JOE M. ALLBAUGH
FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY
ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
SEPTEMBER 24, 2002
Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Senator Smith and Committee Members. I am Joe Allbaugh, Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). I thank you for the opportunity to update the Committee regarding FEMA’s work with the New York area, as well as Virginia and Pennsylvania, to assist in recovery efforts following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
We have come a long way since the weeks immediately following the attacks on New York, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. And I would like to commend my staff and all of those who have worked closely with us and with the Administration to accomplish seemingly unattainable goals. We have worked closely with Senator Clinton and Senator Corzine and other members of their delegations, and I am very proud of what we have been able to accomplish for the New York area. The response to this incident was unlike any in FEMA’s history.
As you know, this has been a long and challenging journey, and we have forged a new path together on many fronts. We have tested the boundaries of our programs and found the need to utilize them in ways we had not previously considered. This is merely one example of the flexibility and commitment the Administration has shown in responding to the unique nature of this incident.
As a Nation, we have moved forward from the atrocities we witnessed on that day. None of us will ever be the same as we were on September 10, 2001. I am proud to be a citizen of this great country and am grateful to have the privilege to serve a President who has shown such historic leadership during a time when he was called to lead.
I am also fortunate to lead FEMA during a time when our President has proposed a long-overdue coordination of our Federal programs related to homeland security. As you consider the creation of the Department of Homeland Security on the Senate floor, I ask you to remember that creating this Department will bring us closer to our goal of preparedness than we have ever been or will be without it. I fully support FEMA’s transfer into the new Department and commit myself to ensuring its success. This is the right action, at the right time, for the good of the country.
Today I want to address several issues specifically, but before I do, let me briefly summarize FEMA’s activities in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia:
To date, FEMA has expended, obligated or authorized nearly $5.5 billion for a wide range of public and private relief activities, including:
· more than $5.2 billion in public assistance, including approximately $2.75 billion for transportation infrastructure repairs and restoration,
· approximately $360 million for New York Police Department overtime, vehicle and equipment costs,
· approximately $260 million for Fire Department of New York overtime, death benefits, equipment and vehicle losses and restoration of the Engine/Ladder 10 firehouse, and
· more than $636 million for debris removal and landfill operations;
· more than $269 million for assistance to families and individuals through programs such as crisis counseling, Mortgage and Rental Assistance, disaster unemployment, disaster housing, and the Individual and Family Grant program. That’s in addition to more than $1.5 billion in assistance distributed or available for distribution by private voluntary relief organizations.
While FEMA retains its presence in New York, and will remain there until every job we can do is done, I believe the overwhelming majority of needs have been identified and have either been met or are in the process of being met.
Among those programs that have been successful over the last 12 months and will continue for as long as it takes are three I would like to address more fully.
First, one of the largest single financial commitments FEMA will make in New York is the $2.75 billion we will pool with $1.8 billion from the Department of Transportation to rebuild lower Manhattan’s mass transit infrastructure.
FEMA’s statutory authority is to repair damaged infrastructure, not create new infrastructure. As you know, New York City’s giant transportation system suffered massive damage because of the terrorist attacks. The PATH commuter train station beneath the World Trade Center and the tunnels the train used were destroyed, leaving tens of thousands of commuters to find alternate transportation into the city. Subway stations were closed during extensive repairs and the Courtland Street station was complete destroyed. Obviously, more was required than the typical repairs FEMA is accustomed to providing.
To meet this challenge, FEMA developed a new and innovative approach to restore the function of the damaged infrastructure without limiting ourselves to the old form. The result of this creative thinking is a $4.55 billion investment in lower Manhattan’s mass transit system that will restore the capacity to accommodate commuters and travelers for generations to come.
FEMA’s flexibility, combined with the funding from the DOT, will help planners in New York meet the city’s transportation needs.
CRISIS COUNSELING/PROJECT LIBERTY
Though FEMA is often thought of as the federal government’s response to faceless forces of nature, what I have been most struck by in my time here is the fundamental truth of the agency: FEMA is about helping people.
The events of September 11th were – and will probably always be – too horrifying to fully grasp, even for adults. Project Liberty, the crisis counseling program established by the State of New York and funded by FEMA, has gone out of its way to comfort people of all ages in the wake of the attacks, as affected individuals work their way through the stages of grief, fear, anger, and a host of difficult, but healthy, emotions.
A huge part of FEMA’s responsibility to the American people is to help them recover after emergencies and disasters. I’m proud FEMA has helped include emotional comfort into our agency’s definition of the word “recover.”
That’s why our successful Crisis Counseling program, in the wake of 9/11, funded programs in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Through this program, FEMA has funded New York state’s Project Liberty at a total of $154.7 million – greater than the sum of all such grants made since 1974. Project Liberty’s success – along with the programs in other states – is a prime example of FEMA’s ability to work with its state partners to meet the varying needs of victims of disasters.
Since 9/11, Project Liberty’s counselors have made contact with more than 256,000 people from New York and across the nation and distributed more than nine million brochures. The needs of children are of particular importance to FEMA’s counselors. Many of us on the day of the attacks were so transfixed by the terrible images we saw on the television that it was often hours before we realized that young, confused and frightened children were watching along with us. Project Liberty and other programs have worked to address this issue specifically as well as providing general counseling services.
As April Naturale, Project Liberty’s Statewide Director said, “This is government being there for people.” I couldn’t agree more.
way we have tried to be there for people is addressing their unforeseen
financial needs in the wake of the terrorist attacks. The Mortgage and Rental Assistance (MRA) Program is designed to
help families and individuals whose homes are not damaged by a disaster, but
who, because of the financial hardship resulting from a disaster, are in danger
of being evicted from their homes.
After recognizing the limitations of the way FEMA traditionally applied the MRA program, we developed a broader, more flexible approach. Since that time, and with the help of Congressional guidance in the supplemental appropriation, FEMA has distributed more than $50 million and has approved almost 60 % of all applications for assistance. FEMA extended the deadline so that assistance will be available to those who need it until January 31, 2003.
Finally, let me address some of the lessons FEMA has learned from its experience in the aftermath of September 11th. More than anything else, what we have taken away from our experience responding to and recovering from the terrorist attacks is the need for our agency to be flexible to the changing and unpredictable needs of the American people in this post-9/11 world.
Every disaster is unique, and the attacks against the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and aboard Flight 93 made that crystal clear. They posed a diverse array of challenges.
To meet those challenges, FEMA has developed a diverse array of creative and innovative solutions, working with the public and private sectors, our partners at the federal, state and local level, and Congress. Programs developed over the years to meet the needs of localized, natural disasters had to be rethought and reapplied in the face of a catastrophic, man-made emergency in three separate states.
When it became clear the MRA program was not helping enough people, we were able to work with Congress to broaden its application. When we began to consider what would replace the damaged infrastructure in New York, FEMA’s dedicated staff was able to think “outside the box” and develop our transportation pool idea.
And going forward, the same principles apply. On 9/11, it was clear we needed to do more for America’s first responders. The President has recognized this need and has asked Congress for a $3.5 billion investment to better train and equip our emergency response personnel.
In the post-9/11 world, it’s also clear we must do more in the area of emergency preparedness coordination, a task FEMA’s Office of National Preparedness is managing for the federal government, with our state and local partners. As the nation’s perception of “worst case scenario” has been forever changed, so have FEMA’s efforts in pre-disaster planning and mitigation. The more creative and focused our thinking is before disaster strikes, the more property and lives can be saved.
We are moving forward to address challenges presented by issues such as communications and equipment interoperability, citizen preparedness activities, and updating state and local emergency plans to account for the unique challenges posed by man-made disasters (including weapons of mass destruction). FEMA’s proposed transfer to the Department of Homeland Security would help us pool expertise and resources to meet these and other challenges as one entity with one game plan.
I am proud of FEMA’s flexibility, compassion, and the success achieved with our programs and partners in the last year. I believe we have met the President’s charge to “do whatever it takes” and will continue to do so until the last job is done.
Thank you again, and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have now.