King Opening Statement at Hurricanes Irma and Maria Recovery Hearing  

WASHINGTON –Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery Subcommittee ranking member, today delivered the following opening statement at a subcommittee hearing entitled, “Road to Recovery: Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.”

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I’d like to welcome today’s witnesses and thank them for their time.

Today marks the fifth time this subcommittee or the Full Committee has met to discuss recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In March, we heard testimony on how the federal government could improve its response to disasters.  In April, we assessed how climate change impacted national security.  In May, we reviewed Federal Emergency Management Agency contracting and the lessons learned from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.  Last month, we looked at FEMA’s readiness for future disasters. 

We have heard from officials from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on the state of recovery in each territory.  We have reviewed reports from the Government Accountability Office and from the Office of the Inspector General.  FEMA has testified before our subcommittee on the challenges they have faced in responding to these catastrophic storms.  They’ve admitted their shortcomings and made clear what they need to complete their mission. And yet we have convened another hearing.

While the recovery of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands is incredibly important, we must move past discussion and we must act.  I recently cosigned on to Chairman Thompson’s House companion to Senator Rubio’s FACE Act, which codifies the recommendations of GAO with regards to FEMA contracting.  I agree with GAO’s recommendations and support improving FEMA’s contracting practices. 

This bill, however, was not referred to this committee, which illustrates our limited jurisdiction in this sphere.

I support continued oversight of disaster recovery including implementation of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, which was signed into law last year, and emphasizes investment in mitigation, reducing risk, and increasing a state or territory’s capacity to manage disaster recovery. 

I also support strong oversight of FEMA Homeland Security Grants programs.  Federal funds through programs such as the State Homeland Security Grant Program, Urban Area Security Initiative, and Port Security Grant enable local communities to support their first responder workforce and to harden their defenses against potential attacks.

In New York City, federal grants have allowed the Department of Emergency Management, the NYPD, and the FDNY to conduct training and exercises, provide public education and outreach, and develop response protocols, and safety initiatives to significantly increase security preparedness. 

I want to again express my appreciation for our witnesses being here today.  Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

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