tv Senate Hearing on FEMA Response to COVID-19 CSPAN April 17, 2021 2:20pm-3:37pm EDT
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>> good afternoon. this is the hearing on homeland security borders. general reminder, at the outset, this is a virtual hearing where some of my colleagues are here in person and others appearing virtually. so we'll do our best to ensure that everybody is aware when it is their turn to speak. this is the subcommittee first hearing of the 117th congress and my first meeting as chairman. i'm also a new member of the committee. and so i will cop at the outset to a learning curve. and i'm very grateful to it be able to have the advice and
counsel and partnership of ranking member and prior chair looking forward to do some good work together on this subcommittee. let me welcome the acting administrator of the federal emergency management agency bob fenton second tour of duty in this acting capacity and to help us during these interim periods. we are going to examine today the agency's response to covid-19 and other challenges and emergency management. we're thankful that you are here to testify before us in person. fema exists to coordinate the federal government role in prevention and relief. and we typically see fema serve as emergency manager when certain area of the country that's hit with a natural disaster. but covid-19 affected the whole
country like nothing we have seen before. fema estimates covid relief through fiscal 2021 will be somewhere north of $115 billion that's more than double department of home hand security budget. and i want to acknowledge at the outset all the great work that's been done by emergency management personnel at the federal, state and local levels who have worked tirelessly over the past year to respond and confront this pandemic. we all thank them. your staff in particular. for their ongoing work. when covid-19 was declared an emergency back in march of last year, fema was directed to lead a whole of government federal response to the pandemic. but a coordinated federal response for all intents and purposes did not materialize.
instead the trump administration decided to out source most of the disaster responsibility to states, to local governments and to private health systems. on many days my states leaders will tell you the federal government was sometimes more of a hindrance than a help. there was a lot of confusion among nonfederal governments and health care providers regarding overlapping roles and responsibilities of our federal response agencies. some days it seemed like fema was in charge. other days it looked like the white house task force was in the driver's seat. other times h h.s. appeared to be calling the shots. gao cited one local public health official said the response was quote coherent confusing and uncoordinated. this was especially true with regard to the medical supply chain. early on, there was a serious and damaging perception of medical supplies and personal protective equipment were not being distributed to the greatest need but rather other motives whether political or
personal. governors and local officials completed for months for supplies often saw the federal government redirect those supplies without explanation. now, some might say that with the covid threat still real and present, that this isn't the time to look backward, but we need to be learning these lessons in realtime. we can't afford to keep repeating the mistakes. this committee has the responsibility to fund fema that won't get the failures next time the pandemic hits. of course we also want to hear about the agency's present state of operations. we need to know how the defense production act is being used, what fema is doing to equitable vaccine support and financial health of the disaster relief fund. and covid-19 will obviously be the primary subject of this hearing, fema does face other challenges. currently the agency is spurtding 960 declared disasters
supporting across the country. we spend a lot of time focusing on emergency response but also investments that make us more resilient. with that in mind i'll have questions about fema implementation of what's known as the brick program. that's the money we use to build resiliency in our communities. and we'll also want to look ot how fema is doing assistance at the border. we were there and fema is deeply engaged in helping the department of health and human services to sfunding assistance to sfourt local agencies. there is a lot to cover today. ap i look forward to your testimony, mr. fenton, and i'll now turn to the ranking member of the subcommittee for any opening remarks. >> yes. thank you chairman murphy and congratulations on your first hearing. you are doing a great job so far. and i look forward to working with you and really getting to know you. we've already had on your trip to the border had an opportunity, even though served together for several years, to
really forge the relationship that i think is going to be important as we move through fiscal year 2021 and begin to formulate the bill for fiscal year 2022. so i thank you for schedule thg hearing. fema is important and their role of supporting state and local partners and responding from a historic number of disasters facing our nation. i think all of us in our individual states get to know our fema regional and local reps very, very well. so i want to thank the acting administrator robert fenton who i have learned has obviously has very good sense because he's married to a west virginiian so thank you for that. thank you for joining us here today. fema mission is helping people before during and after disasters. these words are more important than ever and acting administrator fenton knows he has a big job to live up to that promise. we are keeping a close eye on
the progress covid-19 including many of the areas chairman talked about, the various federal support mechanics in place to distribute much needed ppe, vaccines and other necessary supplies and personnel to combat the pandemic. fema is playing an integral role in that effort helping to support vaccine distribution centers, resupply our states with necessary ppe and providing additional respourss to ensure success. we have also been following the noncovid-19 disasters including severe winter storms, even talked about texas a bit, flooding and fire events across the nation. fema is also playing a role in the current border crisis, wokking with other components, to identify procure and manage array of temporary shelters and processing centers for thousands of children crossing the board. they are a vast network the full
spectrum and we want to say tlaung for what you do. speaking of the border crisis, i would be remiss if i did not say some additional words on this topic. last month secretary acknowledged we are seeing more than we have seen in 20 years and numbers proving correct. in march, they faced 172,331 encounters at the southwest border which is 66% higher than the march of the last border surge which was in march of 2019 where there were 103,731 encounters. we can't dismiss these numbers as a seasonal migration pattern. dhs has been forced to set up multiple influgs facilities to deal with the surge at the border. h h.s. has already set up ten emergency facilities to house nearly 20,000 migrant children spending $60 million a week and conditions even hhs will admit
amount to little more than crisis care. they were so overwhelmed as "the washington post" reported they are seeing 1,000 get aways per day. that's the folks we don't get. and we don't encounter on the border. that's tens of thousands of individuals who are now in this country who all we really know about them is fleeting food print or maybe an article of clothing they left behind. in addition, they have had to resort to releasing illegal immigrants from custody into the united states without a notice to appear in immigration court which is what i can say is nothing less than a failure of this system. fema which we are here to discuss has been at the southwest border and we appreciate that help. because obviously describing what i describing is very much needed. so mr. chairman, i would ask, and i appreciate this hearing, i hope that we can in the near knew tour have a discussion ton this border crisis and it is
something stair inning our face and will have a lot of input into our jurisdiction in terms of funding. and i think that hopefully that we cannot continue to encourage by policies or others migrants to enter our country making that dangerous journey. so i also think that we need to make sure that i.c.e. are fulfilling and executing their mandate under the law. mr. chairman, i hope you and i can work together on these goals in the future. returning to the topic at hand i'll try to be briefer here, fema continues to see a high level of incident management workforce deployments with only 21% of the personnel remaining for deployment to future events. i thought this was an interesting fact. out of the 52 federal coordinating officers that fema currently deploys for disaster management only one remaining not done to a disaster.
so they are getting low. so i think that's something as we are looking at funding we should look at. so financially, fema executed an extraordinarily level of funding because of the cares packages and covid relieve on the disaster relief fund. $68 billion for travel assistance including national guard deployments. close to $60 3w8 remaining in the disaster fund. it would seem our resources would be sufficient but going out the door very quickly. and our data is giving us a different story in terms of how we are going to be able to maintain sufficient level of funding for fema. on a personal note, as i'm sure you all three of news ts room have seen impact fema has and can have during and after a disaster, covid response, reopening, and operating support fema provides continues to provide west virginia after our flood, are much appreciated.
in 2016 we lost 23 lives that day. hundreds of homes. millions of dollars in damages. and almost five years later we still remember the things that we lost and recognize the ongoing efforts. i would like to thank you and your new deputy acting administrator who was director for your continued attention to this recovery. did you say that's one of the 900 disasters still ongoing. it takes so long sometimes to rebuild. so thank you for appearing with us today. and i look forward to hearing your testimony. thank you. >> thank you, senator. by way of introduction our witness is the acting fema administrator now serving as acting administrator, mr. fen done is the fema region nine administrator. career position. he's been with fema since 1996 and been involved in a number of significant large scale response and recovery operations
including katrina, the southern california wildfires of 2003 and 9/11 trade center attacks. we appreciate you being before us today. following your opening statement, each member is going to be recognized by seniority for up to five minutes for statement and question. >> good morning, chairman murphy and ranking member capito and subcommittee. thank you for the community to discuss fema's role in response to the covid-19 pandemic. this is really unprecedented challenge that has claimed the lives of over 500,000 of our neighbors, friends, family members across the country. caused grave damage to the economy and put a spotlight on inequities throughout our nation. at fema we are committing to ensuring everyone has access to vaccination this is our highest priority and success is dependent upon the whole community to achieve this goal. our current work can be grouped
into three broad categories. first, at the present time fema is representing 100% of the cost national guard act tie saturations as well as 100% protective measures expenses incurred by states, local, try billion and territorial partners in response to covid-19 through september 30th. this includes reimbursement for vaccination efforts, screening and testing, and personal protective equipment. the president also directed fema to expand eligibility of emergency protective measures from january to september of this year to support the safe opening and operating of public facilities. this includes, among other things, eligible schools, child care facilities, transit systems, of those that have been impacted by covid-19. second, fema is working to support state, territorial, tribal and local governments led community vaccination efforts also known as cvcs.
fema is doing this through the employment of personal, the equipment supplies and technical assistance and the awarding of expedited financial assistance. third and finally, fema has teamed up with the department of defense, and other agencies in establishing 350i89 cvc across the country. they are stood up in partnership with state and local authorities to better reach marginalized communities. these sites come with additional temporary eight week vaccine allocation and is above and beyond the state allocationen some can administer you up to 6,000 vaccinations a day. as of april 12, fema has obligated more than $5.3 bl for vaccination efforts. there are 1567 federally supported vaccination sites and 357 mobile units, including these 30 pilot community vaccination sites that have been stood up since january 20th.
to date, 189.6 million vaccine doses have been administered across the united states with 172 million of those taking place since president biden was inaugurated. furthermore, three-week supply allocation. as of early april this oleo cages stood at 26.8 million dose sz. and over the last three weeks close to 90 million total doses have been sent to states, tribes, territories, and through federal channels. president biden has made equity a cornerstone of the administration's covid-19 efforts. and at fema we have established a civil rights advisory group with federal partners to ensure equity is incorporated. since inception in january, civil right vitsry group has supported the development of methodology to determine federally lead community vaccine
pilot site selections has worked with all ten fema regions to collect and analyze demographic data, has identified under served communities and collaborated with community based organizations. as of early april, 58% of all doses administrated at the federally lead pilot cvc went to communities of color. we have reason to be hopeful in the months ahead. we expect that vaccine supplies will continue to increase substantially in the months to come so that everyone who wants a vaccine will have access to one. in closing, we greatly appreciate the subcommittee's steadfast support for fema's efforts throughout the covid-19 pandemic and for appropriating the resources our agency has needed to meetd this historic requirements. i'd just like to end with saying how much of an honor it is to be acting administrator lead, in my eyes the finest group of civil servants that i've had the opportunity to work with.
their ability to work tirelessly through disaster after disaster to help americans with the greats es need just shows you how dedicated this workforce is and the challenging times you've highlighted. so thank you for taking the time to testify. i look forward tour questions today. >> thank you very much for your service and willingness to talk to us today. you obviously have had a unique seat managing a regional response to the pandemic. and as i mentioned at the outset, i do want to focus on present efforts and particular vaccination campaign but i do think it makes sense to do some retrospective here to make sure we are learning lessons in realtime. and so i wanted to turn to this question about overlapping responsibilities. fema was given this lead role in the whole of government federal response back in march of last year. but as you know, there was
widespread confusion amongst policy makers and state level implementer who was in charge, whether fema or the white house. we can't sort of wait to do a year-long retrospective inquiry before trying to make amends for that confusion. so i'd love your perspective, having sat in region 9, to tell us what you think fema's role should be, let's say, visa vie h h.s. during a nationwide health pandemic, how can we learn from our mistakes over the last year to make sure there are clear lines of authority for state and local public health officials, governors, members of congress? >> thank you, congressman,
senator, for the question. let me start off by saying the last year was the most complex event that i've ever had the opportunity of responding to in my 25 years of being in this field in emergency management. and really maximum event. never did we anticipate that we would have such a large event not only impact the nation's capability but the world's capability. so when you look at events like this, i think emergency management at all levels of government has a responsibility to be a coordinating function. and i think that is something that fema does very well is coordinate and communicate all levels of government, both vertically and horizontally. and connect with not only government but private sector and private nonprofits and others to ensure that everyone
is working toward a common set of goals and unity of effort. it's difficult, it was difficult to do last year at the beginning of the event because of the different authorities, the uniqueness of the medical event and starting off with the event being managed by hhs and eventually transitioning in march to fema taking the lead of it. it took us a little bit of period of time to get the coordination mechanics that traditionally haven't been involved in a medical only event to come together and unify those efforts at all levels of government across private sector and nonprofit. and it's something that we continue to work on and improve throughout the summer and in response to covid. >> so i spent about a month last summer trying to understand the emergency medical supply chain and trying to understand who, from the federal government, was
doing what. i spent about a month talking to anybody that i could, and i think i left that month more confused at the end than i was going in. and, in fact, in the report that fema released in january, fema noted that neither hhs nor fema understood the domestic supply chain at the beginning of this response. so to what extent were agencies aware of this knowledge gap? and what's being done right now to identify and manage those gaps in advance of future incidents? and then who really should be the lead with respect to this question of supply chain management? should this be fema? should this be hhs? and how do we make sure we are not caught unaware in the way that we were last spring and summer? >> so from the organizational standpoint, the natural response
coordination center once stood up nationally is the overall coordinating mechanism. what they did is establish a supply chain task force to focus in on the medical supplies of this event. and it took them sometime to get a hold of and understanding of that supply chain. it's very complex as far as who are the big manufacturers, where is the manufacturing happening at, where are the resources needed to do the manufacturing, what is the capacity of that within the united states, outside of the united states. so those were all things that took them time to kind of wrap their hands around. at the same time, funding is going out to state and local governments and they are taking the necessary action to go procure the needed resources to be able to combat covid. so there is a little bit of complexity at the beginning to get unity of effort going. and it's something that we
continue to work through during the summer months. going forward, there is a number of things that are happening right now. there is specific, you know, not only does fema have a role to provide coordination and through executive order last year had some responsibility to look specifically at some of the medical supplies, but more importantly we have now a much better understanding of our supply chains. an understanding that just in time supply chain isn't sufficient to meet the challenges of a worldwide pandemic. and so what we've done over the last year is be able to understand that supply chain, understand where those manufacturers are, what their capability is, within the u.s., outside of the u.s., where the rye source dependency is at. and what we are now doing is working to build capability and relationships to better be able to share information to include stockpiling resources both within the federal level, at the
state level, but more importantly ensuring that private sector is part of that and also building capability and that medical institutions are doing the same thing. so it's really a whole of community effort, recognizing everyone has parts and responsibilities with that, working through each organization's authorities with fema, assisting and coordinating many part of this. >> i'm going to turn this over to senator but do on second round wanted to follow up with this question how we learn from our experience in overlapping distribution systems and procurement systems, whether it's appropriate to have state systems over laid with federal systems over laid with private sector systems and how we can sort of learn from that duplication of effort. but at this point i'll turn it over to senator capito. >> thank you.
first thing i want to ask about is the federal relief fund, we are about to go into appropriation season. they will be asking $18 billion to address disasters through the disaster relief fund. as we have done, we have watched the fund go down and down and back up and down. and i don't know, do you have any level? or what is your level of confidence that this balance that we have in this is going to be sufficient to address these needs? i know it's hard to speculate but i didn't know if you had an impression. >> i think that's what it is, it's speculation based on experience and history. we have a good team at fema that has gone back and looked at history. we have gone ahead and forward and looked at what are the risks that we intend to see, what are the current requirements that we still have left outstanding from either the covid event or past disaster event where we have to provide funding for those. and right now we project we would be on projectory to have sufficient funding by the end of
the fiscal year. >> all right. another question, and i don't know if we can answer this shortly, but it's certain will i a question that's going to come to all of us on the covid relief which is the funeral assistance that was just rolled out. and i heard on the radio, actually, that you were inundated or fema with the help line, that's probably causing some confusion. i don't know if -- they said you got a million calls. and i don't know how that is rolling out just shortly, briefly, what your hope is, what the confusion might be? what can we tell our constituents here? >> yeah, what i would say is go ahead and take time up front to get all the necessary documents together before phoning that line. the first day we opened up was definitely congestion on the line and we had a couple technical issues with the
service. cleaned that up by the second day. we have 60,000 calls. 58,000 registrations. 1700 have already come back with documentation. hopefully we'll start funding that next week. that represents about 10% of the deaths so far. so second day was much better than the first day. and i'm sure today will be much better than yesterday. and we want to mick sure that we compassionately help everyone that had a loss. so we look forward to working with you to phone that 1800 number and take time to pull together necessary information before starting your application. >> well, i know this is the first time you've administered something of this nature. so i wish you well on that i do think it is good to reenforce that this is reimbursements for expenses that have already been incurred by families and others towards the burial assistance of a covid patient. so getting all the documentation is really important.
i would like to ask you about the southwest border crisis where fema is now helping to identify and assist in sheltering and processing centers. are you concerned about this? do you think fema's role is going to get larger? what impact is this going to have on your fema resources? and talking about who is in charge here, i mean i think that's a little bit of this kind of situation as well, with so many hands on deck at the border. do you have an impression on that? what are you hearing from the field? >> yeah. so far impact on staffing has not been significant. in all events we help out other federal agencies as they help us out through the economy act. i've now been in fema as you said earlier 25 years and through three administrations i've been involved in unaccompanied children in the obama and trump administration and now this administration. one of our core values is compassion. we want to be able to help out hhs with setting up shelter capacity for the children.
and we are going ahead and doing that with something we do very well. >> is that in any specific place? or is that all along the border or texas? >> texas, california. we are looking at other states throughout ts united states. but hhs is doing the contracting. it's their funding. what we are providing is technical assistance and personnel support to help them. >> thank you. you mentioned the 100% cost year for covid for our national guard. and i'm sure all of us have been contacted as that 100% cost share looks like it's getting ready to be timed out. all getting calls from governors to have that extended. i do think that there is a risk of this becoming the norm. and i think that there has to be state, local, and disaster relief assistance at the same time certainly through these guard assistance and they have been fantastic with us. so do you have an impression on
that, on the 100% cost share goes to what, september 30th? >> yeah, september 30th. there should be sufficient vaccination to vaccinate anyone that needs vaccination. as the president laid out by may. but through july hopefully we have everyone vaccinated. so as long as we stay on that trajectory, that would lessen the need for additional support past september 30th. so i think september 30th is a good estimate right now. and we can see what happens as covid continues to progress and we continue to vaccinate america. >> thank you. i'll turn it over. might have a question after we go through. the other thing i would say as a grateful person as well, fema has probably the best network of volunteers that i've ever seen, just really selfless people that have that compassionate and caring attitude. and having interacted with them, i want to express my
appreciation to them as well. >> thank you, ma'am. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and mr. fenton, thank you for once again he stepping up and taking over are the duties as acting administrator. and please share our appreciation to everyone at fema for the work they are doing in these very challenging times. i want to follow up on senator capito quell about the funeral assistance program which i know is new to fema. but we are hearing from people who are concerned not just about how it's working and it just rolled out so that's understandable, but also constituents who have found out that they are ineligible to receive assistance because they prepaid for funeral expenses prior total gaable date. and even though they didn't lose loved once until after january 20, they prepared those expenses. so can you explain why the policy would exclude those who
may have prepared funeral expenses before the date even though those in question who lost their lives that didn't happen until after the 2020 deadline? >> so i'm not sure i completely understand your question. as i understand it, right now, if someone paid funeral expenses, and they have already paid for them, we will reimburse them for that cost if they submit the receipts for them. >> what we are hearing from some constituents is they had paid the funeral expenses. so i can go today to my funeral home, i can pay for my funeral, which may not happen for a long time in the future. >> i get what you are saying. >> but if i lost somebody after that january 20th deadline, i'm
not able to get rein yours abouted under fema's current ruling. can you explain why? and is fema open to changing that? is that a legislative change that would be required? it seems to be that is not the intent of what we meant when we passed the cares act. >> sure. so let me, i would be glad to look into that specific question and get back to you. our intent is not to duplicate other forms of assistance, like insurance, and other avenues of funding. >> sure. >> but let me look into that specific issue and glad to work with your office and get back to you. >> thank you. >> i understand what you are saying now. >> thank you. >> i also want to follow up a little bit on senator murphy's questions about the supply chain. because one of the things that we've heard from companies in new hampshire is that they, many of them have altered their manufacturing capabilities to try to respond to the pandemic. and what they are concerned
about is that the federal government gets these materials from foreign sources and even though they have been asked to step up, they will then be in the position of having to shut down those manufacturing lines or do something different. so can you talk about how fema is coordinating with hhs and other federal agencies so that you utilize the defense production act to make sure we have an adequate supply but don't put companies in the position of changing manufacturing facilities then deciding to procure supplies from other places? >> yeah. so there is many parts of the defense production act and fema shares title 1 which is setting priority orders. but there are other parts with regard to title 7 that looks at setting voluntary agreements and
title 3 that looks at expansions of stimulating the economy and stimulus. and i think to your point what needs to happen is we need to -- and have been doing this for the last about six months -- is working with different sectors, especially related to the pandemic, to start the understanding of what the capability is within the u.s. manufacturing, where are the resources coming from, and have the discussions now and beable to share those communications, to share that information to make better informed decisions in the future. and i think that's where we are headed right now. that's what we learned from this event. if you go back to last summer it was everyone trying to get whatever they could from where ever they could. >> right. >> and it wasn't a coordinated collective effort. and continue to work on it
through the end of summer and not until the end of summer did it really come together in some way. going forward, i think we need to continue to do that. not only for pandemic, but for other high risk events that may impact the nation's supply chain in any one field. so it could be an earthquake and the damage is multiple homes. how do we bring back on 10,000 homes in a quick period of time? so we need to start having these discussions with private sector. and a way to do that through the defense production act under title 7 and share the information that we can share whatever the united states has. >> and would you continue to see fema lead agency or do you see thatsee that shifting? >> i think we are one of them. we do deliberately planning for high risk, high threat events across the country, but there's other federal agencies that have key responsibilities in the defense production act,
department of commerce, department of transportation, energy. they all need to have responsibility for their specific functional area, the portfolio, we definitely have a responsibility when doing the plann >> that was the concern that senator murphy was getting to that if we have a lot of agencies working on this, who is actually in charge of prioritizing what needs to be done. >> we have a responsibility to chair title i and the prioritization. we don't have authority to chair title three in specific expansion of economy or stimulus to each one of those department agencies. the department of energy does it within their organization and hhs within their's. but for the
rest of them we traditionally don't. one of the things we do do is plan to identify the gaps within the agencies so they can be responsible for building the capacity. we should work on identifying where those big gaps are, the significant events we face based on risks in the country, to allow the federal agencies to take their authority and build capacity or at least start the discussion with the private sector to make sure we have a well thought out plan and are not doing it just at a time the event happens. >> do you think the defense production act needs to be changed to address that concern in any way? >> that's a good question. and i think i would say there are -- it is one tool of many tools to get to a solution. other tools
are let's deal with the risk in front and mitigate the risk. we spoke earlier about regulation and other things. there are many other things we can do. i think that's one tool. we could continue to look at it, but i don't see fema having oversight over the department of energy and it's not our expertise. i think energy needs to do that and be responsible for our hhs. as far as coordinating the committee for prioritization, that's something we could do with regards to disasters and being able to respond to events at new priority rates. >> thank you mister chairman. >> thank you senator. we should
have the next senator virtually. >> thank you. i guess my first question relates to the city of wash burn, north dakota on february 2nd. our congressional delegation sent a letter in support of a request for an extension on the disaster mitigation grant. can you give us an update on that request? >> the applications for assistance and being evaluated, and i will go ahead and get back to you specifically on that request. but i'm not aware of any decisions being made on the program yet. >> if you could give me an answer that would be great, but if you could give me an estimated response, that would be good. okay. can you further describe fema's role as it relates to -- across the board and completely? >> fema's role is in support of hhs and their authorities and
roll, and we don't have any specific authority with regard to the border. we are supporting them underneath the economy act and providing them technical assistance right now. >> are you assisting with, or testing and making sure, that the people you come across are being tested for covid? >> anyone that's in the united states that's at risk for covid would fall underneath our authorities right now as it relates to the pandemic and being able to reimburse state and local governments for testing and for anyone who test positive. so that is something that anyone within the united states that is symptomatic, that local government or state government feels they need to test, have the ability to test them and for us to reimburse them.
>> is that being done at the border? >> throughout the united states, as well as at the border, and it's not specific to the border. it's specific to the communities within, that are in close proximity, and they have the authority and the ability to do that if they elect to do that. >> if they elect to do it. >> right. >> so it may or may not be being done? >> it depends on each specific state, health, and local health law. it's up to each state or county. california a very robust testing program. i do know that there are a number of non government organizations down there that are doing testing of individuals at the border. but
it's specifically up to a state as something that's 100 percent reimbursable if a state or local government decides to do it. in addition, we sent tens of thousands of test kits to texas and other states that they can use within their state in the southern part of the state. >> so your role is assisting if they are ready to? >> our role is to reimburse the cost of testing for the whole united states. it's mandating someone to test within a decision up to the local health official. >> in terms of man power, do you have adequate man power? are you being trained at the border? >> the border is less than 200 staff employed to the border. we have about 10,000 people and may
be less than 13,000 are bailable right now. the majority of those are to the vaccination effort or other disaster efforts. >> my last question relates to how much covid funding fema received and how that is going in terms of how much have you dispersed, and if you are sure you are able to get it out as expeditiously is needed. >> we just received an additional 50 billion dollars of funding. we are starting to implement the funeral assistance program that we project two billion dollars from last year, two to three billion dollars from this year. part of the reopening of schools, public facilities, transportation, will be of significant funding going
back and changing the cost chair to 100 percent will be additional funding, and then 4.5 billion already in a vaccination effort for the first 90 days. we have sufficient funding right now. i project based on the new authorities we received in the appropriation that we should have sufficient funding to get us through to the end of the year to include what would normally be projected as disaster activity, including hurricanes and fires. >> thank you very much. >> thanks, mister chairman. >> we will go to a second round of questions and we appreciate you sticking with us. i've got to. the first i wanted to return to was a question of responsibility for supply chain
management. as you know, virtually every state in the nation scrambled to set up their own supply chain for ppe, in particular, in the early stages of the pandemic. i think a simple question states are asking right now is should they be preparing to have to stand up their own supply chain for the next pandemic because, if that is the case, there are decisions that states will make to keep a manufacturer in stake with the capability to be able to make certain types of masks or face shields. or do we expect that we are going to solve for this problem, and when and if the next pandemic hits, states will not have to build their own supply chain. there will be an adequate, complete federal response either through
stockpiles or through the management of federal land international supply chains to meet the need. what is your advice right now for states as they are trying to decide how they want to spend money in advance of the next potential outbreak. >> i think it's a collective effort. when we have asked and provided funding to state and local governments, it is to go ahead and build the capacity. most states built up to 128 capacity of personal protective equipment and others applies needed for a pandemic. in addition to that, the strategic national stockpile has built capacity within that. the medical providers, private sector providers, are building additional capacity in hospitals. i think the reliance on a adjusting the time and logistics system, which we have gotten used to in the united states because it has been so efficient on delivering resources, works except for when you have a catastrophic event that impacts the supply chain.
you need to build capacity at all levels of government to withstand when there is a run on a specific resource. you can go ahead and build capacity to allow manufacturing to catch up and also to ensure there is sufficient supply to do that. that's just part of the issue, building the capacity. second, we need to increase manufacturing. how long does it take to do that? where is the capacity to do that? what private sectors can retool and do that quickly? where do materials come from? it's a complex decision that i think we all have a responsibility to. we have to understand where the gaps are within that system to make sure we have plans to respond adequately. it's a collective effort.
>> i understand it's a states responsibility to build up reserves. i do think it's an important question for us to answer as to whether it's a states responsibility to build up the slack manufacturing capacity to essentially pay money to hold in reserve. that's a very specific set of expertise with states prior did not have. it would require every state to have a level of visibility into their own state based supply chain that we normally don't ask saints to get involved in, and large part because it's kind of arbitrary, but when it comes to
masks or face shields, it strikes me that the question should really be one dealt with at the federal level. maybe you don't have an answer now. it's okay. are you suggesting that we are going to have 50 different strategies to create slack capacity for the manufacturing of medical supplies? or will that question be more a function of federal oversight policy? >> to that specific piece, and in fact, appropriation to hhs to provide that under title three of the gpa, that's where they should work with private sector to be able to build that
capacity. and i know that right now, we are working on a number of efforts along with hhs to work with private sector on how to build up capacity. d.o.d. received billions in the last appropriation, i believe ten billion dollars underneath the defense production act of title three to work with private sector to build that additional capacity. that's the best place
for that to be done at, unless there is maybe something unique to a local government or rural government with regard to relationships to the private sector. >> i think we have to be as clear as possible with states as to what their obligations are and what they are not. they got into the business of doing all sorts of things they were not expecting to do, and i think they want to know if those are permanent new functions outsourced to them or whether this was a onetime only request. i look forward to working with you and the administration on delivering the clarity. if the senator will allow me, i have one additional question on outreach with respect to vaccination efforts. we are getting to the point where we hope there will be an adequate supply of vaccination, and we will be in the position of a deficit of demand and we will have to be going out and doing outreach to harder to reach communities or individuals who are skeptical about vaccines to convince them of the merits of the vaccine. that requires not only having vaccination sites setup, but having education and outreach efforts funded. i want to just ask about the ways in
which states can apply to get that reimbursed. there is 100 percent reimbursement, but there may be circumstances in which you have an outreach worker who is going out, trying to contact chronically truant students at school, but will also do education on vaccination during that outreach. do you foresee any difficulty and making sure that states get adequate reimbursement when some of the outreach efforts that are going to be necessary throughout the end of the year may be intermingled with other functions that public health workers are doing for instance, that may not be eligible for reimbursement. >> so there is a number of efforts going on right now to vaccinate and ensure everyone has the opportunity to get vaccinated. you bring up a number of issues, whether it's vaccine hesitancy, availability to get individuals vaccinated. i do think there's specific resources available in the hhs appropriation and in our appropriation. those activities are covered between those, specifically depending on what the individual is doing. it may be our appropriation or it may be hhs. it's protective measures, and 95 masks, any
protective barriers, testing, anything that is an immediate testing measure to reopen. other federal agencies are funding efforts to maybe do outreach and investigation, plus we are doing community outreach campaigns right now with hhs, cdc, and state and local agencies, and we are bringing vaccine through many different efforts like mobile units, which are anything to do with actually vaccinating, would be eligible. all the mobile units we are providing support for, the national guard, vaccinators, all those kinds of things would be eligible. we are working with the committee to understand the specific issues and provide guidance on the most appropriate funding mechanism.
>> i appreciate it. thank you very much, senator. >> i just have to questions. looking to the future, hurricane and wildfire seasons are sort of around the corner. you and i spoke and i asked you as a native californian if anything was on fire, and fortunately, no. that's good, but i know, can you continue, are you concerned with the way you are spread out through covid and everything else, anticipating fire and hurricane season? you mentioned that you have adequate staffing availabilities for any disasters, but i was just curious and wanting to know if you were concerned about what could happen in these two seasons. >> i'm in the business of risk management and prioritization. if there's events that happened that require a lifesaving
response, i feel comfortable that we will always be able to respond to that. in addition to what fema has right now, about 2500 personnel are left that our responders can go out to events. i'm leveraging 500 people right now from the whole federal government to help with the vaccination effort. we have leveraged more on the rest of the federal government. right now, we have about 9000 people deployed to do vaccination. that includes about 5000 d.o.d. personnel. it's always a concern. that's something i watch. i look at future threat and i appreciate we have the resources to have a response that's bigger than fema. we continue to do that and build the capability so that collectively we can respond to those events. >> over the last several years
in your 25 years of experience, i am interested to know, what's situation has been your biggest challenge? has it been the covid response? or was it a particular disaster of event that you would say was the most difficult one you've had? the most difficult challenge? >> obviously, the biggest impact i have ever seen is covid. what it has done to our country, shut down the economy, the impact it has had, far beyond physical damage, that we traditionally see another disaster issues. it has been far greater than any other disaster here to four. having the whole government, the whole country and, the whole world affected at ones has been significant. i would put that up
there with 9/11 and katrina on my list of the biggest events that i have been involved with, all for different reasons. some are geographically unique, but they are all emotionally impactful to the whole country. as far as challenge, the challenge is always i think we all collectively have the same goal. save people, help people. it is how we get there and how we do that in an effort. if we are not unified, it makes that much more challenging. we need to use a system and a national response framework and all the systems that exist and the training we provide to the whole government, to state and local government, private sector, how do we involve individuals, private citizens involved in that, and how do we collectively get a unified effort. that's what needs to happen in those
big events. >> interesting. >> i want to ask a question on the supplemental firefighters grants. we put a lot of money into, let's see, a total of 400 million that was provided for assistance to firefighters and safer grant programs and this amount, 76, has been obligated in the assistance to firefighters grants, and i am concerned about the volunteer firefighters. apparently, i have gotten numerous anecdotal evidence that because of the lockdown and with covid there are volunteer firefighters that have not been able to raise the money they normally would through a blood drive, bake sale, something else that they
really rely on. apparently, it seems that volunteer firefighters, we kept trying to direct them to this program that sometimes they are applications are either insufficient or not in a timely fashion or something like that. is there any way that fema could be more helpful or we could be more helpful to fema to get information to our volunteer firefighters to know how and when and the best way to fill out these applications? because i believe some of the money has left that was set aside for our volunteer firefighters and it was not actually be able to be used. >> i am not aware of funding that has not been used. i know there is a focused effort of helping the volunteer firefighting organizations apply for assistance. we have
implemented a new fema grants system that makes it easier to apply and track some of the funding requests to brief you on the efforts we are doing across the country to help and really see and reach out to those organizations to see what the issue is and if there is any gaps in assistance based on what we've seen in the last year. >> thank you. we will follow up on that. one last question. the chairman mentioned in his comments there's 900 ongoing disasters and maybe four or five years ago with the previous fema director, one of the ideas that was put forward to me was some way to unwind these disasters to maybe state responsibilities or local responsibilities. that's an awful lot on a plate for fema, do you have any ideas on that or where do you see this work to be able to close the
book on some of these disasters and i know some of them have been on for probably decades? >> but i think that sometimes when you take into account, you know, all the requirements they need to close out these disasters and whether it be requirements for documentation, building permits, environmental and then all the auditing, sometimes it takes a while to close these disasters out. i think that looking at some opportunities, which we've done in the past, or look at things that allow for greater estimates across and simplify the process, so for example, simplify procedures that look at large and small projects. right now, that barr is a very low bar and
so what happens is for small projects, underneath 150,000 dollars, when there's a net small project under run, they don't need to request that unless there is an overrun, right? which makes the closeout much easier. so simply raising that bar would allow, you know, would be less complexity in the closeout part of that and give a little bit more flexibility to local governments on how they use any under runs, as long as it's used toward, you know, disaster, they would be able to use that but yeah. >> so an underground would be unspent money for specific purposes? >> yeah, exactly of ten projects, and you estimate 100,000 dollars per project and at the end of the day, you did it for 870,000 dollars because of efficiencies, so there would be some incentive there to local government, as long as the re-use that for mitigations or something like that, they be able to close out much quicker than right now, every project
being to the exact penny. and that's the problem now. every project is to the exact penny and anytime you have a program like that where incrementally adding dimes of dollars to close things out. >> thank you, thank you mister chair. >> thank you senator, let me finish up with one last question and that's on the brick program. obviously this is been a very popular account in 2020, fema was only about to fund only 14% of requested demand for brie exacerbated mitigation projects. i had an interesting meeting with some of my emergency management personnel in stratford, connecticut during the break, and one of the concerns they raised was concerns regarding the competitiveness of smaller jurisdictions, applications for funds when you have, you know, this much interest and particularly a lot of interest
from a larger jurisdictions. in connecticut we don't have counties, so either the state of connecticut applying or a municipality that may only have 20 or 20,000 individuals and in fact, on the shoreline, where you know, you've got some really important national assets like the northeast corridor radio, line, interstate 95. some of those communities, again, only may have 50,000 people in them and they worry about their ability to compete for brick allocations, especially with these bigger jurisdictions and putting together much larger applications. coming from region nine, you've got big jurisdictions, small jurisdictions, do you share that concern, is there a way to make sure that small municipalities get to compete fairly alongside big counties for brick dollars? >> yeah, so within the brick
program, there are some set asides within there to ensure that there is opportunity, a couple of them are -- they put aside 20 million dollars just for tribes so that they are able to compete, as i understand, a little bit over 60 tribes of already submitted applications for this brick program. also for small communities underneath a 3000, there is an incentive for a lot of modification -- to help them, especially small impoverished jurisdictions in that we are also providing direct assistance to sub grant used to help them with the application process and provide technical assistance in doing that. and so there's a number of things we're doing right now to ensure there is equitable opportunity knowing that, you know, if you get into a small community, he may not be aware of the program, they may not be
knowledgeable on how to apply it so warehousing with project scoping and setting aside funding to make sure that there is some kind of equitable opportunity for them to >> you know the problem here when you're only funding 14%, that is an incentive to apply for jurisdictions don't have an established writing operation. maybe not as big as incentive for city or county pumping out grant applications on a regular basis. they just sort of built in a risk tolerance for grant applications in a way that small communities cannot. that is not necessarily your problem. it is a problem that will fall through the subcommittee when it comes to allegations for these accounts we frankly have exacerbated this difficulty by not allocating a share of covid dollars into the brick account and probably should be funded in
a way also to $4 billion rather than $500 billion. a subject for our work. >> one of the things i did in my region as i took the risk of fire to significant my region and i developed different shooters on other product -- projects. maybe, special paint helps with fire protection. maybe clearing brush. maybe changing roof material and what we have done is created these and help them understand these projects are and provide the complexity as far as environmental program, legal issues they would experience in california and submit those applications. we have helped them scope these projects out and then the state of california threes projects, could start building these projects and my hope is over time, we have them on a shelf and we build a conveyor belt of
projects and we keep repeating those kinds of projects to build resiliency and a harder infrastructure and make it more resilient to those threats that we face. >> great, well thank you. thank you for your testimony today. thank you for your service to the country. hearing record will remain open for one week. questions should be submitted to the subcommittee staff of the close of business on wednesday, broke 21st. this subcommittee is now adjourned. -- april.
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