July 11, 2012
Lawmakers Meet with FEMA Administrator Fugate to Smooth Flood Recovery for U of I and Iowa City Economy
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today joined Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-IA) to meet with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate. The lawmakers urged him to dispute the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recommendations to reverse replacement decisions for the University of Iowa’s Hancher-Voxman-Clapp and Art Building East facilities. If the recommendations were to be accepted by either the FEMA Administrator or an undersecretary of Homeland Security, the effect of the OIG recommendations would be to take backs funds already approved by FEMA, with over $25 million already spent towards new buildings that would be wasted and delaying the timeline for full recovery. Already, in its initial response to the draft report, FEMA disagreed with the OIG report, and today the lawmakers urged Administrator Fugate to move quickly to respond in the same manner to this intra-department dispute by August 3rd.
“I am very pleased with what I heard from Administrator Fugate today,” said Harkin. “FEMA has taken the correct position. Spending tens of millions of dollars to repair damaged buildings that may well flood again is neither in the interests of the University nor those of taxpayers. In addition, the Inspector General’s assumptions on initial savings are likely overstated because repair costs will be higher given that these buildings have been vacant for a long time. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Iowa delegation to support FEMA’s current position of funding for new facilities outside the 100 year flood plain at the University of Iowa.”
“It’s good that Administrator Fugate is holding firm on the commitments that FEMA made to the University of Iowa. It’s unfortunate that the University of Iowa is getting caught in an internal dispute at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Since there was no violation of either rules or the Stafford Act, any FEMA policy changes prompted by the findings and recommendations of the Inspector General should be applied for the future, not retroactively with funds already obligated, in this case, to the University of Iowa. I’ll continue to work with the congressional delegation and Department of Homeland Security for fair treatment for the University of Iowa,” Grassley said.
“We had an encouraging meeting with the Administrator and our messages were well-received. It is unfathomable that almost two years after this project was approved, recovery funds could be taken back,” said Loebsack. “The students, university community, and the Eastern Iowa economy, should not be caught in the middle of Washington’s red tape, which is why I have already secured a commitment on the floor of Congress from the Chairman of Homeland Security Appropriations to work with us and will continue to work with Administrator Fugate and the rest of the Iowa delegation to ensure the University of Iowa is not penalized.”