House Committee Holds Hearing on Federal Disaster Response and Recovery Efforts

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on November 29, “Evaluating Federal Disaster Response and Recovery Efforts,” for which the NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) submitted questions. FEMA Administrator Brock Long, Major General Scott Spellmon with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Dr. Lynn Goldman of the Milken Institute of Public Health at George Washington University testified. 

The lion’s share of the questions from committee members were directed to Mr. Long, who repeatedly called for greater FEMA authority to block grant flexible federal disaster funds to state governors. “FEMA needs more granting authority to block grant funding down to a governor,” he said, “so that a governor can do housing the way he or she thinks that it would work best in his or her community, not how FEMA thinks it works best.” Representative Michael Cloud (R-TX) questioned the lack of transparent data from FEMA that local governments need to appropriately address their housing recovery needs. Mr. Long avoided the question about data transparency, reiterating FEMA’s need for more granting authority. Representative Cloud also raised the idea of using the FEMA trailers parked on airport tarmacs for FEMA personnel, so FEMA staff could be deployed more rapidly and so they did not take up limited, temporary housing options for displaced residents.

Representative Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) asked Mr. Long when FEMA would reconsider activating the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) which provides longer-term housing assistance and support services to help low-income people recover. Mr. Long said, “DHAP was the traditional housing program that we would use to help some of those who had been displaced. But after Sandy occurred, the Sandy Improvement Act gave FEMA new authorities to do what’s called direct lease. So basically, we have now been given the authority as a result of going through Sandy to do the same thing that DHAP basically accomplishes.” FEMA’s direct lease assistance does not accomplish what DHAP successfully did after previous disasters.

To review a side-by-side comparison of FEMA rental assistance with DHAP, see NLIHC’s “Setting the Record Straight

Watch the full hearing at:

The Top 10 Questions for FEMA, submitted by the DHRC, are available at:

NLIHC’s “Setting the Record Straight” fact sheet is available at: