Call Of The Day: Overhaul and Strengthen the Federal Natural Disaster Response System

As the 2018 hurricane season gets underway, communities affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Maria last year are still struggling to rebuild.  The massive death toll in Puerto Rico and the lackluster recovery efforts in Houston, Puerto Rico and other areas illustrate the dire need for an improved federal response to natural disasters.  A recently-published study concluded that an estimated 4,645 people in Puerto Rico died during and after Hurricane Maria.  The estimate is over 70 times higher than the official death toll of 64 and a clear indictment of the federal government’s response to the crisis in Puerto Rico.  The study authors noted that 1 in 3 reported deaths were due to interruptions in medical care and the loss of utilities in households with chronically ill residents.

Meanwhile, in communities like Houston, low-income families (primarily families of color) are still unable to return to homes damaged by hurricane-related flooding, thanks in part to the absurdly complex disaster recovery system.  As Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long admitted during an April congressional hearing, "Recovery funding comes from 17 different federal government agencies and it's too difficult to understand what you’re entitled to and how to put it to work."  Furthermore, much of the critical funding needed to support recovery in low-income areas has yet to be disbursed.

As climate change makes deadly hurricanes and flooding increasingly likely, the government must be prepared to sustain medical care during storms, accurately assess storms’ effects on communities, and provide timely and adequate aid to help affected areas rebuild.  However, Congress has repeatedly failed to pass legislation that streamlines and improves the federal disaster response system.  With the 2018 hurricane season predicted to be even worse than last year’s, time is running out for Congress to do its job.

Three calls to make:  Senators Kennedy and Cassidy, and Representative Richmond or Scalise

Senator Bill Cassidy: DC Office: 202-224-5824; Metairie office: 504-838-0130; Monroe: 318-324-2111; Lake Charles 337-493-5398; Alexandria: 318-448-7176
 
Senator John Kennedy: DC office: 202-224-4623; New Orleans: 504-581-6190; Lafayette: (337) 269-5980; Monroe: (318) 361-1489; Alexandria: (318) 445-2892; Baton Rouge: (225) 926-8033; Shreveport: (318) 670-5192

Because of how Congressional districts are drawn, New Orleans residents have either Richmond or Scalise as their representative.  If you don't know who your representative is, you can look it up by entering your home address on the U.S. House of Representatives website.

Representative Cedric Richmond - in DC at (202) 225-6636, and in New Orleans at (504) 288-3777
OR
Representative Steve Scalise - in DC at (202) 225-3015, and in Metairie at (504) 837-1259

SAMPLE SCRIPT:

Hi, my name is [Your Name] and I'm an active voter from New Orleans.

I'm calling to urge the [senator/representative] to support legislation streamlining and improving the natural disaster recovery process.  As the appalling death toll in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria demonstrates, the federal government must better prepare for deadly storms and make it easier for victims to seek relief and begin rebuilding.

Thank you for your time and attention.

[IF LEAVING A VOICEMAIL: please leave your full street address to ensure your call is tallied]

This call is adapted from 5Calls.org.