ACTING ON THE LESSONS LEARNED FROM 9/11
WASHINGTON, DC - Drawing from important lessons learned by New York City as it recovers from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY-14), together with Reps. Michael McNulty (NY-21), Jose Serrano (NY-16), and Ed Towns (NY-10), today introduced legislation that would open up more avenues of federal disaster relief to jurisdictions struck by terrorism. The "Community Protection and Response Act" would make recovery aid more accessibly by designating terrorist attacks, or "Homeland Security Events", as major disasters. In a sad irony, the Government Reform Committee unanimously approved this legislation during the development of the historic bill to create the Department of Homeland Security (H.R. 5005) last year, but it was stripped from the bill last year by the Republican leadership behind closed doors.
"No one knows better than New Yorkers how the system can best be improved in the aftermath of a terrorist attack," said Maloney. "It's time to straighten out the disaster recovery pipelines so that aid flows to terrorism targets the same way that it flows to communities recovering from hurricanes and earthquakes.
"Sadly, we were well on our way to helping fix the system last year before this measure was removed behind our backs. Terrorism will not wait - we have no more time to waste."
In addition to categorizing terrorist attacks with other major disasters, the bill would also cover more institutions affected by attacks, including for-profit utilities and the education system.
Another provision of the bill would help federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), coordinate their areas of jurisdiction and anti-terrorism efforts. As The Washington Post reported last month, the United States remains highly vulnerable to a chemical terrorist attack, in large part because HHS and the EPA still have not decided which agency would spearhead chemical response preparedness.
The Trust For America's Health, a public health group, has released a report that calls America's chemical labs "dangerously unprepared" for terrorist attacks (Press Release). State public health laboratories surveyed for the report told the group that they have received "no clear direction" from federal agencies or other organizations on how to prepare for and combat chemical attacks.
"This report is frightening in its assessment of the confusion in the federal government regarding chemical attacks," said Maloney. "The most maddening thing is that we had a golden opportunity to be prepared for future attacks, but the Republican leadership went against a unanimous committee to undo the amendment. That's unsafe and un-democratic."
"I'm hoping that the Republican leadership sees this disturbing report as a major wake up call and do this year what they should have done last year."
Legislative Summary Sheet
Community Protection and Response Act of 2003 (CPR)
Expansion of Definitions in the Stafford Act/Amendments to Existing Statutes
Homeland Security Events New Authorities Given to the President
After declaration, the President is authorized, but not required, to do the following:
Standards and Reporting
Directs OMB to establish standards for reporting disaster relief efforts regarding each agency that assists in disaster relief efforts following a homeland security event. Reports such data to Congress.
Monitoring of Health Risks
(Prepared by the Office of Rep. Carolyn Maloney)