Oversight of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Response to the Baton Rouge Flood Disaster: Part II

Full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Hearing Date: April 5, 2017 9:30 am 2154 Rayburn HOB

TAKEAWAYS:
  • Incompetence and mismanagement plagued Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) delivery of manufactured housing units (MHUs) to victims of the August 2016 flood.
  • FEMA MHUs cost taxpayers approximately $150,000 for an 18-month occupancy. FEMA auctioned off similar units for an average price of $10,914 in 2015.
  • FEMA documents show the agency prioritized public relations and positive press in the aftermath of the flood.
  • A federal contractor responsible for the maintenance of MHUs only responded to 10 percent of maintenance calls in December 2016. An 84-year-old man died in his MHU when the thermostat malfunctioned and the unit overheated. FEMA then replaced approximately 1,500 thermostats.
  • The Governor of Louisiana was unaware of how many flood victims are still displaced from their homes.
PURPOSE:
  • To identify problems with the recovery in Baton Rouge, LA related to MHUs, the Shelter at Home program, and FEMA’s communication with localities in order to propose positive reforms for the agency.
BACKGROUND:
  • In August 2016, Baton Rouge experienced one of the worst flood disasters in US history. Over 150,000 individuals registered for assistance through FEMA.
  • In September 2016, the Committee held a hearing on recovery efforts. Committee staff made two visits to the area and discovered various problems with FEMA’s handling of recovery efforts after meeting with local officials, survivors, businesses, and federal officials.
  • Chairman Chaffetz sent a letter to FEMA’s Acting Administrator requesting documents regarding continued problems with MHUs (including an individual dying from a heating malfunction), the Shelter at Home program, and information sharing between FEMA and local responders.

KEY VIDEOS:

Chaiman Chaffetz (R-UT): “What’s sad about this is there are a lot of good men and women serving in all of your organizations . . . the person that’s down there on the ground in Louisiana trying to do things, working for FEMA, I think their heart is in the right place. But I don’t think any of you could look at this and assess it as . . . anything other than a total and utter failure from top to bottom.”

Government Operations Chairman Meadows (R-NC): “Something I saw today just stinks to the core – we’ve got emails that would suggest that the number one priority that FEMA had was a political motivation prior to an election . . . wouldn’t you think the major component for FEMA would be to get people in housing and make sure that that housing is safe, and it has nothing to do with political consequences?”

Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL): “Listening to testimony this morning, it’s disturbing to me, Mr. Chairman, that the federal agency has failed in so many respects. And I think maybe we need to look at this process, we need to make some corrections and see if we can’t be a little bit more responsive–actually a lot more responsive–to the state and local governments when they have needs like this.”

Witnesses and testimonies

Name Title Organization Panel Document
The Honorable John Bel Edwards Governor of Louisiana Document
Mr. Robert J. Fenton, Jr. Acting Administrator Federal Emergency Management Agency Document
Rear Admiral David Boone, USN, Retired President CB&I Federal Services LLC Document
Mr. Mark Harrell Emergency Coordinator Livingston Parish, Louisiana Document
The Honorable Junior Shelton (Unable to attend due to Severe Weather, Central, LA) Mayor of Central Louisiana Document

Related Documents

Name Document
Chairman Chaffetz Opening Statement Document