FEMA Administrator Brock Long and other federal and state officials reported to the House Homeland Security Committee at a hearing on March 15 about the lessons learned about preparedness, response and rebuilding related to the 2017 disasters. Mr. Long reported that 47 million (or nearly 16% of Americans) were affected by last year’s multiple disasters. FEMA processed 4.7 million applications through the Individual Assistance Program—more than Katrina, Sandy, Rita, and Wilma combined - in a period of a few months. Mr. Long called for streamlining the federal government-fragmented recovery processes involving 17 different agencies. “I’m going to ask you for more support to help me fix housing and give more granting authority to governors to give them more control,” he said.
Mr. Long called for money up-front rather than on the back-end for pre-disaster mitigation. Citing FEMA’s 2.3 million home inspections, he proposed FEMA do away with the majority of such inspections given how they slow the recovery process and urged instead the use of technology and trust in disaster survivors. He stated that the current, laborious risk-adverse system is set up solely to protect against fraud. As for housing recovery, Mr. Long said, “Regardless of the tools we are able to provide . . . permanent housing solutions are best addressed by insurance.”
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) complained about the inordinate number of FEMA Individual Assistance request denials in the Houston area. “The numbers of denials in our community were enormous,” she said. “They particularly hit minority communities.”
Full transcripts of the testimonies can are at: FEMA Administrator Brock Long; State of Texas COO Reed Clay; Director of Florida Division of Emergency Management Wesley Maul; Vice-Chairman of Puerto Rico Committee on Federal and International Relations Jose Melendez-Ortiz.
A recording of the full hearing can be found here.