EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation – May 5, 2004

Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG)
What is in store for future funding?

Michael D. Selves, CEM®
Chair, Government Affairs Committee
International Association of Emergency Managers

Martha Braddock
Policy Advisor
International Association of Emergency Managers

Avagene Moore, CEM®
Moderator, EIIP Coordinator

The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. A raw, unedited transcript is available from our archives. See our home page at http://www.emforum.org


[Welcome / Introduction]

Avagene Moore: On behalf of the EIIP Virtual Forum, welcome! Amy Sebring, my partner, and I are pleased to see you in our audience today. Today's topic is "Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) - What's in store for future funding?"

If you have not read the background materials provided by our speakers, we urge you to do so after today's session. The materials there will clarify the funding issues and help you take appropriate action.

Now, it is my pleasure to introduce our speakers for this session:

Michael D. Selves, CEM, is the local Emergency Management Director of the County Department of Emergency Management & Homeland Security in Olathe, Kansas. Mike is very active in a number of organizations related to EM business. He is currently the Chair of the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) and the Kansas Emergency Management Association (KEMA) Government Affairs Committees and is a member of the Legislative Committee of the Kansas Association of Counties.

Martha Braddock is a consultant on emergency management and governmental and legislative relations. She serves as an advisor to associations, universities, and corporations on a wide range of issues such as homeland security legislation, appropriations, disaster recovery, and mitigation. As the Policy Advisor to the International Association of Emergency Managers, she works closely with the IAEM Government Relations Committee to be certain that local emergency managers are involved with Members of Congress and Committees on key legislative issues. Martha has been involved with IAEM for a long time. In fact, she was named an Honorary Lifetime Member in 1986.

If you have not done so, please read more about Mike and Martha on the EIIP Virtual Forum Background Page for today's session.

Welcome, Mike and Martha! We thank you for being here today to share this important information with the EIIP Virtual Forum audience. Would you both please say hello to our audience as I turn the floor to you.

[Presentation]

Mike Selves: Pleasure to be here. On behalf of the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) and our membership, we appreciate this opportunity to speak with you today and hope you will do what you can to help with the funding issues for FY 2005.

Martha Braddock: Hello. I appreciate being with you today. This is a critical time in Congress for emergency management.

Mike Selves: The single most important Congressional issue to occupy the attention of the IAEM Government Affairs Committee for the past three legislative years has been the future of the Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) program. The culmination of this attention is summarized below: the bulk of which has been submitted as the formal testimony of Daryl Spiewak, IAEM President, to both the House and Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittees.

Concerns about EMPG in 05 budget request for Department of Homeland Security

The President’s 05 Budget Request for the Department of Homeland Security proposes changes to the Emergency Management Performance Grant Program (EMPG) that would greatly impact state and local emergency management. EMPG grants were called "the backbone of the nation’s emergency management system" by Congress in the 03 Appropriations Conference report. In 04, the Appropriations Committees increased EMPG funding, endorsed the all-hazard nature of the program, and directed the continuation of funding personnel expenses.

This year’s request:

1. Cuts the appropriation from $179,000,000 to $170,000,000. The program has been under-funded for decades.

2. Proposes a 25% cap on the use of funds to support personnel salaries.

3. Shifts the emphasis of the program from all hazards to terrorism. Legislative language is included giving _priority to homeland security activities.

Emergency Management Performance Grants

The Emergency Management Performance Grants (EMPG) are pass-through funds to state and local emergency management offices to provide a foundation for basic emergency preparedness and response capabilities. Congressional report language has referred to the program as "the backbone of the nation’s emergency management system." This funding has existed in the past under several different names such as the Emergency Management Assistance Program and State and Local Assistance Program which were actually more appropriate names.

This program is different from most grants, in that it is a continuing program with deliverables and requirements which must be met in order to receive funding the following year. We very much appreciated the support of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for EMPG in the FY 2004 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill.

Congress specifically designated funds in a separate account, increased the amount from the FY 2002 level to $179 million; specifically indicated the funds could continue to be used for personnel costs and supported the all hazards approach. The House Report recognized that State and local emergency managers rely on these funds for a variety of expenses, but predominately for personnel who plan, train, coordinate, and conduct exercises and other functions essential to effective preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery efforts.

We Reject Cap on Expenditures for Personnel

Since the purpose of the program is to provide support for state and local emergency management personnel, the Administration’s request to cap the amount of funds which can be used for personnel at 25% of each grant is puzzling. Since the functions of emergency management are almost 100% personnel driven, such as planning, coordinating, exercise design, training, and public education, the effect of the 25% cap would be devastating.

States have estimated that this cap would result in potential losses of up to 60 percent of their emergency management staff. In some localities it would result in the elimination of whole programs. We would be cutting capacity at the very time we need to be building capacity.

Perhaps to put this proposed cap in perspective one could consider the effect on the functioning of a Congressional office or a Congressional Committee if directions were given to only spend 25% of the funds received for running the offices on personnel and administrative costs.

We Reject Funding Cut and Want Increased Funding

Historically, funding for EMPG has been inadequate. The program was intended to be 50% Federal and 50% state or local funding. Currently many jurisdictions receive 20% or less. Some jurisdictions do not receive any EMPG monies due to inadequate funding levels. State and local emergency management programs are in desperate need of financial support if they are to continue to meet the requirements of all hazard planning and coordination as well as implement the President's homeland security strategy in states, counties, cities and neighborhoods across America.

The new security concerns arising from the current world situation make the coordination and unifying role served by emergency managers more important than ever. Given continued support and funding, emergency managers have the skills, the expertise, and the willingness to rise to the planning and coordinating challenges presented by the full range of hazards affecting their communities.

We respectfully request that the $9 million reduction in the President’s request be rejected and that the funding be increased. A 2004 study by the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) indicates that at the 50-50 shared cost level there is a $245 million shortfall.

We Maintain the All Hazards Approach

Legislative language is included in the Administration’s 05 request giving "priority to homeland security activities." The simple fact is that almost all emergency management activity creates a generic capacity to deal with crises.

For nearly 50 years, the Federal Government has provided funding assistance to state and local governments to support a comprehensive national emergency management system. During that time, the Federal emphasis has shifted on numerous occasions and our members have adjusted programs accordingly.

There is no doubt that "homeland security" (currently, although we believe, incorrectly, defined as terrorism) has priority today, but the proposed language certainly has the potential to limit the ability of the emergency management system to adjust to changes in the future and is therefore problematic.

Martha Braddock: I will address the current status of congressional appropriations action on EMPG. The issues listed above will be decided as part of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees actions on the President’s 05 budget request. The jurisdiction is in the Subcommittees on Homeland Security.

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security: Chairman Thad Cochran (MS); Ranking Member Robert C. Byrd (WV);Ted Stevens (AK); Arlen Specter (PA); Pete Domenici (NM); Mitch McConnell (KY); Richard Shelby (AL); Judd Gregg (NH);Ben Nighthorse Campbell (CO); Larry Craig (ID); Daniel Inouye (HI); Fritz Hollings (SC); Patrick Leahy (VT); Tom Harkin (IA); Barbara Mikulski (MD); Herb Kohl (WI); and Patty Murray (WA).

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security: Chair Harold Rogers (KY); Ranking Member Martin Olav Sabo (MN); Bill Young (FL) (Vice Chair); David Price (NC); Frank Wolf (VA); Jose Serrano (NY); Zach Wamp (TN); Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA); Tom Latham (IA); Marion Berry (AR); Jo Ann Emerson (MO); Alan Mollohan (WV); Kay Granger (TX); David Obey (D-WI) (Ex Officio); John E. Sweeney (NY); and Don Sherwood (PA).

The House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Homeland Security have completed their hearings on the President’s 05 budget request. At both the House and Senate Subcommittee hearings, Secretary Mike Brown, Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security, was asked numerous questions about EMPG funding, the personnel cap, and the all hazards approach.

For example, Senator Byrd made a very strong opening statement about the need for the all hazards approach and his objection to EMPG being moved form the EP&R Directorate to the Office of Domestic Preparedness. He also strongly objected to the EMPG personnel cap . He said, "This provision would drive a stake through the heart of State and local all-hazards planning efforts."

The next step in the process is Subcommittee markups; this is not yet scheduled. The staff of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Homeland Security will be writing a bill and a report which will be considered in a markup session. These sessions will be scheduled after the Subcommittees receive an "allocation", which is part of the budget process which gives each of the 13 appropriations subcommittee the amount of funds available to them.

Congressional contacts are still needed. Although IAEM and NEMA members have had very positive meetings with Members of Congress and key staff, we will not know Congressional intent on EMPG until the Subcommittees markup their bills. It is important for emergency managers to contact their own House and Senate members or staff and let them know the EMPG concerns.

Do not mail a letter. Given the added security, it can take weeks for letters. It would be better to make a phone call to determine the correct staff person who would handle appropriations related to emergency management/homeland security and send the letter as a fax to the Member of Congress with the correct staff person as the contact. Be certain that your letter indicates that it is a 05 issue under consideration by the Appropriations Subcommittees on Homeland Security. It is also helpful if you include information on why EMPG is important to your city or county.

If you or your local officials are going to make Congressional contacts on the EMPG issue, we would appreciate your sending me your name, email address, jurisdiction, and Congressional Member's office you are contacting at [email protected] I will then put you on a list to get e-mail updates on appropriations actions on this issue. All contacts are needed, but Kentucky and Mississippi would be particularly helpful.

Opportunity --Senate Letter on EMPG

Ask your Senators to sign the letter being circulated by Senators this week. Letter is posted on this site on the background page. Senators Voinovich, Jeffords, Snowe, Carper, Biden, Harkin, Mikulski, Lautenberg, Daschle, Murray, Graham, Bingaman, Stabenow, Lindsay Graham, and Baucus have signed and are seeking (during the week of May 3-7) additional Senators to sign a bi-partisan letter supporting EMPG.

The letter will be sent to Chairman Cochran and Ranking Member Byrd. If you would like to contact the staff of your Senator urging him or her to sign the letter supporting EMPG, please send them a copy of the letter and e-mail [email protected] . I will send you the contact information in Sen. Voinovich’s office for the Senator’s staff to contact.

Current Status on Congressional Action on HMGP
(Hazard Mitigation Grant Program)

Another issue of importance is the percentage of funds available for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. We have urged Congress to restore Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) to 15%. The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program in the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate provides post disaster mitigation funding. The program is authorized in Section 404 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288) and the monies are provided from the President’s Disaster Relief Fund.

We appreciate the House and Senate Appropriations Committees retaining the program rather than terminating it as requested in the Administration’s Budget requests in FY 2003 and FY 2004. However, the FY 2003 Omnibus Appropriations bill changed the formula used to determine hazard mitigation funding from 15% to 7.5% of eligible disaster costs. In order to reduce future disaster costs, commitments must be made to both pre-disaster and post disaster mitigation. Citizens and elected officials are most receptive to undertaking projects and initiatives that reduce the impacts of future disasters immediately after a disaster has occurred. Without the HMGP funding, those opportunities will be missed.

The House unanimously passed H.R. 3181 in November of 2003 which would have restored the funding to 15%. This bill is pending in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and at this time it is not known if action will be taken. The formula could be restored by passing this bill or by changing the formula back to 15% as part of the appropriations process.

That concludes our formal remarks. We are available for your questions. We now turn the floor back to our Moderator.

Avagene Moore: Thank you very much, Mike and Martha. I trust the audience has questions for our speakers.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Question:

Ron Ruff: Mike, how will this effect you staff level if the bill passes as it is now?

Mike Selves: Currently I have a staff of 5, I anticipate that I would lose 1 or 2 people; bear in mind, as a larger county with a larger budget I can cope better than others.

Question:

Dan DeMott: Why is there a move away from an all hazard approach?

Mike Selves: This is the prevailing attitude at DHS. I view it as a lack of understanding about the comprehensive nature of what we do now. The folks at DHS need a lot of education on how what we do for "all hazards" directly improves what we do for terrorism.

Martha Braddock: The priority of DHS is homeland security. The priority for homeland security/terrorism was included in the fire grant legislative proposal for the 05 budget as well. I agree with Mike. It is lack of understanding.

Question:

Tim Newman: Greetings from Reno County, Kansas. What is the current percentage of the total amount being used for personnel at present?

Mike Selves: Currently, in Kansas, only personnel costs are being covered under EMPG, so I guess it would be 100% here.

Question:

Amy Sebring: The EMPG personnel cap also seems to stem from a lack of understanding as to what it is that emergency managers do. Mike, do you feel that we need to do a better job educating our officials, and perhaps the public, on our role? Is IAEM working with NEMA on public awareness?

Mike Selves: Yes, you're right, education is the key. A great deal of what Martha and I and others in both IAEM and NEMA do in our legislative effort is aimed at precisely that. If there is not a political predisposition to ignore the EM role, the message usually has been well received and effective.

Martha Braddock: IAEM and NEMA are working very closely together on educating Congressional members and staff. More is needed at local and state level. I would particularly like to complement legislative effort of the Alabama local and state folks this spring. It was a great personal effort.

Question:

Jeff Robinson: As Dan posed the question before about all hazards, why don't they see that homeland security is a PART of our planning, it is not all. We will realistically have a natural disaster before we have a terrorist event happen in MOST places. Is this not true?

Mike Selves: That is absolutely true. As Martha says, we need that message to be sent by a lot more folks than just us. The message you just stated must come to individual congressmen from folks in their own districts and states as well as from those of us who officially represent the EM organizations.

Martha Braddock: Right after all of these tornadoes is the perfect time.

Question:

Ron Ruff: How will this affect local jurisdictions that have only one staff member or the person is part time or a volunteer? Probably no money at all.

Mike Selves: Pretty obvious, it will essentially kill it if the local elected officials aren't willing to pick up the tab.

Question:

Charles Couch: Are the House and Senate discussing the need for local and state programs to adopt accreditation standards (EMAP)? I was curious if EMAP was still being mentioned just in light of EMPG monies

Mike Selves: That's in the works in both houses, but it's not a part of the current discussion on EMPG appropriations. It obviously is a big issue and a number of members have bills but that is a huge subject which will take a session all its own. EMAP is being mentioned with the folks at DHS by NEMA and others.

Question:

Carla de Roulac: Hello from the City of McAllen. My question: Will jurisdictional assessments, such as those conducted for the Texas Homeland Security Grant Program, ever be mechanisms by which EMPG allocations are determined?

Mike Selves: It could be at some later date. A lot will have to do with the emphasis on terrorism and the future of the all hazards approach. If the focus continues to be on terrorism, then the terrorism related assessments will carry a lot of weight in the future.

Question:

Bob Goldhammer: I'm not quite sure how to phrase this, but has a QUALITATIVE and QUANTITATIVE statistical analysis been done to compare disaster costs between comparable size locations with "adequate" programs and those without? It might help to develop a business case.

Martha Braddock: I don't know.

Mike Selves: Not to my knowledge, but there is a pile of anecdotal evidence out there.

Question:

Amy Sebring: What is the likelihood of HMGP being restored to 15% in your estimation Martha, given the overall state of the budget?

Martha Braddock: At this time, there are not many legislative days left before Congress adjourns. If people want to see HMGP go back to 15%, they should let it be known to Congressional staff, particularly the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. H.R. 3181 is posted on site and has already passed the House.

Question:

Ron Ruff: Has anyone done a study to find out how large an area of the US is poorly covered in All Hazard planning to give Congress an Idea of the scope of the problem? Must not have had an effect on the committees. It would show how poorly most of the US is prepared for a terrorist attack or a natural disaster.

Mike Selves: The NEMA study which we referred to earlier has sized the problem pretty well. At this point, we are really focused on saving the program as a program and simply trying to get as much as we can for added money.

Question:

Steve Collier: When can we reasonably expect Congress to finally decide on the EMPG question?

Martha Braddock: After receiving their allocations, the House and Senate Subcommittees on Homeland Security are expected to be first or second of the subcommittees to mark up bills. Just guessing, I would expect the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to have bills marked up in June or maybe July and a conference in September.

Question:

Avagene Moore: Is there someone specifically that local and State EM folks should contact re: HMGP? I know there is great interest in this because I have followed discussions on the IAEM and other mail lists.

Martha Braddock: On HMGP, they should contact Senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee particularly.

Mike Selves: Someone in Missouri would be nice.

Question:

Ricky Shellenbarger: Has FEMA ever considered performing a PSA for Emergency Management and its importance to the community, just like Civil Defense was in the Cold War?

Martha Braddock: Ricky, I do not know the answer on the PSA.

Mike Selves: Given the current emphasis on DHS, funding for such a PSA might be a lower priority.

Question:

Isabel McCurdy: Being a Canadian, I am just wondering if this is the slippery slope system being used. Cut funding now then again in the future and then shift it on the volunteer sector to pick up the slack. That was started before?

Martha Braddock: DHS would consider the 170 million to be an increase over the request in 04. We got it raised to 179.

Mike Selves: I think the Congress gives us pretty good support within the budget constraints they work under and, in fact, we've gotten more money lately. The issue is this personnel limit which seems to emanate from OMB but we're working on that. too.

Question:

Amy Sebring: Comment: I am especially fearful we will start losing the next generation of emergency managers if positions are cut all over the country. Mike, Martha, would you agree?

Mike Selves: Obviously the job market would be affected by this provision, but we believe we can get it fixed before that happens, at least we're hopeful. I just hired my first degreed emergency manager with EMPG funds!

Martha Braddock: Emergency Managers need to be certain that Members of Congress understand what they do. Members of Congress have personnel driven operations; they understand the need for the 25% cap to be off if people bring it to their attention.

[Closing]

Avagene Moore: That's all we have time for today. We greatly appreciate your efforts and time on our behalf today, Mike and Martha. Very informative! Thanks to you and IAEM!

I would like to suggest our audience visit the IAEM Web site and join IAEM if not already a member. Please see http://www.iaem.com/online_membership_application.shtml for the online membership form.

Please stand by a moment while we make some quick announcements. If you are not currently on our mailing list, and would like to get program announcements and notices of transcript availability, please see the Subscribe link on our home page. If your organization is interested in becoming an EIIP Partner, please see the "Partnership for You" link on our home page.

Again, the transcript will be posted later this afternoon and you will be able to access it from our home page.

Thanks to everyone for participating today. We appreciate you, the audience!

Our session is adjourned, but before you go, please help me show our appreciation to Mike and Martha for a fine job.