WASHINGTON – Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., today held a hearing on disaster recovery efforts in Galveston, Texas, one year after Hurricane Ike devastated the region and four years after Hurricane Rita. Prior to the hearing, Senator Hutchison and Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas joined the Senator for a tour of the Island and its small businesses to review recovery progress.
The hearing and tour compared the federal, state and local governments’ coordinated response to Hurricane Ike with the response three years earlier to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The response to Ike improved due to reforms spearheaded by Senator Landrieu – Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Disaster Recovery Subcommittee Chair – implemented since the 2005 storms. After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita it took 3 months, or longer, for families and businesses to receive loans from the Small Business Administration. After Hurricane Ike, most loans were approved in a little over a week.
While progress has been made, witnesses – including Mayor Thomas and representatives from the Small Business Administration (SBA), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and local small business owners – emphasized the need for more reforms.
“After Katrina and Rita the federal response was slow, planning was insufficient and staff and funding came up short,” Senator Landrieu said. “One positive result of this woeful performance was that it led to changes in the way Washington responds to disasters. While agencies like the SBA were better prepared and more responsive following Gustav and Ike, disaster recovery efforts are still far from perfect. As we work to reauthorize the SBA and reform the Stafford Act, we must ensure that the next time there is a catastrophic disaster there is also a better coordinated effort amongst the federal, state and local governments and an overall more timely response so the families and businesses who need help the most have quick access to the tools they need to rebuild their lives.”
To read more about the hearing, including witness testimony and the Senator's opening statement, please click here.