Representative Jerry McNerney (CA-09) and U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Monday, April 20 led 80 of their colleagues in sending a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor demanding FEMA outline disaster preparation and recovery plans for the COVID-19 pandemic. As disaster season approaches, the lawmakers emphasize the importance of preparing for the unique challenges the virus presents. A tornado outbreak across the South earlier this month highlighted the challenges of disaster response amid a pandemic.
“As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the country has steadily increased since the President invoked the Stafford Act, spring flooding season is now upon us, wildfire season is fast approaching, tornado outbreaks are starting to spread, a major earthquake could strike at any moment, and hurricane season – which is projected to be above average – is just around the corner,” the lawmakers wrote. “Addressing major disasters like these requires a highly coordinated response across all levels of government that will be greatly complicated by the COVID-19 national emergency, including the social distancing measures public health officials are recommending. Further, the COVID-19 response has overwhelmed FEMA’s already thin resources, raising concerns about the Agency’s ability to handle both a nationwide public health crisis and the upcoming seasonal hazards that await.”
They continued, “Concerns are not just limited to inadequate staffing levels, sheltering procedures in a time of social distancing, and a global shortage of necessary protective gear. It is critical that FEMA share with Congress the steps it is taking to ensure that the Agency is fully prepared to carry out its mission in responding to natural disasters during this pandemic.”
Along with McNerney, the letter was signed by numerous Representatives from across the country including 16 others from California. McNerney serves the constituents of California’s 9th Congressional District that includes portions of San Joaquin, Contra Costa, and Sacramento counties.
Along with Harris, the letter was signed by 21 other Senators representing a wide cross section of the county.