King Opening Statement at Joint Hearing on FEMA Contracting

WASHINGTON – Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery Subcommittee Ranking Member Peter King (R-N.Y.) today delivered the following opening statement at a joint subcommittee hearing entitled, “FEMA Contracting: Reviewing Lessons Learned from Past Disasters to Improve Preparedness.”

In 2012, Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the States of New York and New Jersey, as well as ten other states, resulting in around 150 deaths, hundreds of thousands of impacted residents, and over $65 billion in damages. The storm’s effects were widespread and extensive, with substantial flooding, massive power outages, and fuel shortages in parts of the region.

Following Hurricane Sandy, FEMA released an After-Action Report detailing successes, lessons-learned, and areas of needed improvement in hurricane recovery efforts.

One area highlighted for improvement was “reducing the complexity of the Public Assistance program.” FEMA’s Public Assistance grant program provides federal assistance to state, local, tribal, and certain private non-profit organizations following a Presidential major disaster declaration.

While FEMA did take several steps to help government officials better understand the Public Assistance program and reduce the complexity of program rules, state and local officials continued to express confusion regarding the program, and the lack of clarity delayed recovery efforts.

The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013 improved the Public Assistance program by providing alternative procedures to allow for flexibility for recovery projects that encourage timely and cost-effective completion.

These alternative procedures rely on fixed cost estimates that allow recipients or subrecipients to use remaining funds for other eligible purposes if the cost of the project is below the estimate. FEMA’s Hurricane Sandy After-Action Report noted that the new Public Assistance

procedures “can serve as a springboard for FEMA to continue reducing the complexity of the PA program.”

However, according to the DHS Office of Inspector General, FEMA continues to fail in overseeing grant recipients’ effective management of disaster relief grants which poses potential financial risks to taxpayers.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported on FEMA’s need for better management of its Advance Contract program. Advance contracts for goods and services enable the government to quickly and effectively mobilize resources in the aftermath of a disaster.

Among other recommendations, GAO recommends that FEMA update its strategy for advance contracts to provide clear guidance on the use and prioritization of such contracts so that they can quickly and cost-effectively provide goods and services to disaster-stricken areas.

Delays in response and recovery efforts due to lack of coordination and inconsistent information are not acceptable.

Following major disasters, advance and post disaster federal contracts and assistance are essential to rebuilding our nation’s communities. It is imperative that FEMA continues to streamline its processes to ensure proper oversight, improve coordination, and maintain its focus on survivors and their recovery needs.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on how to improve FEMA contracting mechanisms so that response and recovery efforts are timely and effective following catastrophic disasters and emergencies.  

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Contact: Nicole Hager

202-226-8417

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