Warren, Blumenthal, Sanders Press FEMA on Preparations for Upcoming Hurricane Season
Early Projections Suggest 2018 Hurricane Season Will Be As Active as 2017 Season
Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today sent a letter to Brock Long, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), requesting information on the agency’s plans to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season following the devastation in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The letter comes as early predictions suggest that the 2018 hurricane season could be even more active than the 2017 season.
Highlighting the widespread damage caused by the hurricanes to the power systems, homes, medical institutions, and clean water sources in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the senators’ letter noted that state and local officials have noted the lack of preparations made for the upcoming hurricane season. “These officials raised concerns about the accessibility and safety of current and prospective shelters, ability of residents to return to their homes following disasters, and resources for rebuilding public agencies in small cities and rural areas,” the senators wrote.
The senators’ letter also pointed out that hurricanes are likely to become more common and more intense due to climate change. “Scientists predict that this type of destruction will continue in future years, making advanced planning and preparations for frequent and stronger hurricanes both prudent and necessary,” the senators continued.
While acknowledging that FEMA is in the process of stockpiling commodities in Puerto Rico ahead of the upcoming hurricane season, the senators are seeking additional details on what preparations the agency is taking to prepare for the upcoming season for commodity stockpiling, physical and electric communications infrastructure, healthcare facilities, relief provision timing, premium pay cap and worker’s compensation, and disaster assistance contractors. The senators also requested that FEMA provide a staff-level briefing on these issues.
Since Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Senator Warren has:
- Joined Senator Blumenthal in calling on the Department of Justice to investigate the contracting process for relief and recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.
- Along with colleagues from both chambers of Congress and both sides of the aisle, reminded Puerto Rico’s Oversight Board that federal relief funds for Puerto Rico are intended for disaster relief and rebuilding, not for paying creditors.
- Urged FEMA to extend benefits for the Transitional Shelter Assistance program to Puerto Rico evacuees.
- Requested that the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security expand its review of FEMA's contracting in Puerto Rico to include the $156 million contract awarded to Tribute Contracting LLC for self-heating meals.
- Written to the Office of Management and Budget requesting information on how a proposal to reorganize and privatize the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics (PRIS) would affect the Federal Statistical System, including preparations for the 2020 Census.
- Led her colleagues in the Massachusetts congressional delegation in writing to the Food and Drug Administration highlighting the impact of drug and medical device shortages on Massachusetts medical centers after Hurricane Maria.
- Led the Massachusetts congressional delegation in writing to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to request information on SAMHSA's efforts to address mental health challenges in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
- Led a congressional delegation trip to Puerto Rico to conduct oversight of Hurricane Maria recovery efforts.
- Led eight of her colleagues on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee in writing to HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) to request that the Committee hold hearings to assess the challenges facing the health and educational systems of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
- Called for an investigation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) decision to award over $30 million in contracts to Bronze Star LLC for temporary roofing materials in Puerto Rico that were never delivered. (The DHS IG has said it will investigate.)
- Introduced a comprehensive plan, along with Senator Sanders and colleagues, to address the immediate humanitarian needs in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and ensure that the islands not only recover, but are able to rebuild in a way that empowers them to thrive.
- Led five of her Senate colleagues in writing to the Department of Defense to request information on the Department's efforts to provide medical care in the aftermath of Hurricanes Maria, and to request information on the role of the USNS Comfort in the Department's Puerto Rico response efforts.
- Joined colleagues in urging Senate appropriators to include in a third disaster supplemental bill additional funding to help schools impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
- Urged Puerto Rico's Financial Oversight and Management Board to request that the Court overseeing Puerto Rico's debt restructuring completely write off the Island's debt obligations.
- Led a group of 12 senators asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for information about water- and vector-borne diseases in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- Written to the Trump Administration outlining what ought to be included in a third disaster supplemental appropriations bill to address the damage caused by hurricanes and wildfires across the country.
- Joined colleagues in demanding federal agencies expedite power restoration efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- Joined in leading a group of 7 senators in pushing the Trump administration to increase efforts on Vieques and Culebra, especially securing the Vieques Superfund site.
- Urged the Department of Education to use its discretion to help college students and student loan borrowers displaced or otherwise unable to continue their education in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
- Led a group of senators urging DHS to take steps to ensure the accuracy of the official fatality count in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
- Called for Puerto Rico's debt relief during a Capitol Hill rally in coordination with the #JustRecovery march.
- Participated in a FEMA briefing on the status of recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- Led a coalition of senators in a letter to President Trump, urging him to step up disaster recovery efforts on the Puerto Rican islands of Vieques and Culebra.
- Held community meetings in Massachusetts to discuss the economic and humanitarian crises on the islands.
- Pressed President Trump to take eight immediate, specific actions in response to the crisis in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- Urged HHS to provide additional resources and better coordinate efforts to combat the growing public health crisis on the ground.
- Called on the President to use his authority under the Defense Production Act to more swiftly respond to the disaster.
- Written to Republican leadership requesting that Congress be allowed to promptly take up legislation to provide the necessary aid to the U.S. citizens living on the islands.
- Asked President Trump to waive the local cost-sharing requirement for the hurricane response in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and for the federal government to fully cover recovery expenses.
- Joined Senator Markey in calling for a resolution to the Univision-Verizon retransmission dispute, to hasten the restoration of Spanish-language news programming in the wake of the hurricanes.
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