WASHINGTON D.C. (BRPROUD) – FEMA testified in front of Congress on Tuesday about Hurricane Ida recovery efforts. Administrator Deanne Criswell pushed for investments in storm damage mitigation efforts which could be paid for through some of the major infrastructure bills stuck in Congress.
Right now, federal money is headed to Louisiana for hurricane relief. Congress approved $28 billion within the temporary funding bill and some of that money will come to the state.
Congressman Clay Higgins, a member of the House Oversight Committee that questioned FEMA, said southwest Louisiana is still waiting for federal reimbursements for Hurricane Laura. He believes taking that long to approve grants is shameful.
“Most of the requests are still outstanding. Jeff Davis Parish has $2 million worth of requests. These parishes cannot afford to carry that for a year for programs that they qualify for,” Rep. Higgins said.
Higgins pressed Criswell on how fast aid gets to people in disaster areas. He voted for the temporary funding bill that contained the hurricane relief aid but voted against the Build Back Better infrastructure bill.
“FEMA’s response to the 2020 and 2021 disasters is an issue within itself. But our overall federal response is always seemingly late,” Rep. Higgins said. “While politicians and bureaucrats discuss the needs for better mechanisms to respond to these disasters the answer is definitely not to create more bureaucracy.”
In the southeast, people are still waiting on temporary housing and money to rebuild. FEMA is now pushing for investments in preventative efforts like elevating houses in flood zones or hardening the electrical grid. Criswell said climate change is the greatest crisis facing the nation right now.
“It’s a sign that our infrastructure has an opportunity to be upgraded and mitigated against so we can prevent future flash flooding… we’re going to continue to see these severe rain events across the country so we need to take action now,” Criswell said.
She gave her full support to the bipartisan infrastructure bill which has money set aside for these projects. Sen. Bill Cassidy is pushing to pass that bill so the state can start preparing now, before the next disaster. But that bill and Biden’s Build Back Better plan are still tied up in Congress as politicians fight over the price tag and what is considered infrastructure.
When asked if the bills cover enough of the mitigation efforts FEMA is asking for, Sen. Cassidy said it is better to get started with the funds laid out in the infrastructure package rather than let them sink if not everyone gets what they want out of the bills.
“Nothing is ever complete but it makes an incredible good start. The old adage ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,’ we’ve got to start that step and if we’re going to say, ‘oh no we can’t do it now because we want even billions more than we’re getting,’ we never start the step,” Sen. Cassidy said.
Both bills are set to be voted on by the end of the month. Sen. Cassidy said more hurricane relief legislation is expected to be brought up in December.