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Senate Proceeding 04-12-11 on Apr 12th, 2011 :: 3:07:30 to 3:17:45
Total video length: 4 hours 16 minutes Stream Tools: Stream Overview | Edit Time

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Mark Pryor

3:07:17 to 3:07:38( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: will call the roll. senator from arkansas. mr. pryor: mr. president, thank you. and i understand we're in a quorum call. the presiding officer: yes. mr. pryor: i would ask that that be dispensed the presiding officer: without objection. mr. pryor: thank you, mr. president. i want to talk just for a few minutes about an incident that's unfolding in arkansas that i'm

Mark Pryor

3:07:30 to 3:17:45( Edit History Discussion )
Speech By: Mark Pryor

Mark Pryor

3:07:39 to 3:08:00( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: sure is unfolding in other states as well about, say, less than two weeks ago, a 73-year-old woman and her husband received a letter from fema and fema demanded that this

Mark Pryor

3:08:01 to 3:08:21( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: couple pay back $27,000 in fema assistance they had received three years earlier and that they do it within 30 days or face penalties, interest, et cetera. well, this is devastating news for her. these are social security recipients. they lost everything in a flood. and let me back up and tell the full story and tell the rest of the story.

Mark Pryor

3:08:22 to 3:08:43( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: three years ago, arkansas had some floods on the white river and the folks in the mountain view area, some of them experienced very severe flooding. fema came -- actually came to this couple's house, walked around, told them on the spot that they were eligible to

Mark Pryor

3:08:44 to 3:09:04( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: receive fema assistance for the flooding. and the maximum you can receive is $30,000. they filled out the paperwork. in fact, fema helped them do some of that. like i said, on the spot, while fema was visiting their home and looking at their property, fema assured her that she would --

Mark Pryor

3:09:05 to 3:09:25( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: that they would qualify for this. they filled out the paperwork, they go through the process. apparently at some point there's even an appeal or some sort of clarification and went through the proper channels at fema. fema was there, they took pictures, the whole deal. they verified the damage.

Mark Pryor

3:09:26 to 3:09:46( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: this couple received $27,000 in fema assistance. they put every dime back into their home. this is a couple that basically lost almost all their worldly possessions in this flood. i talked to her a week or so ago and she told me that they were able to save a few items of glassware and a few keepsakes

Mark Pryor

3:09:47 to 3:10:07( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: from the family, but basically everything was either washed away in the water or so caked with mud it was ruined during the flood. the $27,000 helped repair their home and make it habitable but it didn't restore their home anywhere close to the condition it was before the flood. this was their dream home.

Mark Pryor

3:10:08 to 3:10:30( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: their retirement home. they live right there on the white river and it's a beautiful part of the state. so they get this letter a couple weeks ago. bear in mind this flood happened three years ago. three years ago this flood happened.

Mark Pryor

3:10:31 to 3:10:51( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: and they are now required under the rules and regs and the law even that fema works with, they're required to pay all this money back. as i said before, this is a terrible hardship. as it turns out, what happened here is these folks, although they were assured by fema that

Mark Pryor

3:10:52 to 3:11:13( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: they were eligible, they were actually never qualified to receive this money. they didn't know that. they had fema in their living room telling them that they were qualified and that they should receive the money, that they meet all the tests and all the standards that these -- this is this program's for is to help people like this. however, there was one glitch or

Mark Pryor

3:11:14 to 3:11:35( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: one technicality and that was that the county where they lived had not passed an ordnance to go into the fema flood insurance program. now, here again, fema should have known this. fema apparently went to some of the county meetings where it was discussed and voted down but, nonetheless, fema assured the

Mark Pryor

3:11:36 to 3:11:56( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: people that they would be covered under this program. the irony of all this is, this couple, when they bought their home on the white river, one of the preconditions, one of the requirements that they set for themselves is that they would purchase flood insurance. they had it for a number of years. they paid premiums for a number of years. never had a flood.

Mark Pryor

3:11:57 to 3:12:17( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: paid premiums for a number of years. finally, the insurance company that offered the flood insurance got out of the business and so they event went to the extent of going through lloyds of london to get flood insurance. paid a premium, a lot of money for their flood insurance, but they carried that for as long as it was offered and finally it wasn't offered and the only

Mark Pryor

3:12:18 to 3:12:38( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: thing left is the fema flood insurance program, the national flood insurance program. and because the county had not done what they were supposed to do, then lady, therefore -- this couple, therefore, was not eligible to receive the fema flood money. again, no fault of her own. she done everything that anybody

Mark Pryor

3:12:39 to 3:13:00( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: could do. they paid for their premiums out of their pockets as long as they could, as long as they could find insurance. as that was canceled over the years, the county hadn't come through but apparently fema was actually there at the county meetings and fema knew or should have known that -- that she wasn't eligible. give her those $27,000. now they want it all back with

Mark Pryor

3:13:01 to 3:13:21( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: interest and penalties, et cetera. so, mr. president, what i've done today is i've filed the disaster assistance recoupment fairness act. and we actually have it in two forms. we have it as a stand-alone measure. we also have it as an amendment to the bill that's pending on the floor right now.

Mark Pryor

3:13:22 to 3:13:42( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: the important point of this story is that all of the mistakes that were made were on fema's side of the equation. the couple in arkansas made no mistakes. they followed the rules, went through the process, we want through the hearings. there's -- went through the hearings. there's no allegation of fraud or anything that was in any way misleading. they gave them the documents. they did everything they were

Mark Pryor

3:13:43 to 3:14:04( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: supposed to do. it was textbook where they did everything they were supposed to do but fema is now coming back asking for a recoupment. so now what -- what our bill will do is not give a blanket exception but what it will do is give the fema administrator the

Mark Pryor

3:14:05 to 3:14:26( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: authority under circumstances he deems fit to waive the debt that's owed to the u.s. in cases where funds were distributed by a fema error, like in this case. and also -- also it gives them

Mark Pryor

3:14:27 to 3:14:49( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: the discretion that they don't have under current federal law. i met with director fugate on this a week or two ago and actually we had a very constructive meeting. i think probably on a personal level, he understands this. he feels bad about this. but he feels like his hands are tied under the statute. i'm not 100% sure they are but

Mark Pryor

3:14:50 to 3:15:11( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: he says they are and he tried to be very helpful, very accommodating and i think he really does want to work with all the parties involved to try to clean this up. but he says he doesn't have the authority. that's where this bill comes in. that's where this amendment comes in. we'd like it give fema -- the

Mark Pryor

3:15:12 to 3:15:32( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: fema director the authority to have some discretion on some of these hardship-type cases, especially where the person who received the benefit did it purely by a fema error and, again, in their case, they put every dime of their recovery back into their home, just to

Mark Pryor

3:15:33 to 3:15:55( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: have it livable. otherwise, they probably would have had to abandon their home or sell the property, or whatever the case may have been. but -- so, mr. president, that is what we are asking of the senate, that they would consider this at the proper time. i'd ask my colleagues to take a look at it. my guess is, since we have 35

Mark Pryor

3:15:56 to 3:16:16( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: households in our state that are receiving these type of letters from fema, these demand letters where they're giving a notice of debt to folks who have received money, my guess is, if we have 35 in our state, there's hundreds and maybe thousands around the country who are in a similar situation.

Mark Pryor

3:16:17 to 3:16:37( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: again, our bill is really just for fema's mistakes. this is probably an example of the cleanup of the previous fema administration. i think director fugate really had nothing to do with this. it took them three years because there was a lawsuit in the meantime. so what this is doing is creating a hardship for folks who really have been playing by

Mark Pryor

3:16:38 to 3:16:58( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: the rules. it just gives fema the flexibility to do some of these cleanup in a way that doesn't harm ordinary citizens here in arkansas -- i mean, here in the u.s. i would like it ask my colleagues to take a look at t i would be proud and available to answer any questions. if anyone has those, they can

Mark Pryor

3:16:59 to 3:17:19( Edit History Discussion )

Mark Pryor: always contact me or my office. what i would like to do is not call it up at this point or anything like that. but be available and maybe be in the queue for sometime in the near future. and, mr. president with that, i'm going to yield the floor i would suggest the absence of 0 the presiding officer: the

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