Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, joined a bipartisan group of Senators in sending a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requesting an update on hurricane preparation efforts, specifically for older Americans and those with disabilities. The letter was also signed by Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Bob Casey (D-PA).
In a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, the Senators request details on the changes each agency has made to improve hurricane recovery efforts and why – despite expert recommendations – individuals with disabilities were not represented in talks with FEMA about its long-term response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“We have learned that neither individuals with disabilities nor their representatives have been included in conversations with FEMA about long-term responses to Hurricanes Irma and Maria,” wrote Senator Collins and her colleagues. “It is critical that the views of people with disabilities and seniors be included in disaster recovery conversations. Therefore, we request a detailed report on the organizations and individuals that your agencies have proactively engaged as you prepare for the 2018 hurricane season.”
The Senators made it clear to the agency leaders that any repeat of what happened at an assisted living facility in Texas during Hurricane Harvey or the deaths that occurred at a nursing home in Florida after Hurricane Irma would be unacceptable.
“We are adamant about the need to avoid situations like that in Hurricane Harvey, involving seniors sitting in waist deep water while awaiting rescue from an assisted living facility, or the multiple deaths that occurred in a Florida nursing home,” the Senators continued. “Finally, any repeat, no matter how minimal, of the humanitarian crisis that occurred in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands following Hurricane Maria, is altogether unacceptable.”
“Older Americans and people with disabilities require an all–hands-on-deck commitment to reach and care for them in a time of crisis,” the lawmakers wrote.
Senator Collins, Nelson, Rubio, and Casey introduced legislation to create a national advisory committee to better prepare and care for our nation’s seniors during a disaster. The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved the measure last month as part of the bipartisan Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2018. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
Click HERE to read the letter.