Chair DeLauro Statement at the Role of FEMA and Emergency Management in COVID-19 Response Hearing

2021-03-16 10:19

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee on Homeland Security hearing on The Role of FEMA and Emergency Management in COVID-19 Response:

Thank you, Chairwoman Roybal-Allard and Ranking Member Fleischmann, for holding what is a very important hearing. And thank you to our witnesses for testifying.

Since the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s formation in 1979, the hard-working and dedicated FEMA staff have helped our nation prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters and emergencies of all kinds. They have answered the call to serve, working under the most difficult circumstances and facing daunting logistical challenges, to provide assistance and support those who are the most in need.  

When our nation descended into the worst public health crisis in generations, the men and women of FEMA came rushing to the rescue. They have provided much-needed medical supplies, personal protective equipment, and COVID-19 tests to our communities. They have set up field hospitals, testing and vaccination sites, put their own health and safety in jeopardy to help those in crisis.

Though responding to this pandemic has not been easy for anyone, it would have been so much more difficult without the assistance and the support of FEMA.  And now the agency is facing new and increasing challenges on multiple fronts—such as the growing potential crisis at the US Mexico border where COVID-19 social distancing practices have increased the need for more beds, as the Chairwoman noted. That is why it is more important than ever that we work to ensure the agency is properly equipped with the funding and resources it needs.  

I am grateful that the American Rescue Plan provides $50 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund as well as $510 million for FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter program, and another $200 million for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grants, as well as $100 million for Assistance to Firefighter Grants and another $100 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants.

But now that the money is getting out the door, we need to take a long-term look at the crises FEMA will face in the future and understand how the agency can become more proactive to future challenges. Under the previous Administration, FEMA had considerable difficulty responding in a timely and effective manner to the rising COVID-19 pandemic.

That is why I and others wrote to Administrator Gaynor and others on several occasions to voice my concerns about the state of the Strategic National Stockpile and the need to increase the number of ventilators, N95 masks, surgical masks, and other medical supplies. Unfortunately, the response I received can only be described as inadequate.

That is why I thank Chairwoman Roybal-Allard and Ranking Member Fleischman again for holding this crucial hearing, and why I am hopeful that, under the Biden-Harris Administration, we can move forward, incorporate the lessons we have learned from the pandemic, and comprehensively prepare for the future in consultation with FEMA.

117th Congress