tv Washington Journal Eric Katz CSPAN September 27, 2022 7:33pm-8:01pm EDT
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c-span is america's network. unfiltered, unbiased, word for word. if it happens here, or here, or here, or anywhere that happens, america is watching on c-span. cap powered by cable. >> this is eric he is a correspondent for remind viewere fema has at this point as we have hurricanes bearing down on the united states. guest: what fema is doing now is pre-positioning supplies, getting people and materials ready. they are bracing in florida and alabama so they can deploy quickly. that includes things like dry foods, water, generators, things like that. they have thousands and thousands of reservist to deploy and are activated anytime there
is an emergency situation and they help people on the ground. they give them good, shelter, water, power individually, help people through the long-term recovery with financial assistance and flood insurance and things like that. in the immediate term, they focus on the acute needs and make sure they are fed and have shelter. host: how much coordination do they have with state and local governments and how much of a role do they take when they take the lead in these events? guest: they have relationships and emergency responders that the state and local level with governors and things like that. generally, in puerto rico they are taking a support role, they want the local people in charge.
they coordinate the federal response, there are lots of agencies that play a part. fema is the one that takes charge. host: when it comes to money, how much does fema have to's end on these events on the broadside? guest: it can be billions of dollars per event. in 2017, when we saw three major hurricanes in a row, congress had to keep appropriating more emergency funds. tens of billions of dollars they had to appropriate. generally, there is a reserve fund that they can tap into when they need it but occasionally, congress gives them more money when it is really serious. host: you brought up puerto rico, in light of hurricane maria, their power grid and flooding and the like, what did
we learn this time around with hurricane fiona with what happened to the island in the response of fema to that? guest: fema officials have said they were much better positioned this time in part because they had people there already that were working on the response. it is been five years since that happened but they are still just starting to rebuild right now. the advantage that they had, people could pivot to this response. so, they knew how to get those people in the right position quickly and they also had better relationships with people on the ground there and they had more materials prepared and. when maria hit they only had two warehouses of food and now they have five.
they knew they were underprepared last time. they were able to send out way more employees, but there were already 700 fema employees that lived and worked there full-time. that gave them a leg up to respond quickly. host: if they are there full time outside of a disaster situation, what are they doing in the meantime in their day-to-day roles? guest: trying to get the benefits out to the people who were affected by maria. unfortunately, that was most of the island. it took a long time and several years to get the dollars that were appropriated, dispersed throughout the island. there was some controversy to why that was. they are now trying to rebuild.
obviously, puerto rico has taken a lot of heat for the state of their grid, their electric supply. they were just starting to get underway of a more permanent project to improve the situation when fiona hit so that was a major setback. those employees that were there were working on those issues. trying to get the island better position so that they could sustain another disaster without the same sort of catastrophic impact that maria had. unfortunately, that work was not finished yet. so they are still dealing with a crisis situation. host: eric katz our guest from government executive if you want to ask about hurricane relief. it is (202) 748-8000 for eastern
and central time zones, (202) 748-8001 for mountain and pacific time zones and (202) 748-8002 for elsewhere. if you want to texas you can text us at (202) 748-8003. you talk about that money going to puerto rico. how much was slated to the commonwealth and how much made it there? guest: there were tens of billions of dollars that was slated to go. only about a third of that actually made it there in the big chunk of that was at the end of the trump administration. it took a few years to get out there. some of that has been obligated but not necessarily spent. some of the projects were slow to get off the ground. so, there is a lot of money
available and one thing that has come up in the emergency response previously, authorization to repair things as they were before the disaster. this time, they got money to make things better and rebuild in a way that was more sustainable and could allow the island to grow and sustain damage and away that would not knock out the whole system like we saw in maria. unfortunately, that work was not completed yet. there has been a complete shutdown in this case. although, they are slowly restoring power over the last few days. host: majority leader chuck schumer held a press conference talking about these events. one of the things he did talk about was money going to the island. he brought up some concerns
and we will get your response. [video clip] >> we were able to deliver $21 billion, $21 billion to our fellow citizens in puerto rico. to deal with housing, health care, water and half of it went to power. $12 billion, this is not a lack of money. let me say this, listen to this, according to gao only 2% of the money has been spent. 2%, when the island was already devastated by maria and laid open to even more devastation by fiona. is that outrageous? while in large part that was due to the trump administration's callousness, and action and intransigence, it is also because of ongoing conflict
for which resources should power the island. half of that funding, more than half to rebuild the grid devastated by maria. while fema is working hard to support that effort, the ongoing conflict between the energy bureaus has stronghold it those efforts. instead of getting power to the people and making a resilient grid and locally based grid, they are busy fighting with each other. it is outrageous. host: let's start about that fighting between the federal government and local authorities. what is the senator referring to? guest: after maria, when they were trying to find the best way to rebuild the grid. a private contractor was brought on to help those efforts.
the existing power authority has a role to play in this new private entity has a role to play. chuck schumer is referring to the clash there in terms of who is in charge of what and how do they allocate the dollars properly and dealing with the puerto rican government on top of that has made it more complicated than intended when they sent these dollars or appropriated these dollars for that cause. host: the senator highlighted actions of the previous administration is the cause, can you elaborate? guest: the previous administration took criticism for being slow to respond when the storm first hit. there were storms happening elsewhere in the country, texas at the time. there was some criticism that
they let puerto rico hang in the balance for a while. and they were slow getting those dollars out the door. there was criticism for that. host: let's hear from jamaal in atlanta, georgia for our guest eric katz. caller: two questions, who makes the decision on what to spend money on? who makes the decision on whether to rebuild or relocate people who are affected by these things, natural disasters? if you look at louisiana and you have people who have been impacted, what is the point
of rebuilding rather than relocating? who makes those decisions? host: jamaal there, thank you jamaal. guest: in terms of where the dollars go, fema works on that with local entities and they also solicit information from the people impacted so they can give them financial assistance and disaster relief grants or small business loans to help them. and of course, there are other elements in the government to help with that. in order of the decision to rebuild or relocate, that is up to the individual. they received assistance for rebuilding or repairs as part of
that, it's a complicated process. especially if fema is taking too long or too cumbersome for the individual. obviously, every individual has to weigh that cost/benefit. they could go through this all again in certain areas, you have to get flood insurance. that is something every individual has to weigh. but the federal government isn't going to forcibly relocate you. host: again it is (202) 748-8000 for the eastern and central time zones, (202) 748-8001 for the mountain and pacific time zones. why is the federal government not dealing with the puerto rican government directly? why are there groups in between? guest: think of how you get your power at home, there is a third party to get power in your home.
there's this other entity hired by the utility and all of that has created a complicated structure and they all work in coordination. i don't want to suggest that it is every man for themselves down there with these entities. in terms of getting the dollars were they need to go and what projects need to be prioritized, it has slowed us down a bit. host: as far as the concerns about the government itself? are they meeting in washington dc or in puerto rico? how much of that is being coordinated there and here? guest: fema tries to be forward, on the ground to coordinate these efforts. they have coordinators for each disaster they respond to.
a fema employee that as well experience and other agencies will report to them. they handle interactions with the local government and figure out the best path forward for whatever accounts they have to tackle. they really do try the local decision-makers lead the charge. host: this is louis from pennsylvania. good morning. caller: hello, how are you guys? host: you are on with our guest. caller: the natural reserve, the gas, what happens if florida needs that? will we be impacted, will the price go back up? that is my question. host: you are asking about gasoline prices in light of
hurricane disasters? caller: yes sir, that's it. host: that's louis from pennsylvania, what he think of that? guest: we saw in 2017, and taxes when the oil refineries got hit. we were impacted by the hurricanes and it had a trickle-down impact on gas prices. in this case, obviously, a lot of the reserve which the caller mentioned was dispersed to deal with high gas prices. there is still reserve, i don't think we are at a risk of a critical gas supply situation because of the hurricanes. as far as i know, they are not on the path to affect that infrastructure. host: so, how did it perform? guest: the entire island had a
power outage in the immediate aftermath. speaking of gasoline, there was a run on that for generators to try to get their power back on in the interim. that cause a gasoline shortage there. the power is coming back more quickly than last time. there was a full week after maria when the island was without power. i think about two thirds of the customers have had their power restored. about half a million witches and extremely large number without power. they are working to repair that and every day has been going down but they are not there yet. host: was the power grid repair
to pre-maria standards or improved? guest: the goal was to improve. they are not there yet. the pre-maria grid, everyone was in agreement that was not a good situation and they had a lot of work to do. they were trying to rebuild it in a way that would be more durable and more sustainable. you heard senator schumer talk about that. the money that was allocated for that has not been spent. the majority of it has not been spent yet. the bickering over who is in charge, how to find the right projects, it is slow going. part of that was the money getting there later. it was slow going, but we can hope that after this, they can restart those projects they were
working on to make a more resilient grid. host: this is dave from lynchburg, virginia. caller: this is such a perfect snapshot at the federal government at work. one of our representatives give the money and then figure out what we will do. we throw money at every problem and then try to figure out what to do. there is so much waste. it goes into the process of trying to figure out how to help anyone at government's expense. why don't they use their money when i do when i put in a requisition to spend money. i think about it, i scrutinize it. i ring my hand so i don't spend too much of the company's money.
why don't we do that for the sake of our grandchildren? what is the current debt load right now? or-year-olds into-year-olds, how much do they owe right now based on what our government has been up until now? host: that was dave there in lynchburg. guest: the government, there is oversight of the spending. there is a government accountability office looking into it. so far, the problem has not been wasteful spending as much as being able to identify the projects to spend the money on. there has been some allegations of some fraud. generally that happens, there's a push to get the money out as quickly as possible. you want to do that without burdening the individuals or
small businesses too much. sometimes i can lead to a lack of oversight. there are functions a place to prevent that. in the case of puerto rico, like we were talking about, a lot of the money has not even been spent yet but they do have oversight in place to make sure that doesn't get carried away. in terms of just throwing money at the problem, things were broken, things were flooded, these wins came in and caused damage that needed to be rebuilt. you need to confront that problem with some funding. host: from twitter, the question of electric and phone lines being above ground. would it make sense to put underground cables in? guest: that is one of the things
they may be looking at. i am not an expert and structure utilities. the grid there was antiquated and patchwork and not designed with a lot of potentiality and how to make it resilient to the storms that they are vulnerable to. there is definitely a lot more thought going into how do we build this back in away that makes more sense and we will be able to sustain this type of damage without having a catastrophic event. people who are smarter than beer making those decisions. host: they asked about disaster of disaster in southern new york. people end up with new vacation homes, why does that continue without the building of infrastructure? let's go back to the oversight.
we are putting these funds out there, what kind of oversight comes after the money is dispersed? guest: there is oversight and terms of fema, they have layers in place. there is a process for that. you have to go through certain steps. dhs has its own inspector general that constantly evaluates every disaster and how to make things better and they deploy immediately to help that process. gao is the government wide and they have a role to play in this. give advice on how to do things more efficiently and how to identify fraud of prevent that from happening. host: we will see congress back
in session before they go on break for campaigning. do you get a sense that puerto rico will be on the agenda? guest: we have heard requests from representatives already. they asked the federal government take on 100% of the rebuilding cost. right now, it is at about 75%. they want the federal government to for all of it. we are coming up on the deadline and the biden administration has requested 6 billion dollars for emergency relief that is attached to the spending bill to keep those agencies funded. there is some wishy-washy about whether that will be included.
republicans of said we don't need that or we can use leftover covid funds for that. maybe now with the way these hurricanes have made landfall, there could be a little more of an appetite to provide those funds. host: one more call from ed, in new york. caller: good morning, quick question. i wanted to ask you a couple of questions. one for myself, i had a fema problem 12 years ago when that big storm came through new york. they were supposed to inspect my home that was destroyed by a local creek that ruined my house. i don't live in it. they were going to send a guy to give me an estimate and he calls me back the day before he shows saying that because it is not your primary residence, i was
ineligible. all the rental homes on the jersey shore that were affected, how come those homes who are not lived in by the owners but rented out for summer vacation and they are covered? ok fine, good question. the other thing about puerto rico, i had three friends of mine on the island during that one big storm that devastated puerto rico. the power grid is inadequate. there were wires out of the hills that look like car speaker wires. the hangers that they stored airplanes in were full of food, diapers, everything for the people. the government of puerto rico was making sure that their friends were getting the stuff first before the people who really needed it. number three, a friend of mine that worked