Texas Lawmakers Critical of Federal Response to Hurricane

October 28, 2008

Lawmakers in Texas praised the state’s response to Hurricane Ike but some blasted the efforts of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at a recent meeting of the state Senate’s Transportation and Homeland Security Committee.

Senator Tommy Williams, who represents four counties impacted by Hurricane Ike, criticized the “faceless bureaucracy” at federal agencies for failing to meet the needs of southeast Texas following the storm, according to a release posted on the Texas Senate Web site. “We want the same thing for Texas that they did for Louisiana,” he said. “They have not done it and they have turned a deaf ear to the people of southeast Texas.”

Williams said that trailers for emergency shelter are desperately needed in his region. In the five weeks following Ike’s Sept. 13 landfall, he said his region requested 4,000 FEMA trailers; only 150 were delivered. “I have people living in tents in the driveways of their homes and living in their cars right now because FEMA has not delivered trailers to the people in southeast Texas,” said Williams.

Another issue facing the hurricane relief efforts is the lack of federal reimbursement for recovery efforts in the region. According to state Director of Homeland Security Steve McCraw, the 100 percent reimbursement period for a number of recovery efforts, from debris removal to restoration of electric and water infrastructure, has ended.

McCraw said that Gov. Rick Perry has requested this period be extended for 18 months, but the federal government has yet to answer. If this request is denied, state and local governments could be left footing the bill for further recovery efforts.

FEMA spokesman Simon Chabel defended his agency’s response, saying the agency is responding quickly and compassionately, according to an Associated Press report. He said the agency has spent more than $250 million to help find temporary housing for Ike victims.

FEMA has also reported that inspectors contracted by the agency have completed more than 350,000 inspections, or 97 percent of the requests submitted by homeowners and renters.

Damage inspections are free and generally take 30 to 45 minutes. They are conducted by FEMA contract inspectors who have construction and/or appraisal expertise and receive disaster-specific training. Each inspector wears official photo identification.

Inspectors document the damage but do not determine the resident’s eligibility for disaster assistance.

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