Graves questions FEMA on prep, response, recovery efforts in Maui

Following last month’s devastating wildfires in Maui, U.S. Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, wants a status report from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on its preparedness for, response to, and recovery from the disaster.

The committee, which has jurisdiction over FEMA and the federal management of emergencies and disasters, seeks to understand the effectiveness of federal disaster assistance programs and to monitor the allocation of taxpayer resources in response to the fires to ensure funds are used appropriately and efficiently to aid survivors, according to a Sept. 7 letter sent to FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell by Rep. Graves and committee ranking member U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA).

“Considering the large and extended federal response effort, the committee will continue to monitor the allocation and effectiveness of federal resources,” the members wrote. “This includes investigating concerns that arise with the use of federal resources and assets during and after response and recovery efforts.”

For example, the lawmakers pointed out that while fires in Maui continued burning, there were concerns raised related to alerting residents of the danger, evacuations from vulnerable areas, and access to resources, including water, to fight the fire. 

“Additionally, questions were raised related to the housing of FEMA and other federal personnel, including the location of housing and cost to the taxpayer,” they wrote. 

Reps. Graves and Larsen asked that Criswell answer 15 questions and document requests for FEMA, including questions related to disaster housing and assistance, housing for FEMA personnel, alerts and warnings, support for preparedness and resiliency, and liability, according to their letter.

For instance, because FEMA provided $700 of assistance in the form of Critical Needs Assistance (CNA) to disaster survivors in Maui, they want to know how FEMA will determine the appropriate CNA award for each disaster, and if the amount can be adjusted to account for disaster severity or local inflation.