000 illegals cross the border. it's a medical crisis and it's a military crisis. we've got an inflation crisis. ask any american who is paying
40% and 50% more for gas from far countries that don't like us. if that's not a crisis, along with food and everything else, inflation has hit. we have a military crisis in afghanistan. we have 13 dead marines, we have americans left behind. we have crises and this administration simply hasn't addressed them. chairwoman maloney, as has been mentioned, we sent three letters having testified before us different people. why is mayorkas not appearing to answer questions? why is general milley or janet yellen not here to answer questions? this has put our country in a crisis mode from the day it took office. but that being said, ms. criswell, in response to congressman higgins, in all due
respect, ma'am, it's all just words. if you're in the private sector, you cannot give the kind of answer that you gave. this is two months, three months shy of 2022. he asked you questions about 2020 that has not been addressed, and you said you would address specifics, but why the delay? >> congressman norman, recovery takes a long time. if you look at hurricane ida, it takes a long time. we are trying to assist in our recovery efforts and there are things we can do to speed that up. >> ma'am, with all due respect, when you received the request dating back almost two years ago, was louisiana responding to the specific questions?
did your agency respond to each one of them? >> i don't have the specific letter received two years ago prior to my administration, but i know that we have addressed the requests that i've gotten since my time here in office. >> and you've been there how long? >> i started at the end of '20. >> and you would see that the money hadn't been released. if this had been a private sector, you would have had hi problem. my other question is president biden rescinded declaring a national emergency at the southern border. if the crisis at the southern border is not an emergency as biden proclaimed, why was your emergency federal management agency deployed to the southern border. >> fema is good about coordinating across federal agencies. it's one of the skill sets we bring to the table, and it's one of the things we do best. in this case we were asked to
come in and help coordinate and support our partners at hhs and cdp. we had a very limited role. we no longer have a presence in supporting that mission, and it's just done now through our normal inner agency avenues. >> how much money has been expended for the limited role that you say fema had? >> i don't have the exact dollar amount, but all of the funding that fema would have incurred has been reimbursed by those agencies. >> could you get the numbers for us? and could you report on while you were there the dollars that were spent? are you still there? >> we have nobody that is supporting that mission directly. it's all being supported through our normal interagency venues. >> is there any other outstanding issues with other states that your agency either needs to respond to or hasn't responded to? >> i'm not sure.
i would have to know specifically what types of events you would be talking about. from my knowledge we are still answering recoveries to disasters across this country, so we would continue to support those disasters on recovery efforts. >> and you led off with the fact that climate change is, you know, an overriding issue, and i guess money is no object for combatting climate change. are you aware of a study of mit that says if every nation complied with the paris accord, they would only reduce carbon emissions by .2%? >> sir, i'm not aware of that study. >> that's another thing. could you take a look at it and give us your thoughts on it and give us some idea of what -- if that's true or not? that is a pretty big statement for them to make and they're not some fly-by-night agency.
>> the gentleman's time is expired. >> thank you, ma'am. >> thank you. the gentleman from virginia, mr. conley, is now recognized for five minutes. mr. conley? >> thank you, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you so much for having this hearing. administrator criswell, welcome. my friends just talked about crises when the biden administration began, and he's absolutely right. the biden administration inherited endless crises from the trump administration. i mean, everything from an insurrection at the capitol to a pandemic that was made so much worse by the response or lack of response by the trump administration and by the president himself, mr. trump. by the way, if we want another crisis, fema. we just voted for continuing a resolution of $28 million in natural disaster relief, and 175 of my republican colleagues voted against it.
so, director -- administrator criswell, your budget is out as some of my colleagues would have. would that create a crisis for you and could this create a crisis for america in response to disasters? >> congressman, i do appreciate the passing of the continuing resolution so we can continue to support the american people. any disruption in funding to our mission would certainly have an impact on our ability to protect the lives of individuals that are faced by disasters. >> let's be a little more specific. thank you for that diplomatic answer, but you're the administrator of an agency that does nothing but relief and recovery, and you're the lead federal agency responding to natural disasters. i don't know, has the frequency of hurricanes reaching land in
the continental united states increased over the last decade? >> congressman, what we're seeing is the number of hurricanes, the number of wildfires, the number of severe weather events continues to increase. they become more severe, more intense. they're intensifying more rapidly. and that's only going to continue to get worse. >> i was looking at some interesting data. in 2017, three hurricanes, magnitude 3 and 4, came to the united states which i believe that's the first time that happened. the cumulative damage that affected texas and florida cost $200 million. that's the largest disaster in american history. the question is, given climate change, when you do your
planning, what do your experts tell you, administrator criswell? should we expect more or was this just a fluke and we're out of the woods? >> congressman, i think what we're seeing from the impacts of climate change is that we can expect to see more events like you just mentioned, which is why it's so important right now that we start to think about what these future risks are going to be and we invest in mitigation projects so we can reduce the impact of financial cost of these disasters. >> and are you also working with state administrator criswell to do more resiliency planning? flooding is more frequent. title surges are bigger and more damaging. we're seeing it in urban areas like new york where the subway system now plugs any time there is any major storm because of the tidal surges and rise in ocean level are now affecting manhattan and shutting down
subways. are those events your planning with local government and state government in terms of resilience, and if so, can you tell us a little bit about it quickly? >> states in local jurisdictions are required to have hazard mitigation plans which address some of the concerns you talked about. fema does provide assistance through our technical assistance program and we also fund the development of those plans to our hazard mitigation grant programs. what we need to do is work with them closely to think about, again, what are these futuristic that you're going to face so the next generation of their hazard mitigation planning and thinking toward the future, and one of the crises -- what are the crises our children and grandchildren are going to face so we can better protect against them. >> thank you. my time is up. i yield back. >> the gentleman from pennsylvania, mr. keller, is now recognized for five minutes. mr. keller? >> thank you, madam chair. natural disasters and flooding
poses enormous risk to our own businesses, crops and infrastructure. they also jeopardize the safety and well-being of americans nationwide. i think we can all agree that flood protection and prevention are essential tools to mitigate damages caused by severe weather such as hurricanes, tropical storms and heavy rainfall that have the potential to decimate communities like the one all across pennsylvania, all across our nation, but particularly in the area i have the privilege to represent, pennsylvania. the events that took place underscore our ability to remain resilient in these storms. in pennsylvania, the williams port levy is an affected project of its time. it prevents flooding of the
river. in 1955, it is in desperate need of repairs. the 2020 water resources development act names the levy as a priority, and like so many counties, the 2018 comprehension plan updates the single greatest threat to maintaining and remaining economically resilient. administrator criswell, thank you for being here today. i understand you have experience with emergency management in the northeast having served the state of new york previously. in many cases in new york, there is plenty of river towns like that here in pennsylvania. what do you believe are some of the most pressing disaster-related port communities like the one i represent in williamsport? >> congressman, i think the example you gave is a really
great example of really understanding what our current risk is and looking at the age of our infrastructure. we have to understand whether or not the infrastructure that was built decades ago is still adequate to support the extreme weather events that we're starting to see and will continue to see moving forward. i think it's critically important for all of us, and we have a shared responsibility to look at what we can do to upgrade current infrastructure or also improve the mitigation projects that we have so they can reduce the risk, reduce the impacts from this increase in the weather events that we're seeing. >> i guess i agree with that. are there ways we can streamline items in the project delivery process for investments in priority that's in progress, like the one in williamsport? >> i don't know the specifics about that project, but i think there are always ways we can work together to try to streamline the delivery of
projects. if there is something specific, i would be happy to have my team get back with you and see what we can do. >> i appreciate that, because looking back to 1955, we want to be able to lower the risk in severe damage from a process standpoint. that's really what we want to look to do. we certainly need flood protection here in central pennsylvania and around our nation because it does protect homes, families, businesses, and it's so important from that standpoint. if there are things we can look. i'd like to work with you, and it would benefit the people in my area but anything we can do to help that along, we'd like to help work on that. >> absolutely, congressman.
i'll have my team get back with you and see if there's anything we can do. >> thank you, because you mentioned these mitigation projects were completed before i was born, actually, 1955. but i've been in the area a long time, and it's so important that we protect. that's really our job as people who work for the individuals that pay our salaries pr -- to the people of the united states of america, and we need to make sure their money has vested interest. i look forward to working with you and your team on these important issues. thank you and i yield back. >> the gentleman yields back. the gentleman from maryland, mr.
enfuma? mr. enfuma? you're muted. mr. enfuma? okay. the gentlelady from new york, miss ocasio-cortez, is now recognized for five minute. >> thank you, chairwoman, and thank you so much to administrator criswell not only for joining us today but coming to visit so many of our communities in new york as well as across the country who were so deeply devastated by hurricane ida. and also in addition to that, the flexibility in implementation of our covid fund program which has helped families all across the country help recover from the devastation of the pandemic in addition to some other natural disasters we've been seeing
across the country. chairwoman, i would like consent to submit to the record a full testimony of one of my constituents regarding her experience post hurricane ida. >> without objection. >> thank you. she wrote to my office, quote, i looked out my window and saw cars inappropriately dressed. a woman wading knee deep in the street, people yelling for help. these are i am -- enraged people. the lists we're seeing from climate change are the crisis of our generation. i think you're right, when we look at the numbers after doing some digging, according to the agency's data, in 2005 there were 48 major disaster declarations.
that was in 2005, 48 major disaster declarations. in 2020, there were 104 major disaster declarations, more than double that number. now, the climate research commission by the city of new york projected that in 2015 the number of days with rainfall of at least four inches would increase by as much as 67% by the end of the decade. that's comparing the periods from 1971 to 2000. is fema preparing ahead for the projections from climate crisis? >> thank you again for hosting me in new york city and being able to see some of the impacts that we saw or that people experienced from hurricane ida. it's completely devastating to many of those individuals. and i think, you know, the data that you just mentioned without highlights is the thing that i'm
stressing here, is that we have to stop focusing all of our efforts on historical risk, the historical risks that we faced in the past, and look to our futuristic and better understand what that futuristic might be. that's hard to do because it's not tangible. you can put your finger on what happened in the past and build to that, but we have to be able to be comfortable with understanding the potential for the futuristic and the investments that it's going to take in order to protect against that futuristic. so i am committed with my team to working with locals as they are upgrading their mitigation plans, as they're looking at what their future risks will be to help them better understand what that future threat from climate change is going to be. >> thank you so much, administrator. one of the things i've been thinking about is as climate change becomes worse, the way we can prevent not just the
response but the prevention will really have to involve what we have, and that includes our approach within fema. so my question for you is if you could list some measures that would aid or assist in shifting fema's role in responding to more frequent natural disasters, what would some of those measures be? is it more funding for staff? is it kind of increasing into or growing disaster prevention? streamline response measures due to disaster relief time. from your bird's-eye view, what are some of the things we need to know on the congressional side, whether it's the potential for expanding authorizations, et cetera, that you see is going to be necessary in the coming years and decades? >> it's a great question, and i think there is two things that i would talk about right now. one, we used to see a very cyclical disaster response cycle where we would reset in the wintertime and get ready for the next disaster season.
we don't see that any longer. our team has been working hard, and now they're working year round to support the different types of weather events that we're seeing, and that's just going to continue. so we are taking a hard look at how do we now create a year-round disaster work force that can keep up with the demand of the disasters we're seeing. i think the only way in the long term we're going to be able to continue to keep up with this is reducing the impact so we don't have to respond as much. and the way we do that is through mitigation. so we need to continue to educate communities about the importance of reducing the impacts, putting in communitywide mitigation projects in order to protect their citizens. >> thank you very much. >> the gentlelady yields back. the gentlewoman from new mexico, ms. harrell, is recognized for five minutes. ms. harrell? >> thank you, madam chair, and i really appreciate this hearing. i want to piggyback on something congressman norman said regarding the border.
just because it is such an important part of this entire process. but we know that there is a crisis at the border, and we also, it's worth noting, that 458,000 people came into our country illegally in the year 2020, but yet over 1.5 million have come in this year so far, so i don't think the current administration inherited a crisis at the border, i think he created a crisis. is there something in the administration that caused an uptick in the illegal crossings at the southern border? >> congresswoman, fema's role is to support the response to disasters, and we do not get involved in policy regarding immigration. i would have to defer you to the secretary. >> okay. thank you.
can you give a couple examples of how fema was able to give support in moving children out of border protection custody? >> yes, ma'am. one of the things fema does so well is helping to coordinate interagency efforts in large complicated structures, and we were able to put a process in place that helped them be successful in managing that mission. it's how we managed any of the events that we responded to sfart -- as far as helping with the process, helping with the flow. through that we were able to reduce the amount of time that migrant children were in custody and the amount of time they were spent with hhs. >> great. thank you. and then just going back to some of the services. this is just more for clarity, and i know people don't think of flooding in new mexico, but actually we have a large amount of rainfall in some of our areas
throughout the district. and this is just for clarifying. some communities and counties believe that they cannot ask or apply for fema grants unless the state declares that specific area an emergency. is that correct, or are there programs where counties and communities can go directly to fema? >> congresswoman, i would have to understand more of the specifics. they can't apply for public assistance grants unless there is a state-declared disaster, but our hazard mitigation grant program, like the bricks program and the flood administration district program does not require a state disaster declaration. then there's also our preparedness grant program. so i'd have to know specifically what types of grants they're talking about. i would be happy to have my team follow up with you. >> i really appreciate that. we have very small ability to do
some of these repairs, but it's affecting everybody in those communities but it's not big enough to be called a state disaster. i would welcome you to come to new mexico to look at some of our rural communities that have been -- you still think of flooding in r, and the invitation is open, so thank you very much. i'd like to push some of this information off to the district that i represent. >> absolutely, ma'am. thank you for the offer. i yield back. >> the gentlelady did yield back, although i want to address some of your comments. we don't want to be distracted by today's topic or today's hearing. i want to note that my migration across the border did not start with president biden.
. trial -- there is a very important hearing on fema and its response to ida, so i would now call on the gentlelady from michigan. ms. talev, you are now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, ms. chair. and thank you for having this hearing. i know when i'm talking to my residents, they're talking about thungz in our immediate area. the amount of bold money we need
to really address the fact that we have a monday on not. as you noted in your testimony. i think just four times in the last two months, and your team on the ground have been meeting with compassionate -- i can't express to you what that remains will here. they did not have anything to really address again. they had no safety net to address the flooding in our homes and of course damage to their homes. but you don't seem to address flood damage? >> ma'am? >> it is critical of where
repairs are needed, who gets drafted during flood issues? flood maps may give false impressions to some communities that they have low to no flood risk. there was a fema administrator on the ground after dealing with that. there is something that uses pugh can you tell. ly you know, this theory, just nug. ly heavy rainfall and sea rise is low.
>> koj wochlt. you represent my home state of where i grew up in michigan. it hads a veld. it's ane credible tool that we have had. they don't necessarily address some of the rain events that we see, but we work with the communities to help them update their community flood maps as they need to. we would be happy to work with communities to help incorporate additional data that they may have to better portray the risk that they may be experiencing. >> and i appreciate that, but i think we need to go farther in providing the capacity. many don't have a way to negotiate that.
in a country where we need to start thinking about how do we do some of the preventive measures in place to make sure people have that safety net, that they are covered in regards to flood insurance, in regards to the infrastructure implementation. my local communities were not prepared for this flooding, and i don't know how to go to the accident now and say, hey, i need you all to figure that out. i'm a social worker at heart and i'm a person that understands that some of our larger cities may have more need, but my small town that was affected largely by flooding, and i think fema needs to step up and look at the foundation reports coming out and say, let's put that data point in there in regard to sea level. i think we have a really
important, responsible role rather than saying let the locals do it. administrator, please, i'm asking you, let's change that culture. >> what you speak of really amplifies what i've been seeing. this is the crux of our generation. we all need to share responsibilities to make sure we're understanding of the risks that we'll face in the future. yes, we have a lot of work to do, and fema has a lot of work as well to support our communities and helping them understand what those risks are. >> the gentlelady yields back. the gentlelady, ms. wasserman-schultz, is recognized
for five minutes. >> i would really be remiss if i did not start off by thanking you so much. you and your incredible team, tom mccool who would not have represented any better or done more hands-on work than anyone could during the disaster in my congressional district. as you know, we're still dealing with that crisis. families have been torn apart in our crisis, and i appreciate -- with the president's quick reaction, your team's help there will be things we continue to need to sort through, and i juchlts thank you so much on behalf of my community.
shifting to hurricane ida dhmd and that was a cat 2k3w40er urk -- category 3. over the course of 26 hours, ida strengthened from a category 1 to a cat 4 storm, winds increased to 150 miles an hour. some people in louisiana unable to evacuate. that is the story that my constituents in south florida are all too familiar with. as the storms move from the southeast, through the atlantic for the northeast. i want to show on the screen a picture of the flooding in louisiana and the flooding in new jersey. so my first question is can you
underscore why hurricane ida caught so many people off guard? >> congresswoman, i'll start with the fact that it intensified so rapidly. as you stated, it went from just a tropical wave into a category 4 hurricane in a very short amount of time. this is what we're starting to see more plans in place. . >> yeah. feels like that window of opportunity is shrinking so quickly. in new york, although the area was bracing for the storm. feem has an p toll send out warnings and other things
related to own residents of the dangerous flash floomd this is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation. do you believe that and other systems worked as intended for ida. are there tests trmz. >> thfls the first tichl. >> our ipod system is an excellent tool to tell students that we've reached it. it's hard to understand what the significance might be. we all have a lot of work to do to continue to educate our communities when we're doing our public preparedness campaigns. the importance of when you do get an alert like this that you
need to take it seriously. at the same time we also have work to do about communicating, so they know when something happens, what was the risk to you where you live and what type of alert should you be looking out for? >> okay, just this one strategy. ly. i wlz use the weather center. we could translate those into public warjz. ly zchlds we also work with them
and we can better plan what those impacts will be so they can put better plans in place. we will continue to work closely with them to try to develop these kinds of projects so we can get additional information into the hands of these communities. >> thank you so much. madam chair, thank you for having this appropriate hearing. >> the gentleman, mr. johnson, is now recognized for five minutes. mr. johnson? >> thank you, madam if you will documented that many. people of color are inflicted to
the marld -- people of color are more likely to die from, and typically blacks suffered the loss of the devastation. hurricane ida is just one more example in a long history of poor, marginalized communities getting disproportionately if. in the wake of a financial disaster, the federal government should prioritize rather than take their time. when a property owner dies without a wheel, their hamd and land is passed down over general
rules. because of the race policy in the past, black americans ymt how is fema meelgt the neempld. they were designed to exclude them and weather changes have been made to ensure those regimes and disaster systems from fema. >> congressman, you raised such an important question and it's something that when i came into office, i started to hear about, and i knew that we could do better. so i challenged my team here to see how we could better provide assistance to survivors, and we made some significant changes going into hurricane season to
better help with the issues that you raise about air rights. so what we have done is we have changed and expanded quite significantly the types of documentation that we will accept from individuals to prove home ownership or even to prove occupancy. that can range from paying your tax bill to utility bill, a statement from your landlord in a mobile home community, a wide variety of types of documents that can be accepted now. the other big change that we have done as well, and part of my effort to try to bring services to survivors, to bring our help to where the people are instead of making them come to us? in the past, if someone didn't pass that verification on the system or on the phone, whether he immediately send taking many types of documentation even with
this expanded amount, we will still send a building inspector to them personally, and if they can see the type of documentation upon arrival, they'll just check that off in the system. what we're seeing in hurricane ida has increased dramatically the amount of people who have had not had to go through the laborious process of trying to appeal their determination that they did not own the property or they were not an occupant on the property. this is just the beginning. we're going to continue to make changes for how we can equitably deliver their program, meet people where they're at, and understand we can't have a process that's a one size fits all approach. >> thank you, miss criswell. georgia has the sixth highest population of renters and ranks among the top ten for states most at risk for a natural disaster. renters applying for assistance through fema have to go through
a very long process before we can get. what's the wait period for rent? >> there would be a wait period to ensure that they are residents. if there's anything else you're specific of slowing down the process, i would rather have my with her to -- thank you for speeding up the process. i yield back. >> the gentleman from texas is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, chair, and thank you, administrator criswell, for being here today. i come from a district that was
dramatically affected by hurricane harvey. so we've spent the last four years working to help our communities recover from that. ip today is about ida, but i think. ly i wanted to nooufrltd. one of the major issues congress tended to address in the to rebuild back to -- at the time it was the pre-condition of what it was and we founld ourds r ourselves in the loop. we were in a stranger that would positively teally like to le.
>> there was supposed to be a rule that was resiliency met that was to be defined by april 5 of 2020 and final gad answer for days after that stay. that has not been issued. could you let me know in writing in the last 14 days or so we can expect to have that fu full amo. i know some are leaving that alone based on resiliency. >> congressman, i'll have to get with my team, but yes, i commit to getting you a timeline with stalt utsz -- stat usz on that. >> one thing that's probably been an issue for decades, it
seven different teams, for example, show up. do you foresee any sort of solution, or what's the full up, or at least to employ the employees that he have for a longer tirm. >> congressman, i appreciate your insights, you know, incorporation site. a couple of these projects take a long time to get to the recovery process. but i understand your concern. as a public health manager, how frustrating is it when you have to sged escape team, i'm trying to f's out.
>> well, thank you, and do you know if there's been any sort of report on how -- it would seem to me that we're taking a much longer time processing these claims and that kind of recovery due to the staffing issues and how we're deploying them? i am wanting to see how and i hope it would be much more efficient with taxpayer dollars admin administrating the
program. >> thank you. >> the gentleman from maryland is now recognized for five minutes. >> so administrator criswell, thank you for your intense focus on this emergency we're in. it's certainly a code red for humanity and president biden said in terms of determining the natural disasters, the world is in peril. we are seeing an increase in the natural disasters but also an increase in velocity of the disasters that are coming. noa started tracking natural disasters in 1980.
since then they have visited more than $1.975 trillion in damages on the country. and here's the amazing thing to me. between 1990 and 1999, the average number of billion-dollar extreme weather events is five per year. but in the last five years, between 2016 and 2020, as you can see on this chart, that number has jumped to 15 per year. so the number of extreme weather events has tripled in the last two decades. you made risk production one of your top priorities. what is fema doing now to measure our progress in efforts to reduce the risk of climate change? r. >> that is such an important graph that you showed and it demonstrates how we are now in the climate of our generation. it will continue to get worse
and we'll continue to see that number of billion-dollar disasters only increase as we go further. we are investing in mitigating and reducing the impacts. the president has authorized close to $5 billion help communities reduce the impacts that they're seeing from climate change. and we have to continue on that path forward. takes a long time for the mitigation projects to get completed. so we continue to work with their communities to better understand their risks and ensure that we're getting this money in the hands of those people that need it the most. >> would you help me understand mitigation? what are we talking about exactly? are we talking about the things that my friend congressman higgins is talking about, which is the aid that comes after disaster has hit? or are we talking about readiness about getting ready in advance, knowing that there will be another hurricane coming to hit lake charles soon? hxingts it is a combination of both. our building resilience
infrastructures grant program is predisaster mitigation funding. but our hazard mitigation grant program funding is available after a disaster. but it can be used for any type of risk that they're facing. it doesn't have to be directly related to the incident they just experienced. >> i want to ask you a rather odd question, administrator criswell. i want to ask you about polarization and division in american society. i know that's not directly under your jurisdiction. but in some sense, i think that fema can be the place where we bring america back together. do you agree with me that the risk in extreme weather events, both the new frequency of the events and extreme velocity of these events should be bringing people together across geographical lines, sectional lines, political party, and ideology lines? and related to that, extreme
weather is obviously the problem being caused by climate change, but my friend mr. higgins says there is a problem with extreme bureaucracy that americans have complained about since the beginning of the republic. and we want to make sure that government is working for the people. but we also want to make sure there isn't extreme denialism around climate change. to bring the country together? is there a way that this can be the source of unity for us? >> congressman, i think that we all have a shared responsibility to help ensure that we are protecting our nation from the risks from future events so our children, our grandchildren and future generations will not have to go through what we're going through now. disasters don't discriminate where they're going to land, they're not red or blue, and we have a shared responsibility to work together to make sure that
we have the environment that we need to support our future generations. >> right. well, i appreciate that very much. i thank you for your hard work, and there was an attempt to say that the disasters that have been inherited by the biden administration or caused by the biden administration, i was glad my friend mr. connolly from virginia corrected that. i will resist the opportunity to say that the entire last presidency was a disaster, and hope that the situation will bring all of us together as a country. i yield back. >> the gentleman's time has expired. the gentleman from wisconsin, mr. grossman, is recognized for five minutes. mr. grossman, you're recognized. >> can you hear me? >> okay, good. >> a couple general questions. you know, one of the criticisms always is the degree to which
are we rebuilding or, you know, rebuilding the same areas again and again and again. do we have a problem here in that there is some building going on in areas that you could anticipate we're going to have a problem again the next ten years? >> yeah, congressman, we need to take a concerted effort at making sure we know where the risks are and people understand if they choose to build in iaplace, they understand what the risks are going to be and what the potential impacts might be. we need to help provide that information and educate our population on what those risks are. >> well, i think the thing i'm looking for is, is it reflected in premiums? are we doing something to make sure that people in particularly precarious areas that we are not
rebuilding. are you doing anything along those lines? >> our new risk rating 2.0, certainly the risk where people build is reflected in their insurance premium in a way that it hasn't been before. so those that are in greater risk areas will have a higher premium. >> in my district, there were people who did have very high premiums and just subjectively looking at it there was no way anything was going to happen in a hundred years. but for whatever reason, for lack of common sense, or whatever, they were considered to be in the flood plain. are you doing anything in which people are peeling off from that or not? >> i don't know that i completely understand your question. >> okay. as i understand it, they require flood insurance if you're in a flood plain, correct? >> correct. >> and there are areas of
designated flood plains, you can talk to somebody, they go back to their grandmother who never remembers any floods in that area or close to floods. nevertheless somebody when they drew the line said this is a flood plain. so they're stuck paying for this insurance on something that everybody in the area believes will never happen in a million years. have you guys over time taken into that account and tried to remove people from flood plains who perhaps were erroneously put in over a period of time? >> congressman, again, i think that goes to the new release of our risk rating 2.0 where it takes an individual homeowner's particular risk into effect. so if somebody does not have a risk that they were paying for before, then their risk would go down. >> i understand. the question is have you peeled anybody out of flood plain in what in the past was considered a flood plain? >> i'd have to get back to you
on specifics. but as our flood maps are updated, those types are data are incorporated into the risk premiums. >> i think representative higgins has a very interesting question. representative higgins? i yield my time. >> i thank the gentleman for yielding. ma'am, regarding risk rating 2.0, respectfully, members of the louisiana delegation have written several letters to your agency, and this may predate your service, and i respect that, but i would like some answers on this. the quote from a fema document stated that 97% of current policy holders' premiums will either decrease or increase by about $20 a month under risk rating 2.0. we know this is not true. we're seeing example after example after example of extreme variances in policy expense.
sometimes going from maybe 500 a year, three, four, five, 7,000 a year. there are incredible disparities between reality of the implementation of risk rating 2.0 and what was expected and projected and communicated by fema as that legislation was passed. i ask, can you respond to that, please, to this committee, like, formally, and can we get a commitment from you today that fema will consider delaying the implementation of risk rating 2.0 until we get solid answers about the realities of what it really means to american citizens that carry national flood insurance program policies? >> congressman -- >> the gentleman's time has expired. you may answer his question. >> thank you, madam chair.
>> congressman, we can certainly get back to you with any of the specific information. but risk rating 2.0 has been implemented, and already individuals are seeing decreases in their insurance rates, which is the first time that this program has taken equity into account to make sure people are paying for the risk that they have. >> the gentleman's time has expired. he yields back. the gentlewas from missouri, ms. bush, is now recognized for five minutes. >> i thank you, madam chair, for convening this important hearing today. hurricane ida was yet another graphic example of how unprepared our nation is for increasingly dangerous and climate disaster driven by fossil fuels. for communities like mine that have already been hurting for decades, we do not have the room for the challenge of flooding and heat waves and more. like those that were destroyed or severely damaged by ida, our community faces more and more
climate risk every day. administrator criswell, numerous fema disaster programs are not targeted to those in greatest need for a program design combines with unequal access to resources for every single climate disaster that hits this country. when fema conducts damage assessments after storms, they are measured based on property ownership. this focus is -- as opposed to the renters and unhoused neighbors most in need of support. similarly, the national flood nuance program only supports people who can afford to buy flood insurance. that is precisely opposite of how this program should work. fema's relief program that is available immediately after disaster is either out of reach for front line communities. fema's national advisory council describes their program as being, and i quote, more accessible to those with time,
income, and access. thank you for being vocal about your commitment to improving equity and fema programs. i was very, very glad to see the recent change in fema policy that would allow black families in the south who did not have a formal deed or proof of home ownership to access disaster assistance. but can you explain how this policy change will specifically help black, brown, and indigenous families? >> yes, congresswoman. it's so important that we don't overcomplicate the system that is already complicated and that we don't try to use, again, this one-size-fits-all approach. because everybody's situation is specific to them and unique to them. and it's so important for us to make sure that we understand that and that we put people first. the changes that we have made so far we're already seeing big improvements in the number of people that are deemed eligible for programs, meaning that they didn't have to go through that
laborious process of trying to appeal what we would have normally denied. these are only the beginning of the changes. we're continuing to look at our programs. so the air rights, the property ownership is just the start. we're going to continue to see where have we taken this cookie-cutter approach and need to adjust it so we can better understand the unique needs of specific communities as we deliver our services? and i'd be happy to work with your team on any suggestions you have and things that you've seen. >> thank you. well, it's an excellent policy change that we know will benefit many people. we need to expand it to st. louis, my home, and across the country as we develop further fundamental reforms to problematic fema programs. what other examples of changes that fema has made or intends to make that will improve equity in disaster relief? can you give us some examples? >> i think the other example that i would give is that we also changed the cost threshold
for determining whether or not you would be eligible for direct housing. we used to have a $6 amount for that threshold, which left many homeowners that had a smaller amount of damage ineligible for our program. so now we've changed that to a cost per square foot, which is really starting to affect our lower-income populations so they become eligible for our direct housing program. again, just one small example of how we've taken this cookie-cutter approach that we've done in the past and made it unique and specific to the individuals' needs. >> thank you. the biden administration also launched an important initiative by selecting two of fema's predisaster programs to be piloted under the program -- is the whole of government effort to ensure that federal agencies work with the communities to deliver a minimum of 40%. the stakeholder engagement plan have maximized benefits that are supposed to be developed
already. so, how will engagement with impacted disadvantaged communities inform your assessment? >> we are very excited to be part of the justice 40 initiative. it's part of our flood mitigation assistance program that we are incorporating that into. we have adjusted our scoring criteria to give greater points to underserved community. and we're working with our state partners and for our technical assistance programs to get the message out there and reach out to our stakeholders so they understand the importance of having more individuals that are part of these communities apply for this type of assistance. we're looking forward to seeing where we can include this in additional programs in the future. but very much looking forward to seeing how the results of this round of our funding go. >> wonderful. >> the gentlelady's time is expired. regretfully, she yields back. the gentleman from vermont, you are now recognized for five
minutes. >> thank you very much. and welcome, administrator criswell. thank you. you have one of the most important jobs, and we've benefitted here in vermont during tropical storm irene with the extraordinary work that fema did. so we're grateful. what jamie raskin said too is something we all feel, when fema shows up, it is something that can unify us. it is obviously a good thing. the topic i want to discuss is the grid not directly under your control obviously. but the break down in the grid and the challenges to the grid and the necessity for upgrading the grid. i want to ask about what the impact would be with respect to the scope and scale of what you have to contend with after a big storm and event like ida. so, maybe you can start by describing what the impact was
on families and communities after ida because of the long-term shutdown of the grid and how that impacted then and how it made the challenge you and your folks at fema you had to contend with. >> the power grid is so important to keep the communities moving. and the sooner we can get the power turned back on, the sooner the recovery begins. so what we see is that as it continues to delay getting the power turned back on, these communities have such an increased amount of time for their recovery. what we saw during hurricane ida was hospitals having to be evacuated, communities having to be evacuated. and that all puts a toll on their families and on their communities. so we need to be able to work with our private sector partners to help them get back online quicker if we can. but it's also an example of how our infrastructure in many
places is so outdated. and we have to invest in improving our infrastructure so it can withstand this increasing number of severe weather events that we're going to continue to see. >> so, this power outage situation that we faced in ida, how long did that last in some communities? >> um, i think that there are some smaller communities that are still without power in southern louisiana. many parts of the state were without power for several weeks. >> if a family can't go back to their house, they can't stay in the house once the storm subsides, that's an added burden for the resources that fema to help those folks have shelter and food and warmth or cooling, whichever the case may be? >> i wouldn't state that it's a burden for fema. that's the type of support that we provide to communities to help them during the recovery process. it's certainly a burden on the family that's been impacted. but we do have the resources and
the tools necessary to provide that temporary lodging to assist them. >> and you were good to correct me on using the word burden because whatever the need is, that's your job, and i get that. but it does mean that the needs of that family has and that community has are greater because they can't get back to their house and get things put back together, correct? >> absolutely. and it just delays their overall recovery process, making it that much longer for them. >> i think grid resilience and modernization is essential. but when we had hurricane irene, the families that were able to get back in even though the house was a mess, they had to start digging it out, my observation was that there was a lot of hope that they had that they're on the road to getting back to normal, whereas if somebody's out of their home for not two days, but two weeks or
two months, then that hope begins to fade. tell me whether that's a fair assessment, in your experience. >> sir, i would think that that is a fair assessment. people want to be able to start recovering quickly. and when they are prevented from doing that, it causes additional despair for those families. >> thank you very much for your good work, and i yield back. >> the gentleman from maryland is now recognized. >> thank you very much, madam chair. can you hear me okay? >> yes. thank you, administrator. i really appreciate the testimony, i know everybody does today. and thank you for your good and important work. as you know, hurricane ida, obviously, it did huge damage in many parts of the country. but that included maryland as well, and september 1st it came
through the state of maryland, it damaged hundreds of homes and businesses, unfortunately, even claimed the life of a resident of rockville. i'm very grateful to the president and to you for granting the maryland delegation for federal disaster assistance through the hazard mitigation grant program, which you've spent a lot of time today talking about. that was granted on september 13th. and, lastly, i joined the maryland delegation in urging the president to approve the state of maryland's request for presidential disaster declaration for individual assistance to a county which was hit by severe flooding and a tornado, in fact, and hazard mitigation grant program assistance for all jurisdictions in maryland. so that our residents, like many others in these various states, can get the assistance that they
need. this federal assistance is very necessary, it's warranted. i hope it can be expeditiously reviewed. but i want to talk about the grant program a little bit because, as i understand it, fema up to 75% of the cost share situation. so, the federal government provides 75% of eligible project costs, and then states and communities cover the remaining share. do you know, has there been discussion, do you know what the capacity is, can you give us some insight into the potential for fema to increase the federal cost share to pick up more of the tab for the hmgp program, which would make it more likely that states and localities who have budget crunches could respond to current disasters and better prepare for future ones?
obviously, this may not be critical in every instance, but there's going to be situations where communities are going to be either reluctant or incapable of accessing the program's benefits because of the cost share obligation. and i wonder if you can speak to any kind of thinking or review on that front. >> thank you for raising that question. the program is such an amazing tool to help communities, again, fight against the risks that we're seeing and prevent future damages from severe weather events. i have heard from many people across the country that they do have a struggle meeting the cost share requirement. that cost share requirement is set forth in the stafford act. so that's not something that we can change. however, i think that there is work that we can do to figure out how we can help communities
partner and try to find other funding sources that perhaps could be available to help them with that. and i'm going to be meeting with state directors to have this same conversation of how do we help communities take advantage of this critical resource so they can start to invest in their future risk. >> i appreciate that. any recommendations, if there have to be statutory changes to make it work better, but any recommendations that you can offer us based on the data that you're gathering up from across the country that may show uneven opportunity to take advantage of the hazard mitigation program i think would be very, very helpful. and, again, i just want to thank the president for committing a historic amount to this hazard mitigation fund, i think about $3.5 billion to reduce the effects of climate change. annapolis over the last 50 years
has experienced an incredible increase in nuance flooding, which closes roads, it damages infrastructure, overwhelms stormwater drains. it's one of the most extreme impacts we see in the country. in fact, today annapolis expects over 50 flooding events every year now up from an average of four annual flooding events just 50 years prior. so we're very focused on this. thank you for your good work. thank you for recognizing the climate change is this huge impact that we have to both prepare for and have resilience for, but obviously take proactive steps to curb that trajectory. and with that i yield back. thank you. >> the gentleman yields back. the gentlewoman from massachusetts, ms. presley, is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you for convening this important and timely hearing. certainly natural disasters are disruptive and traumatic life
events to suddenly lose your home, your savings, family air looms or even the lives of loved ones has devastating impacts on survivors' mental health. survivors can develop drastic mental health consequences. in fact, experiencing a natural disaster by age 5 is associated with 6% -- a 16% increase in mental health or substance use issues in adulthood. again, experiencing a natural disaster by age 5 is associated with a 16% increase in a mental health or substance use issue in adulthood. a large-scale study of earthquake survivors found that one in four had ptsd. fortunately, administrator, fema already has a program in place to address the immediate mental health impact.
administrator criswell, can you please tell us what the crisis counseling program is and how fema has worked with localities to help survivors in communities across the country? >> thank you, congresswoman. our mental health is so important, both for disaster survivors as well as for my employees as well. and our crisis counseling program is definitely a tool that is available to help disaster survivors manage the stress and cope with the losses that they've experienced from this disaster. it's a program that's available under the individual assistance program when that is authorized for a major disaster declaration and executed by the state. really important resource available to help individuals that have been impacted by a disaster. >> thank you. and i thank you also for including your staff in that. we have to heal the healers as well. this life-saving program has been a nationwide response to
the covid-19 pandemic and following the september 11th terrorist attacks and hurricanes. there are many people who survive disasters from terrorist attacks, to mass violence and natural disasters that can't take advantage of this program. administrator criswell, as you know, there are two types of disaster declarations. major disasters and emergency declaration. is the crisis counseling program currently available following emergency declaration? >> congresswoman, no, it is not currently available for emergency declaration. >> okay. i'd like to implore you to make that change. i think it should be available under both declaration. over the last decade alone there have been more than 4,000 emergency declarations in the united states. i represent boston, and the boston marathon attack, you
know, the ripple effect of that trauma, some of it was immediately manifesting, but some manifested later. and i think it's time to ensure survivors of all disasters can access counseling and be connected to long-term mental health services. i appreciate your agency's working with me already on the proposal to expand the program to emergency declarations and that does not foresee any hindrances to providing crisis counseling to help more people. we would love to follow up with you beyond this hearing and we'd love to hear your response to that. >> yes, ma'am. we would be happy to continue providing technical drafting assistance on making that change. again, so important that we're taking care of the mental health of the people that have been impacted by these traumatic events. >> i always seek to engage the pain, a survivor of the marathon
bombing, she shared her story and she wishes the assistance provided under the crisis counseling program had existed for her eight years ago. so it really is time, again, to ensure that survivors of all disasters can access counseling and be connected to long-term mental health services. so i look forward to being in touch with you about that. if you can respond to what are the provisions and what are the plans for those that are disabled, those that are incarcerated, and those that are hospitalized when it comes to a major disaster or an emergency declaration. are there any protocols in place, any plans? >> i don't know that i understand specifically what you're asking. but our disaster response programs when we respond to incidents, it's to help all people that have been impacted by those disasters. we do have an entire unit here that focuses on the planning and preparedness for individuals with disabilities. and we work closely with our
state partners through our regional offices to understand the unique situations within each of the communities once a disaster has happened like those that may have been incarcerated. >> okay. all right. we'll follow up on that as well. thank you so much. >> the gentlelady yields back. and with that, mr. troy carter from louisiana is authorized to participate in today's hearing. mr. carter was greatly impacted by ida. >> thank you for the opportunity to participate in this hearing. i greatly appreciate the opportunity to present. on august 29th hurricane ida made landfall as a category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 150 miles per hour. coastal louisiana experienced 16-foot storm surges and significant flash flooding. 16 years to the day of hurricane
katrina. of course, the federal government made substantial investments in shoring up our levy system and it made a huge impact. we're hoping that the build back better will bury our grid so that people never have to go weeks without power. it's very difficult in the sweltering months of august to be without power for people with disabilities, for our young people. it adds insult to injury. so we're hopeful that as we build back better, we continue to build on mistakes of the past. we know hurricanes come every year. we may not know the intensity, but we know that with climate change, warmer waters bring stronger storms. and we should endeavor to do better than we did from previous years as we did after katrina.
i want to thank you for coming to louisiana, walking the streets of the community and seeing firsthand. i cannot tell you how much that meant to the people of louisiana to have you on the ground to see firsthand the level of devastation. hurricane ida caused mainly damage in my district and to communities across louisiana, devastating homes, knocking out the electric grid and leaving trails of damage along the gulf coast. there are two points i would like to cover. the storm share the value of federal investments in protecting communities. areas like new orleans and the river parishes. storm protection systems stay dry after investments from katrina. we have to do better to make sure that these communities are weatherproofed for the future. having lived through my fair
share of storms, i've seen recoveries that work and recoveries that don't. the biggest factor is how fast we get money back into the pockets and start people getting back to some semblance of normalcy with their lives. far too many of our programs take months to kick in. so turning to my question, as a part of the fema recovery, you instituted several policies and granted waivers for people that mischecked the box. and, as a result, many people were denied for mischecking the box. what can we do to create an appeal process or person that may have made an innocent mistake or accident in their filing are not summarily rejected? >> congressman, the program that we implemented that you're
talking about is our critical needs assistance program. and it's an amazing tool that helps us get money in the hands of survivors quickly. and we were able to get money out into the hands of survivors faster than we have in any other disaster. we did hear that some individuals were having difficulties with how they answered the questions. so we did go back and take a look at what we were using as criteria to approve those for critical needs assistance. and we were able to give funding to an additional 120,000 families. we are now taking a look at our assistance to see if there's anything else we can do to improve that moving forward, as we're always trying to improve the delivery of our services to help give money to those who are eligible for it it. >> and i want to take time to thank you too. we've challenged you in every possible way. we've pushed the envelope to try and make things more seamless for the people.
i want to thank you as well as your people on the ground for doing a good job. the blue roof program, while it's very effective, can you share with me ways or things that you're putting in place to advance or move them more quickly? as you know, we continue to have rain, and the ability to mitigate the sustained damages would be very helpful if we could do it faster. >> the gentleman's time has expired, but you can answer his questions. >> the blue roof program is a partnership with fema and the army corps of engineers. and it's a great program to provide some temporary repairs to homes, as you know. i did speak with lieutenant general spellman directly to talk about the status of the program. he has assured me that he's made some improvements into how they're executing their mission. and i think from the numbers that i've seen, they've already significantly increased the number of blue roofs that they've installed. but that's never fast enough. and i am pushing our people as
well as the army corps to continue to find ways to get those on the homes as quickly as possible so we can get people back into their homes sooner. >> thank you. i now recognize mr. higgins for closing statements. >> thank you, madam chair. administrator criswell, thank you for being here today. we have more work to do. my office will be delivering a letter to you and your senior staff by the close of business today, documenting specific urgent requests to fema on behalf of my constituency who has been suffering for over a year from hurricanes laura and delta. i'd like your personal commitment, ma'am, that you will receive our letter and be involved. you've been very gracious today and professional. and i thank you for that. so, i'm going to lean on you for a commitment to personal
involvement in the letter that we deliver today. and, finally, regarding rural areas and small towns, i beg of you, madam, to let's make sure that our small towns, rural areas, poor communities get adequate attention and compassionate response that they don't get left behind. can i get your commitment on receiving our letter, documenting specific requests, urgent requests? and can i get a commitment that our rural areas and poor communities don't get overlooked and left behind? >> congressman higgins, you have my commitment to be personally involved in that response to your letter, and i'd like to thank you and congressman carter for your leadership in supporting the people that have been impacted by these recent events in louisiana. >> thank you, ma'am. and to my colleague, representative carter, he's been
an amazing compliment to the louisiana delegation. i commend him for the work that he does and continues to do. he had big shoes to fill with our friend and colleague congressman richmond is now in the white house as a senior adviser. we are louisiana strong in congress and in the white house. we are joined together. madam chair, thank you for your gracious allowances of time during this hearing. thank you very much. madam, i yield. >> the gentleman yields back. and i now recognize myself in closing i want to thank administrator criswell for testifying today. and thank you to all the employees who are working tirelessly to respond to disasters around the country and really visiting the sites personally to oversee and help. i want to emphasize that survivors of hurricane ida, as well as previous disasters, still need help. they need to know how to apply
for financial assistance. they need clear information about what qualifies for assistance. and they need quick processing of their responses. administrator, i appreciate the commitment that you make today to work with all communities to update their flood maps so that they can be more accurate with community input. i also think it's important to emphasize your testimony that communities can apply for fema grant money to invest in mitigation even when they are in an area that has not been declared a disaster. as we heard from you today, administrator, we need to invest in climate resilience infrastructure, ensuring that we are investing in front line communities who are disproportionately impacted by severe weather. i urge all of my colleagues to support the federal agency prep act, the bill i introduced today that would ensure that the federal government has a
comprehensive plan to tackle climate change, coordinated by the white house, and in partnership with the local community. i also call on my colleagues to support the build back better act, which would make critical investments to upgrade our infrastructure so that we can be better prepared for future disasters. these investments are critical so that states and local governments are not left dealing with the immense cost of recovering from disasters on their own. in closing, i want to thank all of our panelists for their remarks. and i want to commend my colleagues for participating. with that and without objection, all members have five legislative days in which to submit materials and to submit additional written questions which will be forwarded for response. i ask our witness to as promptly as you are able. this hearing is adjourned.
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