WASHINGTON—FEMA’s Long-Term Community Recovery branch (LTCR) needs to do a better job helping communities recover from disasters, leading Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Senators said Wednesday.
Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., and Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery Chair Mary Landrieu, D-La., were responding to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, entitled FEMA’s Long-Term Community Recovery Assistance was Helpful to State and Local Governments but had Some Limitations” (GAO-10-404).
Lieberman, Collins, and Landrieu requested that GAO examine the challenges in the LTCR branch, which is responsible for coordinating the various agencies involved in long-term recovery efforts. The LTCR also works with nongovernmental organizations and businesses in areas recovering from disasters.
“Clearly, serious problems are impeding FEMA’s ability to help communities recover from disasters,” Lieberman said. “These issues need to be addressed, and I am hopeful that the National Disaster Recovery Framework, which the Administration is working on, will do just that. I am encouraged that FEMA has agreed with the GAO’s recommendations to improve this vital tool in helping communities recover and rebuild, and I look forward to working with them to make that a reality.”
“This report documents several challenges that should be addressed and corrected quickly,” Collins said. “Ensuring effective, long-term recovery from disasters is of vital importance. While FEMA has done a commendable job at providing needed coordination for the delivery of recovery resources to affected areas, it is clear that better coordination across federal agencies is required. I join Senator Lieberman in urging the Administration to ensure that the National Disaster Recovery Framework focuses on resolving these challenges.”
“When disaster strikes, communities face the long and extremely difficult task of recovery and rebuilding,” said Landrieu. “Long after the spotlight of public attention has faded away, families and businesses are working tirelessly to get their lives back in order. FEMA has a responsibility to be there for the long haul to help them rebuild their communities. While the LTCR has proven to be helpful in many areas, this report shows that there is room for improvement. I will continue to work with FEMA and my colleagues to help make the LTCR a more effective partner in the long-term effort to assist disaster-stricken areas.”
GAO found that the LTCR provided helpful, key coordination and planning assistance to state, tribal, and local officials.
GAO lays out several areas of concern, including ambiguity as to when the federal government will become involved with long term recovery assistance and how long such assistance should last; problems created when LTCR tried to offer assistance when local officials were still dealing with immediate response activities; and LTCR activity ending too soon after a disaster.
GAO recommended FEMA take several steps to strengthen its recovery programs, including developing clear standards for when and how long the LTCR office should be involved in disaster recovery and ensuring that it is communicating more clearly with local communities on recovery projects.
Senators Lieberman, Collins, Landrieu and Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery Ranking Member Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., sent comments to FEMA on the Administration’s draft National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF) in February. The framework will put a coordinating structure in place for federal assistance to communities rebuilding after disasters.