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La. congressmen question FEMA’s chief about hurricane response

Sen. Cassidy says a grade on how FEMA is performing depends on the area
Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 6:00 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - FEMA’s chief Deanne Criswell faced questions from two Louisiana congressmen about the response to Hurricane Ida. And there was a push by one of the congressmen for more information about help for southwest Louisiana which has not fully recovered from Hurricanes Laura and Delta in 2020.

Criswell told a U.S. House committee that she is proud of how FEMA has responded to Ida.

“FEMA was well-prepared for Ida,” said Criswell. “We pre-positioned millions of liters of water, millions of meals, specialized response teams, and numerous resources from our federal community to deploy, based on the immediate needs after the storm had passed.

Still, Congressman Troy Carter, D-Louisiana, had other questions for Criswell.

“The biggest factor in recoveries is how fast we get monies back into the pockets,” said Carter.

He raised questions about some applicants for FEMA assistance being denied due to mistakes they made when applying.

“What can we do to create a, an appeals process, a person who may have made an innocent mistake or accident in their filing are not summarily rejected?” asked Carter.

Criswell replied, “We were able to get money out into the hands of survivors faster than we have in any other disaster and we did hear that some individuals were having some difficulties with how they answered the questions and so we did go back and take a look at what we were using as criteria to approve those for critical needs assistance and we were able to give funding to an additional 120,000 families.”

And Congressman Carter also asked the FEMA administrator about the Blue Roof Program which is being administered by the Army Corps of Engineers. There are complaints that it is moving slowly.

“As you know we continue to have rain and the ability to mitigate the existing damages would be very helpful if we could do it faster,” said Carter.

“I did speak with Lt. General Spellman directly to talk about the status of the program, and he has assured me that he has made some improvements into how they’re executing their mission and I think from the numbers that I had seen they’ve already significantly increased the number of blue roofs that they’ve installed, but I’ll tell you that that’s never fast enough,” said Criswell.

FOX 8 asked U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, \during his press call if he was satisfied with FEMA’s response to Ida.

“As regards grading FEMA’s it depends on where you are,” said Cassidy.

He said people in some areas have received FEMA resources, others were still waiting.

“When I was at areas in north Lafourche and Terrebonne they felt FEMA’s presence, when I was done in Point-aux-Chene close to the coastline lower LaFourche, now, by the way, it took us four hours to take a trip that normally would have taken an hour and that’s because of all the utility trucks, etc., that were lined up to fix the poles, so I’m not blaming people,” said Cassidy.

He hopes access to FEMA help will improve as travel impediments are reduced.

“When I spoke to the folks at Point-Aux-Chenes, she told me first in French and then in English that she had not been seeing FEMA, so hopefully as the light poles, the electricity goes back up and folks can get done more easily that’ll change,” said Cassidy.

Congressman Clay Higgins, also a Republican, spoke to Criswell about funds for some public entities that have not arrived yet in the Lake Charles area which was hit by Hurricanes Laura and Delta over a year ago.

“The fact that over a year after the initial incidences that these cities and towns are still waiting on public assistance reimbursement that they qualify for, or in some cases even to have FEMA inspectors come and appraise the damage a year later, it’s shameful,” said Higgins.

“It’s taking too long is what it sounds like and so I commit to you that my team will continue to work with the representatives there to make sure that we’re moving this forward as fast as we can,” Criswell replied.

The deadline to apply for FEMA aid related to Ida is October 28.

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