The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security held a hearing entitled “The Federal Role in Disaster Recovery and Response” on October 12.
Subcommittee members expressed concerns about efforts in the House of Representatives to offset emergency disaster funding and questioned witnesses, including Craig Fugate, Administrator, FEMA, and Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, about updated disaster funding needs for FY12.
HUD’s role in long-term disaster recovery was discussed. Subcommittee Chair Mary Landrieu said that “HUD was extraordinarily helpful in the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast.”
Hearing witness Fred Tombar, Senior Advisor for Disaster Programs, HUD, described the large role that HUD played in the housing recovery after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike. “Today, of the 40,000 families who relied on temporary government housing assistance when President Obama took office, we have helped 99% of them move into permanent housing. But we will not rest until we’ve completed the job for the remaining families,” said Mr. Tombar in his written testimony.
The National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF) was released on September 23, and provides guidelines on how federal agencies should coordinate and plan for disaster response and recovery activities (see Memo, 9/23). Mr. Tombar applauded the NDRF release in his testimony and said “HUD will be working closely with FEMA and our key housing partners to improve coordination of existing programs to help meet the needs of states and communities.”
The hearing was in part prompted by a debate over disaster funding earlier this fall. In September, it appeared that FEMA did not have sufficient funding to meet its obligations for the remainder of FY11, which ended on September 30. The House-passed continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through November 18 included an additional $1 billion for emergency disaster funding to meet these remaining needs. However, the measure was rejected by the Senate due to the fact that the supplemental funding was offset with cuts to a Department of Energy Loan Guarantee program. Congress traditionally does not offset disaster spending. Ultimately, FEMA determined that no additional funding was needed for FY11, and the final CR passed without with controversial provisions, thereby postponing the debate on disaster offsets (see Memo, 10/7).
All witness testimony is available at http://appropriations.senate.gov/ht-homeland-security.cfm?method=hearings.view&id=29f09837-e06f-4d44-ae97-7dda489fed1f