FEMA Corps - Press Conference March 13, 2012

Uploaded by nationalservice on 27.03.2012

Transcript f FEMA and Corporation For National And Community Service
Press Conference Announcing FEMA Corps Tuesday, March 13, 2012
FUGATE: Good morning, everybody, and welcome to FEMA. My name is Craig Fugate, the administrator
of FEMA. Today, we have an announcement about furthering our partnership. Under the administration,
the leadership of the president and Secretary Napolitano, FEMA continues to look at how
we improve our support to our partners at the state and local level in looking at better
ways of providing the services and a better return on that investment by incorporating
the whole of the community. Not just looking always at what different government agencies
can do, but how we can work better together as a team.
But all this is impossible without leadership, and what makes my job great is I get to work
for a great secretary. Now everybody says, you know, all the things we've been able to
do in this administration. Why? It's because secretary Napolitano empowers her components.
She gives us the support, and she reminds us that we're part of a bigger team.
And with that, I would like to introduce my boss, the secretary of Homeland -- Homeland
Security, Jeff Napolitano.
NAPOLITANO: Thank you. Well, thank you, Craig, and welcome, everybody, this morning for this
important announcement. I'd like to recognize as well our outstanding FEMA leadership. Craig
Fugate, Rich Serino, you two with your team here at FEMA, you've done a terrific job.
Last year, responding to a record number of disasters across the country, we've already
had a swath of tornadoes and other storms this year. We stand ready to serve and you
make sure and ensure that our communities are as safe as possible.
Now the initiative we are announcing today underscores our commitment to share responsibility
and strong community partnerships. It will help communities across the United States
more effectively prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters of all types.
Just this month, as I mentioned, deadly tornadoes struck throughout the Midwest and the South.
Our thoughts and prayers remain with those who are affected, and we have best wishes
for them in their recovery. These storms remind us that disaster can strike at any time, and
we always must be ready to respond at a moment's notice.
The new partnership we are announcing today will help us do that in a way that's cost
effective, and it draws on the strengths of our communities and our people. Under the
partnership we are announcing today, The AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, or N triple
C, and FEMA will establish a dedicated 1600-person unit, focused entirely on emergency management.
It will be called FEMA Corps, AmeriCorps in action. This is a full-time, residential program
for Americans ages 18 to 24, lasting for 10 months with an optional extension for an additional
year. The first members will be ready to deploy this September.
What does the new program do? First and most important, it will help communities prepare
for, respond to and recover from disasters by supporting disaster recovery centers, assisting
in logistics, community relations and outreach, and performing other critical functions.
We know from experience that quick deployment of trained personnel is critical during a
crisis. The FEMA Corps will provide a pool of trained personnel, and it will also pay
long-term dividends by adding depth to our reserves -- individuals trained in every aspect
of disaster response who augment our full-time FEMA staff.
Second, the Corps will help us make the best use of taxpayer funds as we bring in FEMA
Corps members at a significantly lower cost. Third, FEMA Corps will provide participants
with critical job skills and training. Emergency management is a growing field, much larger
than FEMA alone. The recent high school and college graduates entering this program will
emerge with the training and the on-the- ground experience that provides a clear pathway into
this critical profession.
And finally, this Corps -- it encourages and supports the ethic of public service tapping
the energy and dedication to helping their communities that we see among so many young
adults today. Many here today, myself included, know that a career in public service presents
opportunities and rewards far beyond paychecks.
And that's especially true in emergency management, where you get to help communities and families
get back on their feet and rebuild even better than they were before. I'm confident that
even those alums of the program do not go on to careers in emergency management will
still play an important role as part of the whole of community approach to building resilience.
So I'd like to close with a few words about whole of community because it shows how this
new FEMA Corps fits into our broader emergency management strategy. The whole community approach
includes state, local, tribal and territorial governments, the private sector, non-governmental
organizations, faith-based and community organizations, and most importantly, the public.
No one knows a community and it's needs better than these local groups and citizens. It takes
every member of the team working together to succeed. Last year broke records for the
most disasters and responses ever. And more than ever, FEMA relies on strong local partnerships
before and after a disaster.
Americans have shown time and again their desire and their capacity to serve their communities
and to help one another. President Obama has a strong personal commitment to harnessing
that energy. With this new partnership between FEMA and The Corporation for National and
Community Service, we are building on that commitment, and we are building for the future.
So I'd like to thank you. Thank you for being here today, and now it's my pleasure to introduce
Cecelia Munoz, president Obama's director of The Domestic Policy Council. Cecelia?
MUNOZ: Thank you. Thank you very much, madam secretary, to the FEMA leadership and Mr.
Mayor. Let me also thank the AmeriCorps volunteers who are here today. Thanks for your service.
Thank you for your example.
President Obama has made it clear that government alone can't solve all of our problems, but
government has a vital role to play. And the program that we're announcing today is a perfect
example of a government that's leaner, more efficient and really doubling down on making
a difference in people's lives.
This new partnership between FEMA and The National Civilian Conservation Corps, the
N triple C, will help communities hit by natural disasters get back on their feet, and it will
help young people develop the skills that they need to find good jobs. And it will do
these things without costing taxpayers any additional money.
During a year of service, 1600 FEMA Corps members will gain training and experience
in disaster preparedness, response and recovery that can prepare them for future jobs in emergency
management. And after their service, Corps members will qualify for an education award
that can be used to pay for college or to pay back student loans.
So again, helps communities recover, it trains young people, helps them pay for college,
and it doesn't cost taxpayers an additional dime. Whether you're a young person looking
for work, a member of the community that's been hit by a flood or a tornado or just a
citizen who wants your tax dollars to be spent as wisely as possible, this is a program you
can be proud of. This is really government at its best.
And it's part of the president's larger vision for an America built to last. Today, so many
of our young people have shown that they're willing to do their part to work hard, act
responsibly and contribute to their communities. But in tough economic times, it's up to all
of us to make sure that their hard work and responsibility still pays off.
We have to preserve what President Obama has called the basic promise of America, that
no matter who you are, where you come from, you can make it if you try, if you fulfill
your responsibilities and you make a contribution.
Today's announcement enables a large number of young people the chance to get a great
experience, to help their communities and to begin a long-term career in emergency management.
Creating more opportunities that put young people on the path to work is important not
only for their future. It's important to our future as Americans.
So with that, thank you for being here, and I would like to introduce FEMA Deputy Administrator
Rich Serino.
SERINO: Thank you, Secretary Napolitano as well as Craig Fugate and Cecelia Munoz, and
also a partner in the effort today, Robert Velasco, part of bringing FEMA as well as
the N triple C together in the Corporation for National Service -- National and Community
Service. And a special thank you to Mayor Maddox from Tuscaloosa who joined us here
As mentioned the team here today of AmeriCorps volunteers -- these young people truly represent
what's great about our country in many, many ways. They share a sense of community, a sense
of passion. They know what they want to do. They know that as they move forward in their
careers, that they will be able to step into the situations, the roles, to assist survivors.
Some of them have already, and we thank you for that service.
Members like them, as we move toward September, and we have the first group of the 1600, the
480 that will be out there serving the survivors will be working side-by-side members of the
corporation, members of FEMA, members of this amazing group of young people that's going
to be coming in.
I had the opportunity this past year to visit from Tuscaloosa to Joplin to Bastrop, Texas
to Hurricane Irene up and down the coast, and saw AmeriCorps volunteers helping out
the survivors of these disasters. So we have an opportunity now to take this to the next
level, to have dedicated staff who will be trained specifically in emergency management.
That they'd be working side-by-side with our professional reservists, working side-by-side
with our professional full-time managers in order to supplement what we are able to do.
People have asked, why is this important? Looking into the eyes of survivors, looking
at communities that are devastated, having young people that can step up and help out
in the time of a disaster who are trained will make a difference in people's lives.
That's why we're doing this.
As we continue to move forward and we look for opportunities to be more efficient, to
look for opportunities to get young people involved in government, to get young people
involved in service to their country will make a difference. We've had the opportunity
to work with CNCS in AmeriCorps in the past, and this is broadening that -- expanding it,
so we have the opportunity to bring this talented, young, will-be-trained workforce to help our
They are augmenting our reservists, augmenting our full-time employees. This will be an opportunity
for us to strengthen our nation's disaster response capabilities, create pathways for
young people and really help the ethos of national service.
We salute the corporation for their history, their tireless efforts of community service,
look forward to the continued partnership of expanding that. I'd like to turn it over
now to Robert Velasco, the CEO of CNCS.
VELASCO: Thank you. Thank you, Rich, for your leadership at FEMA and for working with us
on this historic partnership. And thank you, Secretary Napolitano, Administrator Fugate
and Director Cecelia Munoz for your support in this initiative.
This is National AmeriCorps Week. A time when we think and recognize the 80,000 AmeriCorps
members serving this year, and the more than 750,000 who have served since 1994. So I also
want to acknowledge the AmeriCorp N triple C members with us today from our Perry Point
Campus in Maryland. They come from all over the country and have signed up for 10 months
of full-time service.
Our two team leaders here, Megan Lister and Tristan Fowler are in their second year and
spent a good part of last year responding to disasters. Forest fires out West, flooding
in Vermont, and Hurricane Irene in New Jersey. Thank you for your service.
The partnership we are announcing today builds on a model that works. From the very first
civilian conservation corps, which put millions of young men to work on public lands during
the great depression, to today, with tens of thousands of young people in service and
conversation corps across the country.
AmeriCorp, N triple C, is a part of this strong legacy. It brings young men and women, 18
to 24-year olds, from all walks of life together with one goal: to serve when they're needed.
They're based on one of five campuses around the country, and for 10 months, around the
clock, they're on call for service to the nation. They live together, they serve together,
and working hand-in-hand with communities across the country, they address pressing
local problems together.
Sometimes this means deploying in the middle of the night to help a city respond to a disaster,
to a devastating storm. Our N triple C members are trained in first-aid, CPR, public safety,
and more and do some of the most challenging but important work when disaster strikes.
Right now, N triple C members are in Kentucky and Southern Missouri helping these areas
recover from the recent tornadoes. Another team is preparing to deploy to Southern Illinois.
And when the tornado hit Joplin in May of last year, N triple C was there. Members arrived
within hours to help search and rescue and to help set up a missing persons hotline.
Since then, more than 200 N triple C members have provided 49,000 hours of service, gutted
or mucked 725 homes, served more than 20,000 meals and helped to manage more than 60,000
volunteers in Joplin. N triple C members are always ready, willing and able to serve.
Even in the most humbling circumstances, sleeping in tents in church basements, they serve with
a special kind of enthusiasm, energy and commitment. That's why N triple C members have responded
to every national disaster since the program was established.
And since 1994, The Corporation for National and Community Service programs from AmeriCorp
to SeniorCorp and beyond have provided critical support to millions of Americans affected
by disasters. This new partnership leverages the infrastructure and technical expertise
of national service to strengthen the way our nation responds to and recovers from disasters,
and it builds on a proven model, bringing young people together in service to the country.
We're proud another 1600 highly trained members to the national service family each year through
this partnership with FEMA. And we're honored to be there when Americans are facing some
of their toughest times in the hours, days and even weeks, months and years after a disaster.
With this partnership, more people can have peace of mind that help is on the way.
Please welcome Mayor Walter Maddox of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to talk about his experience with
N triple C members on the ground.
MADDOX: Good morning. On April 27, Tuscaloosa was devastated by a EF4 tornado more than
a mile and a half wide with winds sustaining 190 miles per hour. During its six-mile journey
through our community, 52 lives were lost, 1200 were injured and we either had destroyed
or severely damaged 5300 homes, businesses, schools. In fact, within six minutes, 7,000
people became unemployed.
In our darkest hours, considering the magnitude of the devastation, it would have been easy
for Tuscaloosa to just fade into the night. However, our community met the worst of mother
nature with resiliency, compassion and a confident hope.
In Genesis, the scriptures tell us, "so God created man in his own image." In the moments
following the tornado, we saw images of God as thousands of citizens transformed themselves
into angels by aiding the injured, clearing the debris and searching home-by-home and
In 321 (ph) these images have yet to fade, and our resolve has been amplified by tens
of thousands of volunteers who have become beacons of light as we work to rebuild our
community in a way that honors all those who have lost so much. From the beginning, standing
shoulder-to-shoulder with us has been AmeriCorps, who has provided 38,000 hours of service to
our recovery.
From the collection and distribution of over 200,000 pounds of food to assisting 22,000
citizens at mass facilities -- mass care facilities, AmeriCorps has been a lifeline for our city.
In one example, AmeriCorps contributed over 8,000 hours to Habitat For Humanity, which
saved this organization over $100,000, which will be reinvested into our homes in Tuscaloosa.
AmeriCorps' impact can be quantified, but its true measure -- its true measure is experience
and has been experience at our volunteer reception center, social service agencies and especially
out in our neighborhoods.
Last Monday, the Mathews' moved into their new Habitat For Humanity home. Keith Mathews
was at work when the tornado hit. Amy Mathews was at home with their three children: Chloe,
Kristen, and Carter. When the storm struck, the house lifted off the ground. Amy had Kristen
in her arms and her other two children were close by. When the house landed, Kristen and
Chloe were safe, and miraculously, Carter was discovered in an adjacent lot under the
rubble of another house, injured but alive.
I believe heros deserve heros. In this past December, AmeriCorps joined Habitat in the
construction of the Mathews' new home. At last week's dedication, nearly 200 people
gathered at the site of this beautiful, energy efficient home that included a safe room,
by the way, to celebrate this new beginning.
For the Mathews family, as has been for so many people in Tuscaloosa, the images of God's
generosity and grace have been seen through AmeriCorps. Words cannot describe the experience
of governing during a disaster. In these moments engulfed by chaos, debris and tragedy, local
governments must rise to the occasion as they desperately seek to provide services and most
importantly, hope to our citizens.
In the days, weeks and months that follow, communities need skilled volunteers that are
trained in response and who can bridge the gaps, especially as it relates to humanitarian
relief. This new partnership between FEMA and the Corporation of National and Community
Service will be crucial in supporting cities, counties and state governments.
I commend FEMA and CNCS for understanding that to effectively respond to a crisis, we
have to extend beyond our political, geographical and even, yes, bureaucratic boundaries to
provide resources and make them all available for the citizens that we serve. I believe
this partnership will do just that.
I want to close by personally thanking FEMA. Within hours of the tornado touching down
in Tuscaloosa, FEMA was there. For several weeks, Dennis Kizziah and his team integrated
into our incident command. And in the process, he endeared himself to many for their support
and guidance. Thank you.
FUGATE (?): Thank you. At this point in time, we can take some questions from anybody in
the room.
QUESTION: I had a question for Mr. Velasco and one for you as well. For Mr. Velasco,
this is an additional -- is this an additional 1600 people that will report in the AmeriCorps?
Has that been budgeted for in the pending budget, or are these people being re- deployed
from some other task? And for Administrator Serino, if you could use these recent tornadoes
as an example of the type of task, can you give us an example of the type of task that
they'll be performing, and the things that they won't be doing? I presume they won't
be doing the search and rescue and first-aid and they'll be doing other types of tasks.
Can you give us some sense of what that will be?
VELASCO: Let me respond to your question. This is a new additional set of members, 1600
members, that's established through the partnership that we have with FEMA -- FEMA and the Corporation
for National Community Service have entered into an interagency agreement. We're using
funding that FEMA has authority for under the Stafford Act to actually create these
new positions using the existing infrastructure that we have through the N triple C program
to create a corps that is dedicated to providing disaster service and relief.
QUESTION: You mentioned four or five campuses will -- may be distributed among the --
VELASCO: Yes, they'll be part of all of our campuses. They'll be starting in two campuses
as we build the program through this year. You heard Secretary Napolitano speak about
how having the first class and groups on the ground ready late this summer/early fall in
two of our campuses, and then over the next 18 months, we'll be building up to -- all
five of our campuses will have FEMA Corps members.
SERINO: As far as some of the tasks that they'll be doing when they respond to disasters, they'll
be actually going out working with our reservists and some of our permanent full-time employees
that will be deployed. They'll be going out to sites such as some of our disaster recovery
centers at DRCs, helping out folks there doing some community relations work initially. Going
out -- they will not be doing the heavy duty rescue. That's something we have our urban
search and rescue teams and let the first responders do in their communities -- the
police, the fire, the EMS, they do that sort of work.
This is going to be coming in after the fact, you know, soon, but not in the first few critical
minutes, critical hours, but after that, to help the survivors during response, and more
importantly, during the recovery. As you heard the mayor talk, the recovery is very long-
term, and that's where we see members of FEMA Corps actually being in the community for
long-term helping the community recover.
QUESTION: So these are full-time FEMA -- FEMA dedicated folks, and when there's not a disaster,
they'll be training and working with their folks getting up to speed and --
SERINO: They'll be -- they'll be training as they come on. Part of this is going to
be their training that they're going to receive from AmeriCorps and through N triple C, but
in addition to that, we're going to be giving specific training in community relations,
in how to work in disaster recovery centers, so they'll be receiving additional training
as trainees in a qualification system that we have in place. So it's all going to be
integrated with our workforce as well. Any other questions? Any questions on the phone?
OPERATOR: Sir, our first question comes from Suzanne Perry. Please state your affiliation.
QUESTION: Hi, I'm with The Chronicle of Philanthropy. I have a question about the budget. Secretary
Napolitano said there would be no cost to the taxpayers, so I'm just wondering where
the money will come from for this program, especially since the members will be getting
education awards.
SERINO: Sure, the budget is coming from, as Robert mentioned, through the Stafford Act,
through the disaster relief fund that we currently utilize to hire our reservists, to hire our
core employees, and so what we're going to be doing is taking a portion of that and utilizing
that to bring in our -- the members of FEMA Corps and have them be trained and receive
that training. So the funding will be coming from that, and the funding for FEMA Corps
members will be significantly less than funding we would have if we brought in additional
reservists. Any other questions on the phone?
OPERATOR: Thank you, sir. Our next question comes from Deborah Wooden. Please state your
QUESTION: The Joplin Globe newspaper.
SERINO: Hello.
QUESTION: Hello. How do people, young people sign up for this program? Who do they contact
to see if they're eligible to volunteer?
SERINO: Certainly. Robert do you want to --
VELASCO: So we're going to be working through the (inaudible) the program recouping information
to make sure that we have a robust class. We know that there's a lot of interest out
there from youth who really want to give back and serve their country, who are interested
in particularly in terms of of working with communities, in terms of disaster, and so
we'll be working through our campuses to be able to get information out with regards to
how individuals can apply to the program.
SERINO: There's currently websites up available, you can go to ours.
VELASCO: And there's also information on our website that you may be able to go to to get
additional information about signing up for the program.
SERINO: And you can get that link also at www.FEMA.com. There'll be a link there as
well for people who are interested in the program information there if people want to
be able to join. Any other questions?
OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Carleen Mosbach. Please state your affiliation.
QUESTION: ABC 7 News, Chicago.
SERINO: Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, I'm wondering if madam secretary or someone there could enlighten us why the
community of Harrisburg, Illinois was turned down by FEMA for funding. Why was that, and
is there any chance that decision could be changed because obviously they had devastation
and disaster as well?
SERINO: Sure, actually, this is Rich Serino from FEMA. We had looked at the devastation
that happened throughout Illinois, and apparently it was initially denied, but currently we're
in the process that if the state does file an appeal, we will look at the appeal. There
was opportunities that working with the state didn't look like at the time it had outstripped
their resources, and also working looking at the insurance as well as looking at the
voluntary groups that were there to assist as well.
We're currently still working with the state of Illinois, and we'll continue to work with
the state of Illinois in if the governor files an appeal we will look at that as well.
QUESTION: Also, sir, as a follow up to that, Illinois has serious budgetary problems. They're
probably 49th out of the 50 states, and was that not a factor in looking at this?
SERINO: We look at a number of factors, look at the number of homes that are devastated,
that's destroyed, and number of major damages. We also look at the overall picture that we
got. We had teams that were out there initially and willing to go back and look as the -- if
the state requests an appeal, we're willing to go back and look again.
QUESTION: Very good, thank you.
SERINO: Thank you.
OPERATOR: Thank you, and our next question comes from Suzanne Perry. Please state your
QUESTION: Chronicle of Philanthropy. Hi, I have another question for Miss Munoz. I'm
just wondering since you stressed the administration's priority on intergovernmental approaches like
this, do you anticipate any other federal agencies teaming up with the Corporation for
National Community Service on similar kinds of service projects?
VELASCO: Suzanne, this is Robert Velasco with the Corporation. We certainly think that the
-- we have a history of working with other federal agencies ongoing. For example, we
have a 17-year relationship with FEMA ongoing. I think what we're doing here with this partnership
is really formalizing that relationship over 17 years and really taking it to a new level.
But I do think that this really serves as a model. Rich and I acknowledge that this
really serves as a model in terms of perhaps more formal partnerships that we could engage
with with other federal agencies in terms of linking national service to other core
national issues. And so we do believe this is a new chapter in terms of how we can think
about national service and are excited about how we learn from this more formal partnership
that we have with FEMA to build upon some perhaps in the future formal partnerships
with some of our colleagues across the federal sector.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SERINO: Thank you. Any other questions on the phone?
OPERATOR: Sir, we do have Kelly Acorn, who has pressed star, one. Ma'am do you have a
QUESTION: I'm the captioner, and I have a question from one of the participants about
being able to review the live video at a later time. Please help me?
SERINO: To be able to review the video of this press conference, we'll be able to make
that available. Yes. Any other questions in the room? Well at this point, I just, again,
I want to thank Mayor Maddox for all your leadership in Tuscaloosa and in helping bring
that community back. Amazing, the work that you've done, and your leadership has been
Robert, thank you. I look forward to continue working together, and most importantly, thank
you to all the AmeriCorps members and your careers here with AmeriCorp, but also in the
future, and I hope as some of you just started and you look towards your second year, that
you look towards FEMA Corps as well.
Thank you very much.