Cummings and Plaskett Thank Gowdy for Arranging FEMA Telephone Briefing
Cummings and Plaskett Thank Gowdy for
Arranging FEMA Telephone Briefing
Democrats Press for Briefings from DOD and White House;
Ask Chairman to Send Document Requests to Agencies
Washington, D.C. (Oct. 3, 2017)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Stacey Plaskett from the U.S. Virgin Islands who also serves as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on the Interior, Energy and Environment, issued statements after participating in a telephone briefing organized by Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy with Damon Penn, the Assistant Administrator of the Response Directorate with the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA).
Ranking Member Cummings: “I thank the Chairman for organizing this morning’s telephone call. It is clear that the men and women serving with FEMA are both well-meaning and hard-working, but that they urgently need more help. Today’s briefing raised serious questions about why the White House failed to mobilize sufficient military resources and personnel—questions the FEMA representative could not answer. While today’s phone briefing was a very small step in the right direction, we have asked the Chairman to schedule similar briefings with the Department of Defense and the White House, and we have asked him to send document requests to these offices as a basic, preliminary step in this investigation, just as Chairman Tom Davis did soon after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.
Ranking Member Plaskett: “The conditions in the U.S. Virgin Islands are dire. The hearing allowed us to learn of the massive support services that the federal government has and are ready to deploy. We recognize the people on the ground are committed to do what’s right by the people of the territories. What was also evident through the questions of myself and my colleagues were that much of the resources are only now being deployed or are still in planning stages. For example, while the hospital on St. Thomas has been destroyed and the hospital St. Croix has been condemned the FEMA official could not explain why a military medical vessels was sent to Puerto Rico but not to the Virgin Islands while there is one on its way to Uganda. As another example, FEMA has given the Governor Mapp of the Virgin Islands ideas for temporary and permanent housing for those who have lost homes. Why wasn’t that decision made before the hurricanes hit. There are numerous unanswered questions like this that the Committee should in its jurisdiction insist on answers and follow up. Urgent action by our Committee now could help shed light on the shortfalls of the recovery process in the devastation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and make a measurable and significant difference in the lives of American families there. By holding an oversight hearing on this issue now, we could also help prevent a worsening of the human tragedy that is unfolding and help ensure that the lessons we identified from past federal responses are implemented by the Trump Administration.”
Last Friday, Cummings and Plaskett wrote a letter to Gowdy expressing their grave concerns about the dire status of recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and requesting an emergency hearing this week with officials from the White House as well as the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services.
Gowdy declined to call the hearing, but instead arranged today’s telephone conference with the FEMA official.
Cummings has asked Gowdy to schedule similar briefings with the Department of Defense and the White House, and he has asked Gowdy to send document requests to these agencies as part of the Committee’s investigation. Gowdy has not yet responded. Both Cummings and Plaskett continue to call for a public hearing on the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.