Chairwoman Maloney and Chairman Rouda Issue Statement on New Report on Administration’s Response to Hurricanes Maria and Irma

Sep 30, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Sept. 30, 2020)—Today, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee of Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Harley Rouda, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment, issued the following statement in response to the release of a new report from the Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which uncovered serious problems with the actions of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in distributing commodities in the aftermath of Hurricanes Maria and Irma:

 

“Today’s scathing report shows that the Trump Administration’s abysmal response to Hurricanes Maria and Irma deprived the people of Puerto Rico of critical supplies, including food and water that were urgently needed to save lives.  The American people want their government to demonstrate a basic level of competence and responsiveness—especially in the wake of natural disasters—but President Trump showed just the opposite, denigrating the suffering of these American citizens and setting a horrible example for our nation.”

 

According to the new report from the Inspector General:

 

  • “FEMA lost visibility of about 38 percent of its commodity shipments to Puerto Rico, worth an estimated $257 million.”
  • “Commodities successfully delivered to Puerto Rico took an average of 69 days to reach their final destinations.”
  • “Inadequate FEMA contractor oversight contributed to the lost visibility and delayed commodity shipments.”
  • “Given the lost visibility and delayed shipments, FEMA cannot ensure it provided commodities to Puerto Rico disaster survivors as needed to sustain life and alleviate suffering as part of its response and recovery mission.”

 

On September 12, 2018, President Trump claimed during a White House briefing that his Administration’s response to the hurricanes was “tremendous” and “an incredible, unsung success.”

 

The next day, in response to the death toll in Puerto Rico climbing to 2,975 people, President Trump tweeted that those people “did not die.”  

 

Even Republicans disputed Trump’s claim, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who stated that “those are just the facts of what happened,” and Florida Governor Rick Scott, who tweeted, “I disagree with @POTUS—an independent study said thousands were lost and Gov. Rosselló agreed. I’ve been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand.  The loss of any life is tragic; the extent of lives lost as a result of Maria is heart wrenching.”

 

The Committee has been investigating the Trump Administration’s response to Hurricanes Maria and Irma since 2017, under then-Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings.

 

A September 2018 staff report detailed how “FEMA failed to deliver tens of millions of emergency meals to the victims of the hurricane in Puerto Rico.”  The staff report also warned that “FEMA failed to respond to multiple emergency requests from major supermarkets seeking fuel to run generators to help prevent food from spoiling in the days immediately following Hurricane Maria—including tons of fresh produce, dairy, and other perishable products that were desperately needed by these American citizens.”

 

On July 24, 2020, Subcommittee Chairman Rouda held a hearing with Administrator Peter T. Gaynor on FEMA’s preparedness to respond to simultaneous natural disasters in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.  The hearing found that, almost three years after the hurricanes struck the islands in 2017, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were still experiencing inexcusable lags from FEMA in their efforts to recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

 

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116th Congress