Guest Opening Statement at FEMA Readiness Hearing

WASHINGTON – Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss) today delivered an opening statement at a hearing entitled, “Assessing FEMA’s Readiness for Future Disasters.”

With the 2019 hurricane season officially underway, the resilience of FEMA and the American people will once again be tested. FEMA’s mission is to help people before, during, and after a disaster.

Over the last two years, FEMA has led the response to an unprecedented set of disasters.  Hurricanes leveled large swaths of the country; catastrophic wildfires destroyed over one million acres; large floods inundated millions of homes, farms, and businesses; and tornadoes ripped a path of destruction through dozens of communities.

So far this year, 28 major disaster declarations have been declared.

As a Mississippian, I share a state with the Chairman that is prone to natural disasters and am familiar with how devastating hurricanes, tornadoes, and flooding can be. In fact, as recently as Monday, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant requested a major disaster declaration for the State of Mississippi for severe storms, flooding, and tornadoes that hit our state in April. This request marked the third major disaster declaration inquiry from Governor Bryant since February of this year. In each of these disasters, first responders and community officials worked hand-in-hand with FEMA on response and recovery efforts.

It’s the strength of this federal-state partnership that is the key to successful disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.  I look forward to hearing from our witnesses on the resilience of that partnership in the wake of the large-scale disasters we’ve recently witnessed.

I am also interested in hearing about the progress FEMA is making in implementing the Disaster Recovery Reform Act.  It’s my understanding last year, the Republican majority enacted DRRA as the first major reform of the Stafford Act in over a decade.

In addition to helping to expedite assistance to survivors and increasing state flexibilities, DRRA established a new pre-disaster mitigation fund to help communities preempt the damage that results from disasters.

Mitigation continues to be our best defense against natural disasters.  For every dollar we spend on mitigation, we save between four and eight dollars on recovery.

The more we can help our communities mitigate disasters, the less they must rely on federal assistance when disasters strike.

Finally, this Committee has exclusive jurisdiction over preparedness and response to acts of terrorism.  I am interested in hearing our witness’ perspective on how prepared the federal-state partnership is to respond to a terrorist attack on American soil.

As the threats to our nation continually evolve, it is critical that Congress continues to make robust investment in FEMA preparedness grants.  States and communities rely on these grants to build, sustain, and enhance their capabilities to protect the public from acts of terrorism.
I thank the witnesses for appearing today and look forward to hearing their testimony.

 

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