Campaign Promises

Departments -> Homeland Security -> FEMA

ItemHomeland Security
HS-12 The Promise: "...will ensure resources reach the communities that need it..."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Rebuilding the Gulf Coast and Preventing Future Catastrophes", dated 09/11/08.
Status:Since Hurricane Katrina in 08/05, which killed more than 1,800 people, uprooted over 1M Gulf Coast residents, and left 80% of New Orleans submerged, the $143B government reconstruction effort has fixed 220 miles of levees and floodwalls, rebuilt hundreds of public facilities, reconstructed miles of roads and bridges, and provided money to tens of thousands of residents to help them get on with their lives.

The white, middle-class, insured population has benefited from the government's $8.6B "Roads Home" program to get back into their homes and resume their lives.

For the black, low-income, uninsured segment of the New Orleans population, the story is different. Black storm victims, largely renters without insurance or homeowners without insurance, did not qualify for grants to repair storm damage. Those whose homes suffered wind damage but did not have wind insurance were also denied assistance.

The result is that only about 80% of the New Orleans city population has returned, leaving many traditional black neighborhoods looking as they did immediately after Hurricane Katrina. For example, as of end-CY2016, many of those neighborhoods, like the Lower Ninth Ward, are blighted by block after block of damaged homes abandoned by their owners.

With few exceptions, resources did not reach those who needed them the most -- the Gulf Coast black, uninsured, low-income community. As quoted in an article by Ben Casselman on web site "" on 08/24/15, Beverly Wright, a Dillard University sociologist, stated that "the black middle class has been completely ignored and overlooked in this whole recovery, period. We've just been left to languish."

New Orleans' black middle class was further decimated after Hurricane Katrina by the decision to fire over 4,000 teachers as part of a post-storm "school reform" effort that converted most of the city's public schools to charter schools. This school reform came at the expense of poor and disadvantaged children, who were either "counseled out" of the educational system or simply disappeared when their families moved elsewhere. During President Obama's two terms in office, resources were not provided to mitigate this negative evolution.

This promise was not fulfilled.
HS-13 The Promise: "...will streamline the application process so that communities feel that FEMA is a partner in reconstruction, not an opponent."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Rebuilding the Gulf Coast and Preventing Future Catastrophes", dated 09/11/08.
Status:In 07/10, severe storms devastated large segments of Milwaukee, Waukesha and Grant counties in Wisconsin. On 08/11/10, President Obama signed a major disaster area declaration for those parts of Wisconsin struck by tornados and flooding.

In Milwaukee County where flood damage was estimated at $50M, 95% of homes have basements where furnaces, washers and dryers are located. It is the flooding of these basements, many of which are used as living quarters, that rendered homes uninhabitable. FEMA immediately rejected requests for individual, family and business disaster relief assistance. FEMA's position was that assistance priority was granted to residential first floors and above. To Wisconsin residents, regardless of any improvements made to the application process, FEMA was an opponent. The benefits of a streamlined application process were considered questionable at best, if one whose property was devastated could not apply for those benefits.

In 10/12, Hurricane Sandy caused severe property destruction along the eastern seaboard of the USA, especially in the states of New York and New Jersey. Years later, on 04/28/16, several former FEMA insurance claim reviewers submitted affidavits and one came forward to publicly state that claims reviewers were instructed by FEMA to deny or underpay claims exceeding pre-set dollar ranges when deciding the level of compensation for Superstorm Sandy victims, regardless of data contained in damage reports. Reportedly, those dollar ranges were set by a software program. If a reviewer recommended that FEMA pay more on a claim than the programmed threshold predicted by the software, FEMA systematically disapproved the recommendation and ordered the reviewers to change their estimates. Again, FEMA came across as the opponent. This scenario led Congressman Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) to call for a congressional hearing on the matter as well as the resignation of FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate.

This promise was not fulfilled.
HS-14 The Promise: "...will further improve coordination between all levels of government, create better evacuation plan guidelines, ensure prompt federal assistance to emergency zones, and increase medical surge capacity."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Supporting Urban Prosperity", dated 09/11/08.
Status:The National Incident Management System (NIMS) exists under Department of Homeland Security (DHS) management so that (according to a FEMA website) "departments and agencies at all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector can work together to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of incidents, regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity..."

President Obama issued Presidential Policy Directive #8 (PPD-8) entitled "National Preparedness" on 03/30/11. This PPD required the DHS to submit to him a "National Preparedness Goal" by 10/01/11. This goal document, coordinated with other federal departments/agencies and based on inputs from state, local, tribal and territorial governments, private and nonprofit partners and the general public was released on 10/07/11.

PPD-8 also required the submission to the President of a description of a new "National Preparedness System" by 12/01/11. In 11/11, DHS unveiled the framework for the new system and on 05/07/12 released its first "National Preparedness Report" tied to the five principal mission areas outlined in the National Preparedness Goal: prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery.

This promise was fulfilled.