Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard Statement at The Role of FEMA and Emergency Management in COVID-19 Response Hearing
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Chair of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on The Role of FEMA and Emergency Management in COVID-19 Response:
Today’s hearing can be summed up in the answer to one question, “what must emergency managers do to effectively respond to a pandemic?”
Since about the middle of the last century, we have called upon emergency managers when our nation faces a critical or complex humanitarian crisis, a natural disaster, power outages, pandemics or the need for civil defense.
These roles are codified in federal law, policy, and doctrine, such as the National Response Framework.
A year ago, at the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic, my staff and I asked FEMA what response role it would play. The expectation was that FEMA and its partners at all levels of government would play a large and visible role.
However, inconsistent with FEMA’s historical and statutory role, it was not given a role because the pandemic was seen by the previous administration as strictly a public health emergency and not an event requiring emergency management.
The last administration’s stance eventually changed as it became clear that responding to the public health crisis required emergency management expertise.
The administration finally called on FEMA and its state, local, tribal and territorial partners to help deploy hospital ships, get critical supplies into the United States, and to establish field hospitals and other operations for overwhelmed medical systems; including setting up testing and vaccination sites around the country.
The intent of today’s hearing is to look towards the future using the valuable lessons learned during this pandemic to help us be better prepared for the next emergency or disaster.
Today’s witnesses represent emergency management personnel at the local, state, and federal levels who for more than a year have worked tirelessly, under difficult conditions, to defeat the pandemic.
We, the members of Congress, and our constituents are extremely grateful for your efforts. Please extend our most sincere gratitude to your colleagues across the country.