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tv   FEMA Administrator Criswell Testifes on Agency Response Following...  CSPAN  November 30, 2021 12:25am-2:39am EST

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order. without objection, the chair is authorized to declare a recess of the committee at any time. i recognize myself an opening statement. the committee is holding this
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hearing to address the growing crisis posed by natural disasters and extreme weather events driven by climate change. between august 20 ninth and september 1, hurricane ida devastated the u.s. from the louisiana coast to new jersey and my home state of new york. this hurricane resulted in over 100 deaths, including 13 in new york city. new york and new jersey, more than 1000 miles from where this storm first made landfall, catastrophic flooding trapped people and flooded basement apartments and stranded vehicles. in louisiana, hurricane ida took down the electric grid, knocking out all eight transmission lines that deliver power to new york, new orleans, and downing more than 30,000 utility poles. nearly twice as many as hurricane katrina. more than one million people left without power.
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some still without power more than a month later. the unprecedented destruction unleashed by hurricane ida is part of a growing trend the federal government cannot ignore. from record-breaking fires in the west to devastating hurricanes in the south, rising sea levels threatening 40% of america's population near our coastlines, the destructive impact of climate change is rapidly escalating. the cost of ignoring this problem is growing. during the first half of 2021, the u.s. experienced eight disasters with losses totaling more than $1 billion. initial estimates losses from hurricane ida at between $53 billion and $64 billion. the government accountability office had climate change on its high risk 2013. in part because of concerns of the increasing cost of disaster response and recovery efforts. we are honored to be joined by
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fema administrator deanne criswell. thank you for being here. i know you and your team are working around the clock to respond to the ongoing recovery efforts and other pressing issues. your testimony is crucial, because there are thousands in new york, new jersey, louisiana, maryland, and other impacted communities desperate to get help and when they will get help. that includes understanding which steps fema is taking to speed up installation of temporary rooms on damaged homes and working with vulnerable populations to make sure their applications are complete and approved quickly. i'm interested in hearing about fema's efforts to address inequities and disaster readiness and recovery. vulnerable populations, people experiencing homelessness, undocumented immigrants, are more likely to suffer the consequences of an extreme
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weather event. yet they often face the biggest barriers to getting help. the biden administration is taking important steps to make it easier for disaster survivors to receive assistance, including waving a requirement that survivors have a d or other form of proof to receive assistance. fema has also taken steps to assist vulnerable populations by developing sheets tailored to renters and undocumented immigrants and non-english speakers. these are important steps, but more needs to be done. it is crucial we invest in climate resilience and post disaster assistance to advance racial and economic justice so we do not leave behind our most vulnerable communities. i would also like to hear from you about how we can improve efforts to build climate resilient communities. one critical step the
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administration could take is to approve federal data on the extent of climate change in our communities. data across the public and private sectors to better understand the future risk of flooding, communities can take action to keep people out of harms way. congress also must act. today, i reintroduced the federal agency climate prep act. it will ensure communities have a say in how federal agencies manage climate action plans. it is crucially making sure taxpayer dollars go to work where they are most needed. i was proud to support the $28 million for victims of hurricane ida that congress approved. i was disappointed 175 of my republican colleagues voted against this bill, including many members who needed the emergency funding by democrats. i am hopeful as extreme weather
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becomes more frequent and more deadly, we can agree on a bipartisan basis that impacted americans deserve our help. but recovery funds are not enough. congress also needs to make long-term investments to stop global warming before it is too late. that is why i call on my colleagues to support president biden's build back better act. this transformational bill will make investments to solve the climate crisis while upgrading our infrastructure so we can better prepare for future disasters. in the long run, these investments will save money by reducing the extraordinary costs from natural disasters and extreme weather for climate change. i now recognized my distinguished ranking member for an opening statement. >> thank you. i want to thank the witness, fema administrator deanne criswell to appear for the
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committee. i'm surprised democrats have finally called a witness from the biden administration to testify before the committee. maybe the chamber will upgrade -- that was given earlier this year. while i appreciate fema administrator criswell's testimony, i look forward to hear more about helping those impacted by natural disasters. it is critical to me that the democrats have refused to call to testify. chairwoman maloney, when will democrats call department of homeland secretary maracas to discuss the process along our southern border, or secretary of defense often to explain the debacle that has been the afghanistan withdrawal? or to address the growing inflation created by the biden administration that has gotten so bad, even stores like dollar tree are raising prices on american consumers. in fact, i have sent three
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letters this year urging committee democrats to call a hearing to examine the biden border crisis. since january 2020 1,000 of illegal immigrants, including -- including unaccompanied minors. there is an ongoing humanitarian crisis with no end in sight, and no policy to address this issue from the biden administration. i've outlined in my letters to chairwoman maloney one of the most troubling issues, the number of unaccompanied children entering the border and currently in u.s. custody. thousands of unaccompanied cogent. the biden border crisis became so dire in march of this year that the administration was forced to activate fema to support the response for unaccompanied children. over 90 days, fema supported to get unaccompanied children out of custody and into hhs placements. fema, the agency charged with
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the mission of assisting american citizens and recovery from disasters, had to be activated further illustrates the extent of the crisis created by the biden administration disaster policies. i hope you can address my concerns with regard to the activation of fema to use critical resources reserved for americans faced with natural disasters to respond to crisis created by this administration at the border with regard to unaccompanied children. i would like for the fema administrator and members of the committee to hear from mr. higgins with regard to issues he and his constituents have faced with fema's response to natural disaster recovery in louisiana. i understand people are waiting on critical assistance from fema, and we look forward to getting answers. i will yield the balance of my time to the gentleman from louisiana, mr. higgins, to give an opening statement. >> i thank the gentleman and
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ranking member and chairwoman maloney for holding today's hearing. thank you for giving me a few moments to speak. while this hearing is focused on hurricane ida, i would be remiss to not speak on an ongoing hurricane recovery in southwest louisiana. just over a year ago, southwest louisiana was ravaged by brutal hurricanes, florian and delta, back to back, only to be followed by severe weather from winter storms and major flood events. southwest louisiana is appreciative of the $1.6 billion fema and other agencies have delivered to help with immediate response costs, but this is insufficient for what is needed for long-term recovery. hurricanes laura and delta have been estimated to cost $16 billion in damage to the region. we delivered thus far about 1/10
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of what is estimated the cost of laura and delta. even the passage of last week's resolution, the funds are over a year late and fall short of the necessary federal response. the entire louisiana delegation, including our governor, has written 14 letters to administration and congressional leaders to get the funding out the door. yet in political reality, they have injured the lives of southwest louisiana citizens for over 400 days. in closing, i would hope that although we can recognize intellectually we may struggle as a body to address what has been referred to as extreme weather, perhaps the chairwoman would agree to work with myself, my office, and republican members to deal with extreme bureaucracy that we face. we can certainly address it,
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whereby response to natural disasters across the country that affect americans at one time or another in a very negative way, that we can work together to streamline the bureaucracy and red tape that we face as a citizenry attempting to recover. madam chair, i yield. mr. ranking member, thank you for yielding the time. >> the gentleman yields back. -- the committee is conducting other -- we have deanne criswell, who did an incredible job in this one, to answer all your questions. she has been to new jersey and other sites to work with people and respond with fema. the truth is this committee is
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actively engaged in waste fraud and abuse. they have a joint investigation with the select subcommittee and emergent biosolutions, a firm that receives huge vaccine contracts, but had to destroy millions due to's efficiencies in its manufacturing. our bipartisan investigation into the joint strikeforce fighter helped push lockheed martin to return $70 million to the department of defense, about 35 programs, to compensate for defective spare parts. and waste fraud and abuse, the committee helped create the pandemic and responds accountability. the general overseeing the trillions of dollars in response to the pandemic, roughly $17 for every dollar spent. we have not shied away from
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constructive oversight of the biden administration. in the last two weeks, we conducted oversight of the treatment of haitian asylum-seekers, the classified briefing, a request of the minority, on afghanistan, and sent a bipartisan letter on the fbi's tailing of ransomware attack's. our oversight stands in strong contrast to republicans who turned a blind eye to four years of outrageous abuses by the former president. with that, i would like to get back to the critical importance of today's hearing. first i would like to introduce our witnesses. today, we are privileged to hear from the administrator of the federal emergency management agency, deanne criswell. the witness will be un-muted so we can swear her in. please raise your right hand, do you swear or affirm the testimony you are about to give
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the truth is the whole truth, nothing but the truth so help you god? >> i do. >> let the record show the witness answered in the affirmative. thank you, and without objection, your written testimony will be made part of the record. with that, you are now recognized for your opening testimony. thank you for being here and thank you for your public service in a new york prior to coming to the federal government. >> good morning. thank you chair maloney, ranking member komar, and members of the committee. i thank you for the opportunity to testify about our response and recovery efforts following hurricane ida, and the longer-term investments we must make to increase our nation's resilience in the face of climate change. climate change affects every single american. it is the biggest crisis facing our nation. it is making natural disasters more frequent, more intense, and more destructive. mitigating the effects of climate change is one of my top
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priorities for fema. hurricane ida has demonstrated the challenges presented by our changing climate. the benefits of mitigation investments, and the importance of equity in our response and recovery. fueled in part by warmer than normal waters in the gulf of mexico, hurricane ida's wind speeds intensified to 150 miles per hour in less than 24 hours. the category four storm became the fifth strongest hurricane to ever make landfall in the continental united states. storms normally break apart quickly when they make landfall. ida remained a category 4 storm for four hours. ida's impacts have affected states and communities from the gulf of mexico to the northeast. ida left one million people in louisiana and mississippi without power at a time of sweltering heat. after transitioning and accelerating to a post-tropical
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cyclone, ida caused widespread flooding in northeastern united states, breaking multiple rainfall records and causing catastrophic floods in new york, new jersey, and pennsylvania. hurricane ida caused over 100 direct fatalities, and my heart goes out to the families who lost loved ones. for all its severe impact, hurricane ida was notable in other ways. first, the storm came ashore 16 years to the day after hurricane katrina made landfall and caused widespread flooding in new orleans. this time, the levees in new orleans held, reflecting significant investments made in the aftermath of katrina to strengthen the levee system. second, fema was well prepared for ida. thanks to congressional action in the 16 years since, we have authorities that give us the flexibility and ability to lean in a much quicker than we have in the past to bring the full
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force of the federal family into position so we can respond quickly. we pre-positioned millions of liters of water, millions of meals, specialized response teams, and numerous resources from our federal community to deploy based on the immediate needs after the storm had passed. at fema, we say disaster response is locally executed, state managed, and federally supported. i am proud of how well we supported our state and local partners in responding to this storm. this is particularly true, given the challenges involving responding to a disaster made the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. third, as this storm hit the u.s., fema was ready to implement important policy changes to help underserved communities, which are often disproportionately impacted by disasters to obtain individual assistance to the full extent that they are illegible for it.
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previously, homeowners have run into difficulties proving they own their homes. if their property was handed down informally through the years. to address this, we expanded the forms of documentation to prove ownership. including documents like receipts for major repairs or improvements, court documents, public official letters, mobile home park letters, and self certification for mobile homes and travel trailers as a last resort. in addition, fema has changed the way it calculates the thresholds for property loss is qualify for direct housing. such as a trailer or mobile home. this ensures equitable damage evaluation regarding its of the site -- regardless of the size of his damage. the recovery phase for hurricane ida continues as we speak. we will deal with the consequences for quite some time. even as we do that work, we must make the kinds of generational
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level investment necessary to reduce the impacts of climate fueled disasters we will face in the months and years ahead. mitigation investments are incredibly worthwhile. an independent study by the national institute of building science in 2019 found every dollar and federal hazard mitigation grant invested saves american taxpayer and estimated six dollars in future spending. at fema, the cornerstone of our mitigation efforts and infrastructure and communities program. i would like to thank congress for providing the legislative tools to create for it for the format of 2018. i establish a reliable stream of funding to make larger mitigation products -- projects through our nationwide program. it provides a critical opportunity for state,
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territorial, tribal, and local governments to invest in a more resilient nation. reduce disaster suffering and lessen future disaster costs. earlier this year, president biden visited fema to announce he was increasing the financing available to $1 billion for fiscal year 2021 application period. these are the kind of investments that would protect lives and property in the face of the future storms we are going to face. another important element of fema's mitigation efforts is the hazard mitigation program. in august, resident biden approved more than $3.46 billion for the hmgp program for the covid-19 disaster declaration. as a result, every state, tried, and territory that received a major disaster declaration in response to the covid-19 pandemic will be eligible to receive substantial levels of
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funding to invest in mitigation projects that reduce risks from natural disasters. for eligible mitigation products, it can cover 79% of the total project cost while states or communities cover the remaining share. we will be urging relevant agencies in your state to ensure these funds are delivered to disadvantaged communities and would welcome your support in this effort. one more critical piece is the fema flood mitigation assistance program that helps provide financial and technical assistance to states and communities to reduce the risk of flood damage to homes and businesses through buyouts, elevation, and other activities. flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster in the u.s. the direct average annual flood losses have quadrupled from approximately $4 billion per year in the 1980's to roughly
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$17 billion per year between 2010 and 2018. the bipartisan infrastructure investment jobs act approved by the senate in august would provide $3.5 billion over five years for the fma program. the biden administration urged the house to approve the bipartisan infrastructure bill without delay. i would like to add my voice in calling for the swift passage. mitigation is particularly important for underserved communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. our mitigation programs, we will keep equity considerations top of mind, and will include them in competitive scoring process or programs such as fma. equity is one of my top priorities at fema. the intersection of climate change and equity is of particular concern for our agency as the impacts are worse for vulnerable communities. in closing, i would like to
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thank all of the first responders across our nation, our amazing fema workforce, and interagency partners for their tireless work in responding to hurricane ida. they continue to answer the call to respond to disasters fueled by climate change, which truly is the crisis of our generation. the intensification of natural disasters will be our new normal. but this is a call to action. i look forward to continuing to work with congress to make our nation more resilient. i would be pleased to answer any questions you have. >> thank you very much for your service and your testimony. i recognize myself for five minutes. i know you visited new york city with president biden and myself after hurricane ida and saw the devastating loss and suffering brought to new yorkers. as a former commissioner of the new york city emergency management office, the office
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that rebuilt new york after 9/11, incredibly important, you know how unusually intense the rainfall was for new york city. it overwhelmed drainage systems and caused a flash flooded. ground in their basement apartments, had to receive -- retrieve bodies, including a two-year-old toddler. you can see a picture after one basement apartment was flooded. when we looked up the addresses of the five homes where new yorkers died on fema flood map, i was surprised they were located in areas having been marked as minimal flood hazards. they understand the fema flood maps are intended to be tools and provide information on some flooding risks, but not all, but do local emergency responders sometimes use fema maps to
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determine which residents should be evacuated and what areas to prioritize after a flood? yes or no? >> thank you so much for the question. my heart goes out to those families who lost loved ones due to this event. as you stated, our maps are designed to be tools to account for postal -- coastal inundation and river flooding. they don't take into account the storm sewer systems. we had record rainfall in new york. this is a sign that our infrastructure had an opportunity to be upgraded. so we can prevent future flash flooding. we will continue to see these severe rain events across the country. we need to take action now to
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mitigate them. >> that is great and i'm sure these were overloaded in new york. will you commit to updating flood maps in new york city to better reflect stormwater and drainage systems? >> they are community maps. we will work with all communities. >> in addition to updating maps, can you update stormwater and drainage system so that they are more resilient for the flooding? >> some of those upgrades could be eligible under our mitigation program.
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>> we saw how crucial it is to invest in this. new orleans has a special system to reduce risk. this brought three inches parade per hour. how can we become more resilient to extreme weather? >> i think you raise a really good point.
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we continue to see more and more severe rain events. we need to start thinking about the future risks our communities are facing. >> my time is running out. do you agree that it is important that these agencies plan ahead for the next disaster and local communities have a voice in that plan? >> i think it is critical that we continue to plan for future happenings. this will continue to change and we will be faced with more severe events. >> i now recognize the gentleman from louisiana.
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>> before i begin my statement, i would like to introduce several documents for the record. one is an official fema document discussing the changes. >> without exception, all are excepted. >> thank you for visiting louisiana in late august. they are still outstanding from the 2020 hurricane season.
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there are very slim margins of revenue. they are still waiting on public assistance. they need fema inspectors to come appraise the damage. i appreciate you being here. i look forward to our discussions. fema's response to these disasters is an issue within itself.
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the overall federal response is always seemingly late. politicians and bureaucrats discuss the need for better mechanisms to respond to these disasters. the answer is definitely not to create more bureaucracy. the bureaucracy we have is slow. >> this is an example of the
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bureaucracy we are frustrated with from fema. there are 82 categories of projects currently outstanding. this is from a storm a year ago. some of these have been approved. but there are very few. most of the requests are still outstanding. geoff davis parish has $2 million worth of requests. these parishes cannot afford to carry that for a year. the fort of lake charles has submitted multiple projects. they are yet to receive one validation or determination from fema. can you explain why the school district and local governments and others have had to wait in
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some cases over 300 days to receive reimbursements that they clearly -- qualify for? is it a funding issue? or is it because of bureaucracy? >> i certainly appreciate your advocacy for your constituents in lake charles. we discussed this previously. i did make a trip down to lake charles and visited with them to better understand the struggles. i brought my senior leadership team. some of the things we learned were brand-new. my team has been following up on it. i don't have the specifics on the school district you mentioned. it sounds like it is taking too long. my timo continue to work with representatives there to make sure we are moving this forward
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as fast as we can. >> i think the administrator for her candid answer. we will communicate directly with you and your office. my time is expired. >> thank you for this hearing. this hurricane was felt in the northeast. we see a rising number of natural disasters. i think that is because of
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climate change. and therefore an increased reliance on the federal government. your own national advisory council as indicated that the public assistance program most benefits communities that can afford to pay and navigate the complexity of the other agencies . what actions is fema taking to assist existing disaster recovery programs? so that they are more equitable for all communities? including those that cannot afford to pay required matching funds? >> thank you for that question. all of our programs have
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opportunities for improvement. since i arrived here, i directed them to take a people first approach. we need to understand the unique needs of individual communities. and individuals themselves. we made several changes going into this hurricane season in order to improve the equitable delivery of our assistance. understanding that i have seen firsthand how these communities have difficulties. you have my commitment to continue to work on this
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program. we don't always go for this one-size-fits-all approach. >> thank you. some communities simply do not have the technical staff like engineers and grant managers and the necessary capacity to submit a complex grant application. has fema developed an inventory of resources yet? >> what we have developed is our mitigation action portfolio. that provides examples of mitigation projects that have
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been done across the country. i don't know if that is exactly answering the question. i will look into it and see what you are talking about. we also provide technical assistance. we are doing direct technical assistance. we offer this to 10 communities during the first round. we have doubled up to 20 communities. we are identifying the communities that need this assistance the most so we can reach those populations that would otherwise not try to apply. >> thank you for that. the gao has published a report
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in which it notes the complexity of the application process. the technical capacity required to successfully applied. it is a problem. what specific opportunities has fema identified to simplify or shorten the application process? >> there are a couple of ways we can help communities. we have a shorter application for smaller amounts. there are always opportunities for us to improve. i have asked my grant section to take a look at all of our grant programs to get a better understanding of what we are missing from communities and
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understand what the barriers are to ask for assistance. >> time is expired. i yield back. >> the gentleman from south carolina is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you. i would like to address your answer. we have a crisis of the border. in seven months, we have had over 175,000 illegals cross over the border. it is a medical and literary crisis. we have an inflation crisis.
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along with food and everything else. we have a military crisis in afghanistan. we have americans left behind. this administration has simply not addressed these crises. we have had different people testify before us. why aren't they appearing to answer questions? why is janet yellen not here answering questions? this administration has put this country in a crisis mode from the day it took office. in all due respect, those are just words. if you are in the private sector , you cannot give the kind of
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answer that you gave. they asked you questions i have not been addressed. you said you would addressed specifics. why the delay? >> recovery takes a long time and it is complicated. when you look in any event like these hurricanes, there are a lot of comp getting factors that make it even longer to recover. there are a number of things we can do to speed it up. >> in all due respect, when you receive a request, was louisiana responded to? did your agency respond to each one of them? >> i do not have a specific of a letter received prior to my administration.
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i know we have addressed the requests i have gotten my time here in office. >> you have been there how long? >> i started at the end of april. >> you would have looked over past requests? if this had been in the private sector, you would've had a problem. the president rescinded the proclamation declaring a national emergency at the southern border. why was your agency deployed to the southern border? >> fema is really good at coordinating across federal agencies. it is one of the skill sets that we bring to the table. one of the things we do best. we were asked to come in and support our partners. we had a very limited role.
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it is done more throughout interagency avenues. i don't have the exact dollar amount. this has been reimbursed by those agencies. >> could you get the numbers for us? could you report on why you are there? the dollars that were spent? are you still there? >> we have nobody supporting that mission directly. it is all being supported through normal interagency venues. >> are there any other outstanding issues with other states that your agency needs to respond to or has not responded to? >> i would half to know specifically what types of events you are talking about. we are still managing recovery
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from disasters across this country. we will continue to support those. >> you lead off with the fact that climate change is an overriding issue. i guess money is no object when it comes to combating climate change. are you aware of a study at m.i.t. that said every nation that complies with the paris accords, it would only reduce carbon emissions by .2%. >> i am not aware of that study. >> could you take a look at it and give us your thoughts on it and give us some idea if that is true or not? that is a pretty big statement for them to make. >> the gentleman's time has expired. the gentleman from virginia is now recognized for five minutes.
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>> thank you so much for having this hearing. i must say my friend just talked about crises. he is absolutely right. the biden administration inherited endless crises from the trump administration. everything from an insurrection at the capital to a pandemic that was made so much worse by the lack of response from the trump administration. we just voted for a continuing resolution for national disaster relief. 175 of my republican colleagues voted against it. your budget has been zeroed out
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by some of my colleagues. is that a crisis to you? could it create a crisis for america in terms of preparedness for disasters and response to disasters? >> i do appreciate that. we have the support of the american people. that would have an impact on our ability to protect lives. >> thank you for that diplomatic answer. you are doing nuts and bolts relief and recovery. as the frequency of hurricanes reaching land increased over the last decade? >> what we are seeing is the
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number of severe weather events continues to increase. it becomes more severe and intense. >> i was looking at some interesting data. in 2017, three hurricanes hit the continental united states. the cumulative damage of those events that affected puerto rico, texas, and order, was $265 billion, a record. the question becomes, given climate change, when you do your planning, what do your experts tell you? should we expect more? or are we out of the woods?
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>> i think what we are seeing from the impacts of climate change is we can expect to see more events like you just mentioned. it is so important that we start to think about what future risk will be. so we can reduce the impact of these disasters. >> are you also working with state administrators to build a resiliency planning? flooding is more frequent. title surges are more frequent -- tidal surges are more frequent. we have seen this in new york. the rise of ocean levels is affecting places like manhattan. and shutting down subways.
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can you tell us a little bit about that quickly? >> states and local jurisdictions are required to have hazard mitigation plans which addressed some of the concerns you talked about. fema does provide assistance. we also find the development of those plans. what we need to do is work with them closely to think about what are the future risks you are going to face? so the next generation of hazard mitigation planning is thinking about the future. one of the kite -- one of the crises our children and grandchildren are going to face so we can better protect against them? >> the gentleman from pennsylvania is now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you. natural disasters and flooding pose an enormous risk to businesses, crops, infrastructure. they also jeopardize the safety
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and well-being of americans nationwide. i think we can all agree that flood prevention and protection are essential tools to mitigate damages caused by severe weather. they have the potential to decimate communities like the ones all across pennsylvania and the nation. events like hurricane ida and other storms that took place this year underscore the need for our communities to remain resilient when challenged with these storms. that all starts with investing in disaster protection. in pennsylvania, the williamsport levy is -- levee is the second-biggest project of its kind. it protects pennsylvanians from catastrophic flooding area it was completed in 1955. it is in desperate need of repairs.
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it was named as a priority. it was called the single greatest threat to maintaining and pursuing economic resilience. thank you for being here today. i understand you have experience with emergency management in the northeast, having served the state of new york previously. in many cases in new york there are plenty of river towns like that here in pennsylvania. what do you believe are some of the most pressing disaster needs for communities like these? >> i think the example you gave is a really great example. really understanding what our current risk is. looking at the age of our infrastructure.
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we have to understand whether or not the infrastructure that was built decades ago is no adequate to support the extreme weather events we are starting to see and we will continue to see moving forward. i think it is critically important for all of us. we have a shared responsibility to look at what we can do to update current infrastructure. so they can reduce the risk, reduce the impact from these weather events. >> i agree with that. are there ways we can streamline items in the delivery process for residents in priority flood protection projects? like the one in williamsport? >> i do not know the specifics about that project, but i think there are always ways we can work together to streamline the delivery of projects. i appreciate that.
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going back to 1955, we want to be able to lower the risk of severe damage from us process standpoint. we certainly need that flood protection in central pennsylvania because it does protect families, businesses, it is so important from that standpoint. if there are things we can look at and do to lower the risk of severe damage by having a streamlined process, i would like to be able to work with you and your team on that. to benefit the areas i represent, but many other people in congress who certainly need the help. anything we can do to help. >> absolutely, congressman. i will have my team it back and see if there's something specific we can do. >> you mentioned these mitigation projects were
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completed before i was born. i have been in the area along time, it is so important that we protect. that is our job, people that work for the individuals that pay our salaries, whether we are congress or fema, our responsibility is to the people of the united states of america. we need to make sure their money is being invested to protect their interests. i appreciate your time to be here today, looking forward to working with you and your team funding important issues. thank you. i yield back. >> the gentleman from maryland is now recognized for five minutes. [no audio] your muted.
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is he there? ok. the gentlelady from new york, is now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, chairwoman and to administrator --administrator criswell, for not only joining us today but visiting our communities in new york, people devastate by hurricane and also for your flexibility in implementation of our covid protocol program which is helped families across the country recover from the devastation of the pandemic. in addition to some of the other natural disasters we've seen across the country. i would like to seek unanimous consent to cement to the record a full testimony of why my
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constituents regarding the experience post hurricane ida? >> without objection. >> she wrote to my office quote i look out the window and saw a cars uncontrollably adrift. a woman waiting waste deep in the street, these are some of -- wading waist deep in the street. i believe fema can mitigate an like theirs. earlier this year, you told the new york times that the climate change is the prices of our generation. i think you're right. i have been doing some digging, according to agency data, and 2005 there were 48 major disaster declarations. in 2020, there were 104 major
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disaster declarations, more than double that number. the climate research commission by the city of new york projected that in 2015, the number of -- rainfall of at least four inches would increase by as much as 67% the end of the decade. that is to the. between -- that is compared to the period between 1970 and 2000. his fema operating and planning ahead with similar projections for the climate crisis? >> congresswoman, thank you for hosting me in new york city, being able to see some of the impacts we saw, what people experience from hurricane ida, completely devastating to many of those individuals. i think the data you just mentioned, but that highlights is what i am stressing here, we have to stop focusing all of our efforts on historical risk.
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the risks we faced in the past and look for future risk and better understand without risk might be. that is hard to do, it is not tied -- tangible. we have to be able to be comfortable with understanding the potential for the future risk and investment it is going to take in order to protect against that future risk. i'm committed with my team to working with locals as their upgrading their mitigation program -- plans. looking at what their future risks will be and help them better understand what that future risk, future threat from climate change is going to be. >> thank you. if you could list some of the measures, one of the things i have been thinking about is as climate change gets worse, the way we are going to have to approach not just disaster response, but disaster prevention, is going to have to evolve with the increasing threat. that includes our approach within fema. my question, if you could list
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measures that would aid or a shift in shifting -- in responding to more frequent natural disasters, what would some of those measures be? is it more funding for staff, increasing or growing into disaster correction, streamlined response measures during disaster relief time? internal reorganization? from your birdseye view, where some of the things we need to know on the congressional side, the present -- potential for expanding authorization that you feel is going to be necessary in the coming years and decades. >> there's two things i would talk about right now. one, we used to see a very cyclical disaster response cycle. we would reset in the winter and get ray for the next disaster season. we don't see that any longer. our team has been working hard and they are working year-round to support the different types of weather events we are seeing.
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that is going to continue. we are taking a hard look at how -- how do we create year-round zoster workforce they can keep up with the demand of the disasters we are seeing. the only way in the long term, reduce impact so we don't have to responsible much. we need to continue to educate communities about the importance of reducing impacts, putting in communitywide mitigation projects in order to protect citizens. >> inc. you very much. >> the gentlelady yields back. the gentlelady from new mexico is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you madam chair, i really appreciate the hearing. i want to piggyback on something my colleague said regarding the border. just because it is such an important part of this entire process. we know that there is a crisis
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at the border. 450,000 people came illegally in 2020. over 1.5 million have come in so far this year. i do not think this administration inherited a crisis at the border, i think he created a crisis. i would like to know, are there policies made by this administration that caused the crisis or uptick in crossings on the southern border, the illegal crossing? >> congresswoman, fema's role is to support the response to disasters. we do not get involved in policy regarding immigration. i've have to do for to the secretary. -- defer you to the secretary. >> you give a couple examples of how fema was able to provide hhs and others support to move the children, unaccompanied minors,
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under protective custody. >> one of the things fema does so well is helping to coordinate interagency efforts and large, complicated structures. we were able to put a process in place that helps them be successful in managing that mission. it is how we managed any of the events we respond to, as far as helping with the process, the flow, putting the organization in place that can facilitate decision-making and setting benchmarks and goals we want to achieve. we were able to reduce the amount of time children were in custody, the amount of time they spent with hhs. >> thank you. going back to some of the services, this is more for clarity. i know people think of flooding in new mexico, we have a large amount of rainfall in some of our areas. this is for clarifying, some communities and counties believe that they cannot ask or apply
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for fema grants unless the state declares that specific area and emergency, is that correct or are there programs were counties and communities can go directly to fema? >> congresswoman, i would have to understand more of the specifics, they cannot apply for public assistance grants unless there's a state declared disaster. for like the bricks program and sub mitigation systems program does not require state disaster declaration. there's is also our preparedness grant program. i would have to know specifically which types of grants they are talking about. i would be happy to have my team follow up with you. >> i would appreciate that, we have a lot of small communities that work hard and do not have the ability to do some of these repairs. it is affecting those communities, but nothing that can be called a state disaster.
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i invite you to come to new mexico to look at our rural communities, you give -- you don't think of flooding in new mexico, but it happens. it is devastating for those in those areas. i appreciate you for your hard work, the communication is open. if you could have your people reach out to our office, i would like to push some of this information out to the districts i represent. >> absolutely, thank you for the offer. >> i yield back. >> i would like to respond to your earlier comments, although we do not want to be distracted from today's topic, i do want to note that migration across the border did not start under president biden, it started long before his presidency and this congress. the cruel child separation policy of the trump administration did nothing to address through causes of the
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problem. this is an important hearing on fema and its response to ida. i would now like to call on the gentlelady from michigan. you are now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you chairwoman and administrator. when i talked to my residence, they're not talking to me about the broken immigration system and they're saying can you get the sewage out by yard. there is a river in front of my harm. -- and from my home. i want -- we have invested the critical amount of money that we need to -- that we have a climate crisis in our country. i hope under your leadership, changes can be made.
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flooding is the most common costly natural disaster in the united states. i have seen it. my home has been flooded four times in last two months. your team on the ground here have been meeting with compassionate -- [indiscernible] they had no safety net to address the flooding in our homes. you know that fema requires an updated flood map? >> yes ma'am. >> [indiscernible] where critical infrastructures built, who gets evacuated. [indiscernible]
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fema's flood maps may give false impressions that they have little to no flood risk. we are seeing fema officials on the ground can tell you -- data released by your organization calls for street foundation which uses [indiscernible] 8.7 year -- a .7 million more properties are at risk for a century flood. this is serious. anything i can do to be a partner in this. does fema plan to have updated data in the method they used to include forward-looking climate projections and flood maps such as heavy rainfall and sea levels -- c level rises? -- sea level rises? >> thank you for the question. you represent my home state.
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designed primarily to support what we're seeing from coastal flooding or river flooding. they do not necessarily reflect the rain events that would cause some of the urban flooding we have seen. we work with the communities to help them update their community flood maps as they need to. we would be happy to work with communities to incorporate additional data they may have to better portray the risk they may be experiencing. >> i appreciate that, i think we need to go further in providing [indiscernible] many of them don't have the know all in regards to that. they have been a priority in pushing the state to provide [indiscernible] we need to start thinking about how do we do some of the preventive measures in place to make sure people have that safety net, that they are
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covered in regards to flood insurance, infrastructure implementation. my local communities, we are not prepared for this flooding. i don't know how i can go back to them and say hey, i need you all to figure out -- [indiscernible] i am a social worker at heart, my smaller community, they don't have that capacity. we need to step up. we need to look at these foundation reports coming out, let's put some of that data point in their in regards to where [indiscernible]
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let's change that culture and let us not wash our hands, we have a role here to get information out there. we can do more. >> what you speak of amplifies what i have been saying. this is the crisis of our generation. we all have a shared responsibility to make sure we are better understanding what the risks are that we are going to face in the future. we have a lot of work to do. fema has a lot of work to support our communities and helping to understand with those risks are. >> the gentlelady yields back. the gentlelady from florida is now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you madam chair. administrator criswell, it is good to see you. i would be remiss if i didn't start off by thanking you.
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u.n. your incredible team, you could not have represented fema better nor dunmore hands-on work than anyone could during the surfside disaster in my congressional district. we are still dealing with that crisis. families have been torn apart. i appreciate the president's quick reaction, your teams help. there are some things that we continue to sort through and i have some questions. if we can follow up afterwards, that would be helpful. >> absolutely, ma'am. >> thank you on behalf of my community. shifting to hurricane ida, which made landfall in louisiana, that was a category four hurricane
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and quickly became one of the most devastating national disasters in u.s. history. being from the state of florida, i'm quite familiar with the experience of the impact of national -- natural disasters. in this case, over the course of 24 hours, ida strengthen from a category one to a category four. winds increased 150 miles an hour. they were unable to safely evacuate. that is a story officials in florida are too familiar with. as the storm moves across the southeast, across the mid-atlantic, intense rainfall brought dangerous conditions to communities in its path. i show on the screen a picture of the louisiana -- flooding in louisiana and in new jersey. my first question, can you underscore why hurricane ida consomme people off guard? >> congresswoman i will start with the fact that it
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intensified so rapidly. it went from just a tropical wave into a category for hurricane in a short amount of time. this is what we are starting to see more often. it is giving state officials less time to be able to put plans in place, where they normally had several days to put those plans in place. that timeframe is continuing to get shorter and shorter as these storms intensify more quickly. >> it feels like that window of opportunity is shrinking so quickly. in new york, though the area was bracing for the storm, the city was unable to predict the severity of flooding that would hit. emma does have a warning system that works with our local warnings. as the storms came through, emergency alerts blared through cell phones and warned residents of dangerous flash floods, that they should head for higher
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ground, one of those alerts said quote this is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation. do you believe that that warning system worked as intended for ida? are there steps that fema or local governments could take to improve the way information was shared. this was the first time new york ever issued a flash flood emergency. >> the system is an excellent tool that helps to warn individuals across the country for a variety of disasters. it has worked successfully across the country. when you are in an area at that you have not had to use it before, it is hard to understand what the significance might be. we all have a lot of work to do to continue to educate our communities when we are doing our public preparedness campaigns on the importance of when you get an alert like this, that you need to take it seriously. at the same time, we also have a lot of work to do educate our communities about their risks
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might be. so they know when something happens, what are your unique risks where you live and what types of alerts should you be looking out for? >> one last question. there are some eight long-term strategies we need to take, nothing -- climate resilience is one of them. as a member of the appropriations community -- committee, how does few up -- fema work with the noaa, is there more that can be done to encourage residents of our most vulnerable communities to prepare for storms or other severe weather events? >> noaa, the national weather service, the national hurricane service are amazing partners. they let us know with the current threats are. we also work with them, we are working closely with noaa right now as we are trying to assess
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with the futurists will be. to develop tools for local communities, better plan for these impacts are going to beat so they can put the proper plans in place. we will continue to work closely with them to develop these products so that we can get additional information into the hands of these communities. >> thank you. >> inc. you. the gentlelady yields back. the gentleman from georgia is now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, madam chair for holding this hearing. it is well documented that natural disasters exacerbate inequality carried communities of color are disproportionately vulnerable. moreover, people of color are more likely to die from the negative effects of climate change. with hurricane night -- when
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hurricane ida struck new orleans, predictably, black americans and nonwhite communities suffered the brunt of the devastation. hurricane ida is one more example in a long history of poor, marginalized communities getting disproportionately hurt by natural disaster. that is why when it comes time to rebuild in the wake of a natural disaster, the federal government should prioritize, rather than deprecate historically marginalized neighborhoods. it is common for many black families to hold title to what is known as air property. when a property owner dies without a wealth, their home and land is passed down over generations to their heirs, land title becomes cloudy. because of an array of racist policies in the past, black
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americans, particularly in the south were precluded from the legal system and unable to obtain deeds and titles to their land. how is fema meeting the needs of historically oppressed communities who are unable to abide by existing guidelines, which were designed to exploit them. what changes have been made to ensure that those who can't show clear title to their homes can receive assistance from fema? >> you raise such an important question. it is something that when i came into office i started to hear about. i knew that we could do better. i challenged my team to see how we could better provide assistance to survivors. we made some significant changes going into hurricane season to better help with the issues you raised about air rights.
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we have changed expanded the types of documentation that we will accept from individuals to prove homeownership or occupancy. that can range from paying your tax bill to utility bill, a statement from your landlord in a mobile home community, a wide variety of documents that can be accepted now. the other big change we have done, part of my effort to try to bring services to survivors, to where the people are instead of making them come to us, in the past, if somebody didn't pass that verification through our online system or on the phone, we would immediately send them a denial letter. now what we are doing is if they cannot pass on that first step, they've not been able to identify the type of documentation, we also send the building inspector to them personally as they can see the type of documentation upon arrival, they will check that off in the system.
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what we are seeing in hurricane ida has increased dramatically the amount of people that have not had to go through the laborious process of trying to appeal their determination that they did not on the property or were not a resident or occupant on the property. this is just the beginning. we are going to continue to make changes for how we can equitably deliver our programs, meet people where they are at and understand we cannot have a program and a process that is a one-size-fits-all approach. >> thank you. georgia has the sixth highest population and rents -- ranks among the top 10 states for natural disaster. renters applying for assistance through fema have to go through a long process before they can get assistance. what is being done to reduce the weight.
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-- two reduce the wait period. >> one of the things maybe being able to prove their occupants or renting a certain residence. those are some of the changes remade. if there is anything out specific you are aware of that is slowing down the process, i would be happy to my team get with you to understand the challenges your constituents are facing. >> thank you for your testimony today and your actions and streamlining the process so that more people can receive assistance. i yield back, madam chair. >> the gentleman yields back. the judgment from texas is recognized for five minutes. -- gentleman from texas is recognized for five minutes. >> i come from a district that was dramatically affected by hurricane harvey. we have spent the last four years working to help our communities recover from that.
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i know today is about ida, some of the lessons we learn from fema or questions we had would be applicable to any disaster we are dealing with. one is to thank you for appearing here today. one of the issues i wanted to ask about was the definition of resilience. one of the major issues they tended to -- that disaster reform act of 2018, the public assistance program was designed to assist communities to rebuild back to at the time, the precondition, what we found ourselves in a loop where we would rebuild to a standard that would not withstand the next storm. congress directed that we begin to rebuild toward resiliency for future disasters. there was supposed to be a rule for what is resiliency that was
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to be defined by april 5 of 2020 , to date that has not been issued. could you let us know in writing within the next 14 days or so when we can expect that rule to be finalized so we have the critical definition of resiliency? i know some people are having their claims denied based on resiliency, but that term is left undefined. could you commit to get us a top line for that? >> i would have to get to my team, yes i can commit to checking the status on that. >> i appreciate that, that would be a big help. one issue that has been an issue for decades, it would seem, has been the staffing and turnover. i know many of the people in our
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district, some are on their 12th program delivery manager in four years, dealing with these applications is very difficult. the superintendent wrote this letter, said as you are aware, the rebuilding of the school facilities has been slow, tedious and frustrating. the district architect and i expect nearly four years, navigating the fema processes and today have received only -- with 12 program delivery manager cycling through our state, this is been -- there has never been an opportunity to make any ground. i have heard of similar cases, oftentimes we've had a team, and do a site visit and they -- seven different teams show up. do you foresee any sort of
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solution. what is fema doing to deal with the turnover or to deploy the employees we have for longer-term in the field? >> i appreciate your insight. part of it, especially what we are talking about for years, there will be some change in staff as we go through the years. complicated projects you are talking about do take a long time to get to the recovery process. i understand the concern. as the previous local manager, how frustrating it is when you have to start over explaining your story and where you are at in the process. i will work with my team to figure out a way to provide greater consistency for your folks as they are continuing their recovery process from harvey. >> thank you. do you know if there has been any sort of report on -- it
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would seem to me that we are taking a much longer time processing these claims and that there is a built-in cost increase in recovery due to some of the staffing issues. i would be very interested if fema could look into that and maybe provide a report to us on what we can do to streamline that. not only will provide better customer service, so to speak, it would help us be more efficient with taxpayer dollars in administering this recovery program. is that something you all could work on? >> yes, congressman, anything we can do to improve the customer agrees -- service is worth the research. i would be happy. my team look into that. >> the gentleman's time is
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expired. the gentleman from maryland is now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, madam chair, can you hear me now? >> yes sir. >> and mr. criswell, thank you very much --administrator criswell, thank you very much for your intense focus, it is clearly a code red for humanity. as president biden said in touring the damage of hurricane ida, the nation and the world are in peril. we are seeing an increasing frequency of natural disasters, but also an increasing destructive velocity of the natural disasters that are coming. noaa began tracking extreme weather events in 1980. since then they have visited more than $1.975 trillion in damages on the country.
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between 1990 and 1999, the average number of billion-dollar extreme weather events was five per year. in the last five years, between 2016 and 2020, that number has jumped to 16 per year. the number of extreme weather events has tripled in the last two decades. you made climate risk one of your top priorities, what is fema actually doing now to measure our progress in efforts [indiscernible] >> congressman, that is an important graph you showed. it demonstrates how we are now in the crisis of our generation, that the climate crisis is going to continue to get worse. i think we will continue to see that number of billion-dollar disasters increase as we go further. we are investing in mitigating,
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reducing the impacts. the president has authorized close to $5 billion this year to help communities reduce the impacts they are seeing from climate change. we have to continue on that path forward. it takes a long time for the mitigation projects to get completed. we have to continue to work with our communities to better understand their risks and ensure we are getting this money in the hands of the people who need it most. >> when we say mitigation, what are we talking about exactly? are we talking what congressman higgins is talking about, the eight after disasters hit or readiness, getting ready in advance, knowing that there will be another hurricane soon? >> it is a combination of both. our hazard mitigation grant program is funding that is
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available after a disaster, but it can be used for any type of risk you're facing, it does not have to be directly related to the incident just experienced. but we have to do is help communities understand the best way to make these communitywide investments to reduce the impact from future threats. >> i want to ask you an odd question, about polarization and division in american society. i know that is not directly under your jurisdiction, but in some sense i think that fema can be the place where we bring america back together. do you agree with me that the risk in extreme weather events, but the new frequency and extreme velocity of these events should be bringing people together across geographic lines, sectional lines, political party and ideology lines. -- extreme weather is obviously the problem being caused by climate change, but there's a
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problem of extreme bureaucracy, americans complained about since the beginning of the republic, we want to make sure government is working for the people. there's also a problem of extreme propaganda and nihilism around climate change. can't we all gathered together through the good works of fema, through hurricane and disaster readiness to bring the country together? is there way that this can be the source of unity for us? >> i think we all have a shared responsibility to help ensure that we are protecting our nation from the risks from future events so our children and grandchildren will not have to go through what we are now. disasters do not discriminate where they are going to land, and we do have a shared responsibility to work together. make sure we have the environment we need to support our future generations. >> i appreciate that and thank you for your hard work.
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there was an attempt to say the disasters inherited by the biden administration were caused by the, i was glad my calling from virginia have corrected that. i will resist -- saying the hole lasted administration was a disaster. >> the gentleman's time has expired. the gentleman from wisconsin is recognized for five minutes. >> you are recognized? >> here i am. one of the criticisms always is the degree to which -- are we rebuilding the same areas again and again and your jet by your
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general opinion, do we have [inaudible] are there areas you anticipate we are going to have a problem again in 10 years? >> we need to take a concerted effort at making sure we know where the risks are and people understand if they choose to build in a place, they understand what the risks are going to be and potential impacts might be. we need to provide that information and educate our population on what those risks are. what acts >> the thing i am looking for is are we doing something to make sure people, particularly in -- >> our new risk rating 2.0, certainly the risk of where
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people build is reflected in their insurance premium in a way it has not been before. those there in greater risk areas have a higher premium. >> in my district, we always felt there were people who did have high premiums, and just objectively looking at it, -- for whatever reason they were not considered to be in the floodplain. are you doing anything in which some people are peeling off from that or not? >> i do not know that i completely understand your question? >> as i understand it, they require flood insurance if you are in a floodplain, correct? >> correct. >> there are areas designated floodplain, you could talk to somebody, they go back to their grandmother, who never remembers
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floods, nevertheless someone who drew the line -- we start paying for this insurance on something that everybody in the area believes will never happen in a million years. you guys, over time, take that into account and try to remove people from floodplain, who were perhaps erroneously put in. >> i think that goes to the new release of our risk rating two point oh, where it takes an individual homeowner's particular risk into effect. if somebody does not have a risk they were paying for before, their rates go down. >> i understand. the question is have you peeled anybody out of floodplain? >> i would have to get back to on the specifics, as are flood maps are updated, those types of data are incorporated into the risk premiums.
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>> i think representative higgins has an interesting question, a spellbinding question. representative higgins? >> i think the gentleman for yielding. regarding risk rating 2.0, respectfully, members of the louisiana delegation have written several letters to your agency, this may predate your service and i will respect that. we would like some answers on this. the pope from the fema document stated that 97 percent of current policyholder premiums will either decrease or increase by about $20 a month under risk rating two .0. we know this is not true. we have seen example after example of extreme variances and policy expense. sometimes going from 500 a year to 7000 a year.
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some incredible disparities between the reality of the implementation of risk rating 2.0 and what was expected and projected and communicated by fema. can you respond to that please, formally and can we get a commitment from you today that fema will consider delaying the implementation of risk rating to point out until we get solid answers about the realities of what it really means to american citizens that carry national flood insurance program policies? >> the gentleman's time is expired. you may answer his question >>. thank you, madam chair. >> congressman, we can get back to with any of the specific information, but risk rating 2.0
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has been implemented and individuals are seeing decreases in their insurance rates. which is the first time this program has taken equity into account to make sure people are paying for the risks that they have. >> the gentleman's time is expired, he yields back. the gentlewoman from missouri is now recognized for five minutes. >> i think you, madam chair for competing -- convening this important hearing today. hurricane ida was another graphic example of how underprepared our nation's for climate disasters driven by fossil fuel. for communities like mine, that have been hurting for decades, we do not have -- our communities -- faces more and more climate risk every day. administrator criswell, numerous fema disaster programs are not
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for those needs. when fema conducts damage assessments after storms, they are measured based on property ownership. this focus is relief programs on -- landlords rather than renters and those most in need of support. it only supports people who can support to afford to buy flood insurance, the opposite of how this program should work. transforming this program would mean saving lives. it is out of reach for frontline communities. he must's national advisory council described the program as being quote more accessible to those with time incumbent access. thank you for being vocal in your efforts to make equity in
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fema programs. my families in the south who did not have a formal deed or approved homeownership to disaster assistance. can you explain how this will change, specifically how black, blount -- lack brown and indigenous people. >> it is so important we do not over complicate the system and do not try to use this one-size-fits-all approach. everybody's situation, specific and unique to them. it is so important for us to make sure that we understand that and put people first. the changes we've made so far, we are all racing big improvements in the number of people deemed eligible for our programs, meaning they did not have to go through that laborious process of trying to appeal, and where they would
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normally be denied. we are continuing to look at our programs so the air rights, property ownership is just the start. we are going to continue to see where have we taken the cookie-cutter approach and need to adjust it so we can better understand the unique needs specific communities. i would be happy to work with your team, and suggestions you have and things you have seen. >> thank you. this is that policy change that we know will benefit may people. we need to expand it to st. louis, my home and across the country as we develop further reforms. what other examples of changes that fema has made or attempted to make that will improve equity in disaster relief, can you give us some examples? >> the other example i would give is that we also changed the cost threshold for determining whether or not you would be eligible for direct housing. used to have us -- at dollar
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amount, which left homeowners with a smaller amount of damage ineligible for that program. we changed it to cost per square foot which is helping affect our lower income population so they become eligible for our direct housing program. it's one small example of how we took this cookie-cutter approach made it unique and specific to the individual's needs. >> the biden administration launched important initiative allowing to disaster programs to be piloted. to ensure that federal agencies work with the states and local communities to deliver a minimum of 40% of overall benefits to front line communities. [indiscernible] how will engagement with the impacted disadvantaged
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communities impact your assessment? >> we are excited to be part of the justice 40 initiative. part of our flood mitigation program that we are incorporating that into. we have adjusted our scoring criteria to give greater points to underserved communities. we are working with our state partners and through technical assistance programs to get the message out and reach out to our stakeholders so they understand the importance of having more individuals that are part of these communities apply for this type of assistance. we are looking forward to seeing where we can include this in additional programs in the future. very much looking forward to how the results of this found round of funding go. >> the gentlelady's time is expired. she yields back. the gentleman from vermont, you are now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you. welcome, administrator criswell,
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you have one of the most important jobs. during tropical storm irene, the extraordinary work that fema did, we are grateful. when fema shows up, it is something that can unify us, it has been a good thing. the topic i want to discuss is not directly under your control, but the breakdown in the grade and challenges to the grid and the necessity for upgrading the grid. i want to ask about what the impact of the -- with respect to the scope and scale of what you have to contend with after a big storm, an event like ida. maybe you could start by describing what the impact was on families and communities after ida because of the long-term shutdown of the grade and how that impacted them and
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challenge you and fema had to contend with? >> the power grid is so important to keep the communities work moving. the sooner we can get the power turned back on, the sooner the recovery begins. what we see is that as it continues to delay getting the power turned back on, your communities have an increased amount of time for their recovery. what we saw during hurricane ida was hospitals having to be evacuated, communities having to be evacuated. that puts a toll on their families and their communities. we need to be able to work with our private sector partners to help them get back online quicker, if we can. it is also an example of how our infrastructure in many places is so outdated. you have to invest in improving our infrastructure so it can withstand the increasing number
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of severe weather events we are going to see. >> this power outage system -- situation, how long did that last in some communities? >> i think there are some smaller communities still without power in southern louisiana. in many parts of the state, they were without power for several weeks. >> on a practical level, a family cannot go back to a house, cannot stay in a house once the storm subsides, the resources of fema to help those folks have shelter and food and warmth or pooling, whichever the case may be? >> i would not state it is a burden for fema. that is the type of support we provide to communities, to help them during the recovery process. it is certainly a burden on the family that has been impacted. we do have the resources and tools necessary to provide temporary lodging to assist them. >> you are good to frack me, i'm
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using the word burden, that is your job, i get that. it does mean that the needs of that family are greater because they can't get back to their house and get things put back together, correct? >> absolutely. it delays their over all recovery process. >> i think great resilience and modernization is essential. when we had hurricane irene, we were able to get back in, even though the house was a mess, we had to start taking it out, my observation was that there was a lot of hope that they are on the road to getting back to normal. where as if someone is out of their home for not two days, but two weeks or two months than knothole begins to fade. tell me -- then that hope begins to fade.
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>> i would not think that is a fair assessment. people want to start recovering quickly. when they are prevented from doing that, it causes additional despair to the families. >> thank you for your good work, i yield back. >> the gentleman from maryland is now recognized. >> thank you, madam chair. can you hear me ok? >> yes. >> thank you, administrator criswell. i appreciate your testimony today and your important work. as you know, hurricane ida did huge damage in many parts of the country, but that included maryland as well. on september 1 a came through the state of maryland, damage through hundreds -- damaged hundreds of homes and businesses
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and claimed the life of a resident of rockville. i am grateful to the president and to you for granting the merrick garland delegation's requested fema for federal does that -- the maryland delegations request for federal assistance. that was granted on september 13. last week, i joined the maryland delegation in urging the president to approve the state of maryland's request for presidential disaster declaration for individual assistance to anne arundel county, which was hit by severe flooding and a tornado. and the mitigation grant program assistance for all jurisdictions in maryland so our residents, like many others can get the assistance they need. this is federal assistance, it is very necessary, it is warranted, i believe -- i hope
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it can be expeditiously reviewed and granted. i want to talk about the grant program. as i understand it, fema provides up to 75% of the cost share situation. the federal government provides 75% of eligible private costs and states and communities cover the remaining share. do you know, has there been discussion, do you know what the capacity is -- can you give us an insight into the potential for fema to increase the federal cost share to pick up more of the for the program which would make it more likely that states and localities who have budget crunches could respond to current disasters and better prepare for future ones? this may not be critical in every instance, there's going to
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be situations where communities are going to be incapable of accessing the program's benefits because of the cost share obligation. i wonder if you could speak to any kind of thinking or review on that front. >> thank you for raising that question. that program is such an amazing tool to help communities fight against the risks we are seeing and prevent future damages from severe weather events. i have heard from many people across the country that they do have a struggle meeting the cost share requirement. that cost share requirement as set forth in the stafford act, that is not something we can change. i think there is work we can do to figure out how we can help communities partner and try to find other ending sources that perhaps could be available to help them with that.
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i'm going to be meeting with state directors to have this same conversation. and helping communities take advantage of this critical resource so they can invest in their future risk. >> any recommendations, if there have to be statutory changes to make it work better, recommendations you can offer is based on the data you are gathering from across the country that may show uneven opportunity to take advantage of the hazard mitigation program would be very helpful. i want to thank the president for committing a historic amount to this hazard mitigation fund, i think $3.5 billion to reduce the effects of climate change, which we know is the most pressing factor in all of this. annapolis took the last 50 years has experienced incredible increase in nuisance flooding, which closes roads, over alms
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storm water drains -- overwhelms storm water drains, damages infrastructure. it is one of the most extreme impacts we see in the country. today, annapolis expects over 50 flooding events every year, up from an average of four annual flooding events 50 years prior. we are very focused on this, thank you for your good work, thank you for recognizing that climate change is a huge impact we have to prepare for and have resilience for chair maloney: the gentleman yields back. the gentlewoman for massachusetts, miss presley, is recognized. representative: thank you, madam chair, for convening this important hearing. natural disasters are disruptive and traumatic life events. suddenly lose your home, savings, family heirlooms or the
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lives of loved ones as devastating impacts on survivors. when the trauma isn't addressed, survivors can develop drastic mental health consequences. experiencing a natural disaster by age five is associated with a 16% increase in mental health or substance abuse issues in adulthood. again, experiencing a natural disaster by age five is associated with a 16% increase in mental health or substance abuse issues in adulthood. a study of earthquake survivors found one in four had ptsd. fortunately, the administrator of fema has a program in place to address the immediate mental health impacts. administrator criswell, can you tell us what the crisis council program is and how fema has
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worked with localities to help survivors in communities across the country. ms. criswell: thank you. mental health is important for both disaster survivors and my employees as well. our crisis counseling program is a tool available to help crisis survivors manage the stress and cope with losses they experienced from this disaster. it is available under the individual assistance program when that is authorized for major disaster declarations, and executed by the states. it is an important resource to help individuals impacted ia disaster. -- impacted by a disaster. representative: i thank you for including your staffing that. we have to heal the healers as well-paid this program has been deployed nationwide in response to covid-19, and in puerto rico following hurricanes and in new york following the september 11
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terror attacks, to name a few. however, many people survive disasters, terror attacks, violence and natural disasters that can't take advantage of this program. there are two types of disaster declaration -- major disasters and emergency declarations. is the crisis counsel program currently available following emergency declarations? ms. criswell: no, it is not currently available for emergency declarations. representative: i would like to implore you to make that change. it should be available under both declarations. over the past decade, there have been more than 4000 emergency declarations in the united states. i represent boston. the boston marathon attack, the ripple effect of that trauma, some of the was immediately
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manifested, but some manifested later. it is time to ensure survivors of all disasters can access counseling and be connected to long-term until health services. i appreciate your agency working with me already on my proposal to expand the program to emergency declarations, and that fema does not foresee any hindrance to providing crisis counseling to help more people. we would love to follow up with you beyond this hearing and hear your response to that. ms. criswell: yes, ma'am, we would happy to provide technical drafting assistance on making that change. it is so important we are taking care of the mental health of people impacted by traumatic events. representative: i always seek to engage those closest, and a survivor of the boston marathon bombing shared her story and said she wishes assistance
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provided under the crisis counseling program had existed for her eight years ago. it is to ensure survivors of all disasters can access counseling and be connected to mental health services. i look forward to being in touch with you about that. if you could respond -- what are the provisions and plans for those that are disabled, those that are incarcerated and those that are hospitalized, when it comes to a major disaster or emergency declaration? are there any protocols in place? ms. criswell: i don't know i am understanding specifically what you are asking, but our disaster response programs, when we respond to incidents, it is to help all people impacted by those disasters. we have an entire unit here that focuses on planning and preparedness for individuals with disabilities. we work closely with state partners to understand unique situations within each community once a disaster has happened
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with those who may have been incarcerated. representative: we will follow up on that as well. thank you. chair maloney: without objection, mr. troy carter from louisiana is authorized to participate in today's hearing. louisiana was greatly impacted by ida. mr. carter: thank you for the opportunity to present. on august 29, hurricane ida made land file is a category four hurricane with sustained winds at 150 miles per hour. coastal louisiana experience 16-foot storm surges and significant flash flooding, 16 years to the day of hurricane katrina. the government's substantial investments in shoring up our
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levee system made a big difference in this hurricane. we are hopeful that going forward under build back at her and other resources will do the same, like burying our grid to make sure people never have to suffer weeks of being without power. it is very difficult in the psaltery months of august to be without power for senior citizens, people disabilities and for our young people. it adds insult to injury. we are hopeful that we continue to build on mistakes of the past. hurricanes come every year. we don't know the name yet, we may not know the intensity, but we know that with climate change, warmer waters bring stronger storms and we should endeavor to do better than we did then we get after katrina. administrator criswell, i want to thank you, president biden and senior advisor richland for
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coming to my district in louisiana, walking streets of the community and seeing it firsthand. i can't tell you how much that meant to the people of louisiana to have you on the ground to see firsthand that level of devastation. hurricane ida caused major damage in my district and across louisiana, devastating homes, knocking out the electric grid and leaving trails of damage along the gulf coast. there are two points i would like to get across quickly. the storm showed the value of federal investments in her texting community in areas like new orleans and the river parishes. the flood protection system stayed dry after investments after katrina. we have to do better going forward to make sure these communities are weatherproofed for the future. having lived through storms, i have seen recoveries that work on recoveries that don't.
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the biggest factor is how fast we get money back into pockets and start people getting back to some semblance of normalcy. we need a federal recovery process that recognizes this. far too many of our programs take months to kick in. you instituted several policies and granted waivers for people that mischecked the box and as a result, many people were denied. what can we do to create an appeal process, so a person who made an innocent mistake in the filing are not rejected? ms. criswell: the program you're talking about is our critical needs assistance program, an amazing tool that gets money
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into the hands of survivors quickly. we were able to get money into the hands of survivors faster than we have in any other disaster. we did hear that some individuals were having difficulties with how they answered the questions, so we did go back and look at what we were using as quick. to approve those for critical needs assistance. and we were able to give funding to an additional 120,000 families. we are now taking a look at our systems to see if there is anything else we can do to improve that. we are always trying to improve delivery of our services to help give money to those eligible. representative: i want to thank you, because you want your people have been incredible. we have challenged you in every possible way, pushed the envelope to make things more seamless for the people and have been on the one yard line of fema to make sure they do that. i want to thank you as well as your people on the ground for doing a great job in that regard. the blue roof program is very
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effective. can you share with me things you are putting in place to advance them more quickly? we have rain and the ability to mitigate existing damage will be valuable if we can do it faster? chair maloney: time is expired but you may answer the questions. >> the blue roof program is a partnership with fema and the army corps of engineers to provide temporary repairs to homes. i spoke with lieutenant general spellman to talk about the status of the program. he assured me he has made improvements into how they are executing their mission. and i think from numbers i have seen, they have significantly increased the number of blue roofs they have installed. but that is never fast enough and i am pushing our people as well as the army corps to continue to find ways to get those on homes as quickly as possible, so we can get people
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back into their homes sooner. chair maloney: i recognize mr. higgins for a closing statement. mr. higgins. representative higgins: thank you. administrator criswell, thank you for being here. we have more work to do. my office will deliver a letter to you by the close of business to a documenting specific, urgent requests to fema on behalf of my constituency, who has been suffering for over a year from hurricane laura and hurricane ida. i would like your personal commitment that you will receive our letter and be involved. you have been very gracious today, and professional. thank you. i am going to lean on you for a commitment to personal involvement, and the letter that we deliver today. finally, regarding rural areas
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and small towns, i beg of you -- let's make sure that our small towns, rural areas, poor communities, get adequate attention and adequate response and they don't get left behind. can i get your commitment on receiving our letter documenting urgent requests, and can i get a commitment that our rural areas and poor communities don't get overlooked and left behind? ms. criswell: you have my commitment to be personally involved in that sponsor to your letter. i would like to thank you and congressman carter for your leadership in supporting people impacted by recent events in louisiana. representative: thank you, ma'am. congressman carter is an amazing complement to the louisiana delegation.
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i commend him for the work he continues to do. he had big shoes to fill with our friend and colleague congressman now in the white house as a senior advisor. we are louisiana strong in congress and the white house, so we are joined together. madam chair, thank you for your gracious allowances of time during this hearing. thank you. i yield. chair maloney: i now recognize myself. i want to thank administrator criswell for testifying today. add thank all the fema employees who are working tirelessly to respond to disasters around the country and visiting sites perfectly to -- visiting sites personally to oversee and help. i wanted emphasize survivors of hurricane ida and previous disasters still need help. they need to learn how to apply for financial assistance, they need information about what
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all if eyes for financial assistamce and they need quick processing. administrator criswell, i appreciate your commitment to work with communities so flood maps can be more accurate with community input. it is important to emphasize your testimony that communities can apply for fema grant money for disaster mitigation even when they are in an area that has not been declared a disaster. as we heard from you today, we need to invest in climate-resilient infrastructure, and we are investing in front-line communities who are disproportionately impacted by severe weather. i urge all my colleagues to support the federal agency climate prep act, a bill i introduced today that would ensure the federal government has a comprehensive plan to tackle climate change, coordinated by the white house in partnership with local communities.
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i also call on my colleagues to support the build back better act, which would make critical investments to upgrade our infrastructure so that we can be better prepared for future disasters. these investments are critical so that states and local governments are not left dealing with the cost of recovering from disasters on their own. i want to thank all our panelists for their remarks and commend my colleagues for participating. without objection, all members have five legislative days within which to submit materials and additional written questions to the witness, which will be forwarded to her for her response. i asked our witness to please respond as promptly as you are able. this hearing is adjourned.
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at what congress can do to address the issue. >> thank you so much danielle, it's a pleasure to be here today for someone to introduce both of our panelists. starting with senator jones, welcome former u.s. senator from alabama, doug jones, who will be one of our two panelists in today's conversation at the u.s. attorney for alabama, senator jones prosecuted to kkk members


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