The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications held a hearing, “Five Years Later: An Assessment of the Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act,” on October 25. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate was the sole witness.
Subcommittee Ranking Member Laura Richardson (D-CA) questioned Mr. Fugate about whether regional disability coordinators are in place in every FEMA region and whether they have adequate resources to meet their obligations. Mr. Fugate said that, to his knowledge, all the regional disability coordinator positions have been filled and that issues related to serving people with disabilities is the primary, but not sole, responsibility of each coordinator. Ms. Richardson argued that additional funding should be provided for disability coordination activities.
House Committee on Homeland Security Ranking Member Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said “FEMA’s implementation of the legislation is a mixed bag.” Mr. Thompson also said that “funding should never be held hostage to political ideology,” referencing the recent dispute over whether emergency disaster funding should offset by cuts in other areas (see Memo, 9/30).
Mr. Fugate responded that delays in replenishing the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) cause serious problems for FEMA because any delay creates uncertainty about whether there will be sufficient funding to address any future, unexpected disaster. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security held a hearing on disaster funding needs on October 12 (see Memo, 10/14).
The Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act (PKERMA) made some revisions to Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, which provides the statutory authority for most federal disaster response activities. However, PKERMA did not make all of the changes to the Stafford Act sought by advocates, including those who participate in the Katrina Housing Group convened by NLIHC.
Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) introduced S. 1630, the Disaster Recovery Act of 2011, on September 23. If enacted, S. 1630 would make many needed reforms to the Stafford Act (see Memo, 9/23).
Witness testimony is available at: http://homeland.house.gov/sites/homeland.house.gov/files/Testimony%20Fugate_0.pdf
An archived hearing webcast is available at: http://homeland.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-hearing-five-years-later-assessment-post-katrina-emergency-management-reform