WASHINGTON, D.C. — A day before Trump’s nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Kathy Kraninger, is set to appear in front of the Senate Banking Committee for her confirmation hearing, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the highest-ranking Latino in Congress, released a statement after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) admitted their failures in the response to the devastation that Hurricane Maria caused in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Earlier this week, Kraninger failed to provide a full account of her role in the Administration’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, as a response to a letter led by Sen. Menendez on July 10th.
“The after-action report confirms what we knew for months. The Trump administration had an improvised response to the worst hurricane season in U.S. history - it simply was not prepared for the worst-case scenario. Almost a year after the tragedy, the agency in charge of the botched response admits they struggled to make life-saving decisions to help alleviate the suffering of millions of American citizens who lost everything in Puerto Rico.
“Despite the efforts by Trump and his administration to downplay their own incapacity, what this report shows is the clear double standard in the response of similar tragedies in other places like Florida and Texas. It took FEMA more than two months to send to Puerto Rico one-third of the staff they sent to Texas in two weeks, and they estimated only 53% of the population would be impacted by hurricane Maria when in reality almost the entire population was impacted. And when Trump visited the island, taking a victory lap and praising FEMA’s performance, characterizing the devastation as not being ‘a real catastrophe’, hundreds if not thousands of fellow American citizens were dying because of the lack of drinkable water, food and the access to basic healthcare resources.
“Republicans in Congress should join Democrats in demanding answers from the administration on why they were so careless in reacting to a tragedy of gigantic proportions. The Administration should provide Congress with a government-wide after-action report specific to its response to Hurricane Maria. They should also join us in exhorting the administration to plan accordingly moving forward, to avoid preventable damages and unnecessary loss of life during this year’s hurricane season. I fear the Trump Administration is ill-equipped to right its ship and respond, should Puerto Rico or even the Jersey Shore be hit with by another disaster. The Trump Administration failed the American people and we just cannot afford to do so again.”
The Washington Post: FEMA admits failures in Puerto Rico disaster response, in after-action report
By Arelis R. Hernández
The Federal Emergency Management Agency experienced personnel shortages, was caught with a critical lack of aid supplies, had trouble coordinating logistics and found itself struggling to do the work of the territorial government while responding to Hurricane Maria’s devastation in Puerto Rico last September, according to an official after-action report released late Thursday.
Despite repeated Trump administration efforts to play down federal failures in responding to a humanitarian crisis on the island territory, the new report is a public acknowledgment of systemic failures during what was one of the most destructive hurricane seasons — and costliest disaster responses — in the nation’s history.
It shows that responses to Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida taxed the agency and left it understaffed and out of position for the catastrophe that unfolded in Puerto Rico, where millions of U.S. citizens suffered through widespread communication blackouts, massive infrastructure failures and lengthy power outages.
The sobering report runs counter to the White House narrative that President Trump presented at the time, when he praised FEMA’s performance and characterized the devastation on the island as not being “a real catastrophe like Katrina.”
Aerial view of the devastation at Palma Real Shopping Center in Humacao, a municipality on the east side of Puerto Rico, shown two days after Hurricane Maria made landfall on Sept. 20, 2017. (Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo/For The Washington Post)
The three major hurricanes that made landfall on U.S. soil — along with wildfires and other natural disasters — ravaged the country and its territories in 2017, affecting nearly 50 million Americans and U.S. nationals spread across the South, West and Caribbean. The disasters cost nearly $300 billion, according to FEMA estimates.
In Puerto Rico, the Category 4 Hurricane Maria knocked out communications and left more than 3.5 million residents without power for months while FEMA scrambled to provide food and water and restore electricity. Resources that had been redirected to deal with Hurricane Irma in the U.S. Virgin Islands left few supplies for Puerto Rico when the hurricane hit — and communication lapses, transportation challenges and a lack of situational awareness caused major delays in help for those living on the island.
FEMA administrator William “Brock” Long wrote in a letter included in the report that emergency managers at all levels of government need to improve their emergency plans to account for the shortfalls that led to coordination and logistical breakdowns. Sounding a warning he has repeated since the disasters, Long said communities must be better prepared for emergencies, and he acknowledged that his agency must streamline procedures to provide better services.
Read the full story here.