Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 16, 2014

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on May 16, 2014

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the Administration’s nominee to be the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, testified this week and last. While all the attention is obviously on “Obamacare,” do not forget that if/when confirmed she will be in charge of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response (ASPR) that has the lead for ESF #8 as well as civilian medical countermeasure development through the office of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).  This is an important homeland security-related position.

Speaking of public health issues, cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are popping up at an alarming rate outside of the Middle East, including the U.S.

These are the issues I’ve been thinking about.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

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Comment by Donald Quixote

May 16, 2014 @ 1:56 pm

There is an interesting CRS report that addresses many of our previous discussions.

FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund: Overview and Selected Issues

Bruce R. Lindsay

May 7, 2014

“Is federal assistance to states and localities unintentionally creating a disincentive for states and localities to prepare for emergencies and major disasters? Some may argue that federal funding for disaster relief through regular annual appropriations has become entrenched to the point that it has contributed to unintended consequences. For example, it has been argued that some states do not properly fund mitigation measures because there is a presumption that federal funding is virtually guaranteed should an emergency or major disaster occur. Those advocating this position could arguably point out that federal involvement in disaster relief will continue to increase and that in order to be fiscally responsible, changes should be made in the way in which disaster relief is funded. Others may claim the function of the federal government is to help states in their time of crisis. From this perspective, withholding or limiting the amount of funding a state could receive for an incident would be neglectful of that state’s needs (p.24)”.


Comment by Christopher Tingus

May 17, 2014 @ 2:43 am

Lament re Disaster Recovery Housing Programs
by recoverydiva

The Diva wants to share this personal assessment she received recently re the severe problems encountered with federal housing programs after a disaster. It is written by a trusted person with practical knowledge of the recovery process, including recent experience after Hurricane Sandy. For obvious reasons, the author does not want to be identified.

I appreciate the author’s candor and value these observations because they help to explain the problems behind the scenes. In the past year I have posted dozens of articles about the problems and slow progress with housing recovery post-Sandy. Now I have a better understanding of the reasons. Some key points from the email:

Having lived for 15+ years with the fragmented, uncoordinated array of programs that are the federal de-facto policy for major disaster home repair, I think to may be time to begin thinking of a better way.

Owners of disaster damaged homes now get their repair assistance from a variety of sources such as:

1. FEMA-funded Shelter and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) pilot program direct essential repair services
2. National Flood Insurance Program settlements for
a. Repair/reconstruction and
b. Increased cost of compliance with flood-safe zoning
3. FEMA Individual and Households Program (IHP) repair or replacement grants (up to about $31,000)
4. State supplements to IHP – sometimes statutory (CA) usually ad hoc, per disaster.
5. Small Business Administration Disaster Household Repair loans including
a. Up to $200,000 for repair or reconstruction
b. Up to $20,000 additional for mitigation
c. Up to $200,000 additional to recast previous debt.
6. FEMA-Sate Hazard Mitigation Grant program when targeted to home repair or acquisition
7. HUD Community Development Block Grants – DR – usually a result of Congressional supplementary funding, through programs devised by state or local grantee governments.
8. FEMA Funded Disaster Case management services to help household navigate and manage these and non-governmental solutions.
I dream of ONE all-encompassing federal disaster home repair program to take the place of the disconnected array of processes we now force people to struggle and suffer through.

I wonder if a single system might not deliver more complete, timely, customer-friendly and dramatically less costly home recovery after disaster.

The most politically and popularly appealing thought might be the elimination of the national flood insurance program to be replaced with a much more elegant system of risk management/financing and repair assistance.

One single, integrated program could incentivize mitigation, speed repair, increase loaning where appropriate (thereby decreasing grants), and consolidate multiple, unwieldy, constituency-maddening, uncoordinated, multi-governmental administration into a single application and fulfillment process with a named applicant assistant responsible for every complex application.

How crazy is this? Crazier than the great governments of NY, NJ, and NYC, all having had $100s of millions for home repair approved for over a year, but still unable to deliver virtually $ to applicants waiting since last Fall? Almost 20,000 applicants are waiting in NYC.

We saw this in Louisiana and assumed it was a capacity problem. In Texas, politics was assumed to be the cause of failure. But all three of these Sandy high-capacity governments can’t be the problem. It’s got to be the system of asking state/local governments to devise (for their first time) a disaster home repair program off a blank sheet of paper beginning months after the disaster happens. It’s too difficult.

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