WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, requested that the Committee conduct a bipartisan investigation and hold hearings on the federal government’s response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The Committee is responsible for oversight of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and federal agencies’ disaster relief efforts.
“We’ve been hit with a series of terrible storms, upending the lives of millions of Americans,” McCaskill said. “As communities begin to recover, Congress needs to do its part to make sure relief efforts are going as planned and that our initial response was appropriate and well-coordinated.”
FEMA, along with the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and the Small Business Administration, plays a key role in disbursing disaster relief funding. Already, Congress has appropriated $15.25 billion for recovery efforts, and experts expect that damage from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria could total more than $300 billion – twice the cost of Hurricane Katrina. “Congress’s first responsibility in the wake of a natural disaster is to ensure that responding departments and agencies are fully resourced to carry out their life-saving and life-sustaining missions,” wrote McCaskill to Committee Chairman Ron Johnson. “As funding is expended, we have the dual obligation of ensuring that relief funds are reaching disaster victims in an effective and efficient manner and monitoring government spending in an effort to protect the interests of taxpayers.”
The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is responsible for oversight of FEMA and disaster relief efforts. The Committee held 21 hearings on Hurricane Katrina, which exposed numerous problems, such as unheeded warnings, poor decision-making, and ineffective leadership on the part of the federal government. Congressional watchdogs also identified contractors not performing the work they were supposed to and funds not reaching disaster victims.
Read McCaskill’s letter to Johnson HERE.