Press Releases

Chairman Perry Statement from Hearing on Expanded Use of FEMA Resources

Washington, D.C., March 12, 2024 | Justin Harclerode (202) 225-9446
f t # e

Washington, D.C. – Opening remarks, as prepared, of Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee Chairman Scott Perry (R-PA) from today’s hearing, entitled, “Disaster Readiness: Examining the Propriety of the Expanded Use of FEMA Resources”:

Today’s hearing will focus on examining the propriety of the expanded use of FEMA resources and how it is impacting FEMA’s ability to carry out its core mission.

Fundamentally, FEMA’s core mission is to help people before, during, and after disasters. More specifically, states lead the responses to disasters and FEMA comes in, at the request of the state, if the state’s resources are overwhelmed. Or at least, that is how it is supposed to work. Increasingly, it seems, states are asking for help in more and more incidents that states themselves should be prepared to handle, like snowstorms in the northeast.

So, we have an increasing reliance on the federal government, and then we add that FEMA is also being tasked to manage non-traditional disasters, like pandemics, and help with issues completely unrelated to its mission, or so called “non-Stafford Act disasters.”  Between 2014 and 2020, FEMA was deployed seven times to address non-Stafford Act disasters. In just the last three years, that has jumped to 16 non-Stafford Act disasters.  These included the crisis at our nation’s southwest border, Operation Allies Welcome, Operation Vaccinate Our Workforce, and the list goes on.

There is such an increasing demand on the agency that FEMA created a new National Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) to respond to disasters that fall outside FEMA’s typical mission set.

In addition to being called on to address these non-Stafford Act disasters, from 2020 to 2023 FEMA also led the federal government’s response to COVID-19. To date, as it relates to COVID-19, FEMA has obligated $75 billion in Public Assistance, $44.3 billion for Individual Assistance, $36.5 billion for the Lost Wages Assistance Program, and $3.1 billion for the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program.

Not surprisingly, with all this money flowing out, the DHS Inspector General found billions in fraud and improper payments. In the Lost Wages Assistance Program alone, the DHS OIG estimated more than $3.7 billion in improper payments.

It got to a point that the OIG set up a COVID fraud unit, and stealing FEMA funding became a crime of convenience for criminal organizations, including related crimes like identity theft.

What’s more, FEMA has continued to defend the administration of the Lost Wages Assistance Program, going as far as to say that sufficient internal controls were implemented. The fact that FEMA has failed to implement more controls raises serious concerns about FEMA’s recently announced interim rule which would make significant changes to FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program.

Some of the most shocking changes include giving households $750 cash payments, paying individuals up-front for housing options of their choice, and providing up-front payments to individuals who are choosing to stay with family and friends. Many of these changes ignore some of the Inspector General’s key recommendations to reduce fraud.

Where is the accountability in all of this? Why aren’t states doing what they need to do to budget for these costs? Where is the expectation that states, local governments, and individuals carry insurance?

How are these added responsibilities on FEMA impacting its core mission, especially since we know from GAO that FEMA has a workforce shortage? FEMA can’t be all things to all people. We have to get a handle on the proper role of FEMA and ensure FEMA’s internal controls reduce fraud and misuse of taxpayer funds.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses on these issues.

Click here for more information from today’s hearing, including video and witness testimony.

f t # e