Federal Agencies: We're on Scene, Online, or Both

A wide variety of federal agencies are involved in efforts related to relief and recovery in the Houston area related to Harvey.

Here's the latest update on that agencies are at work, and what results they've achieved so far, according the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA):

--The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is issuing safety alerts and has issued a statement from CPSC Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle regarding Hurricane Harvey.

--The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has deployed nearly 450 AmeriCorps members, including FEMA Corps, from across the nation to Texas as well as local Senior Corps members with additional members of the AmeriCorps Disaster Response Team on standby. AmeriCorps members are working with the American Red Cross, supporting shelter and mass care operations, as well as providing assistance to FEMA’s logistics and disaster survivor assistance teams. AmeriCorps Disaster Response Teams, in coordination with FEMA and the Texas Division of Emergency Management, are organizing the volunteer and donations management process and operations. In addition, CNCS is leveraging its vast network of nonprofits and community organizations to communicate the correct channels for donations and volunteering as well as calling upon the more than one million AmeriCorps alumni – many of whom have previously responded to disasters -- to fill the urgent need for trained shelter managers.

--The U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing assistance through their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and waiving some regulations to make food more accessible, especially to school children and seniors. In addition, the USDA approved the state of Texas to designate schools not directly impacted by the Hurricane to serve as disaster organizations and shelters so that USDA foods can be used for congregate feeding, providing critical food assistance to those in need. USDA foods include a variety of canned, fresh, frozen, and dry products which include fruits, vegetables, meats, and whole grains.

--The Department of Defense has stood up three additional Incident Support Bases at Fort Hood, Joint Base San Antonio, and Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort-Worth to support forward distribution of supplies and equipment to the affected area.

--The U.S. Department of Education  has activated its emergency response contact center in response to-- the devastating impacts of Hurricane Harvey.  The Department’s K-12 and Higher Education stakeholders who are seeking informational resources should contact the Department toll free at 1-844-348-4082 or by email at HarveyRelief@ed.gov.

--The Centers for Disease Control has fully activated their EOC, including the Joint Information Center. They have developed a Hurricane Harvey webpage that went live on September 1, 2017. Currently they are printing 15,000 booklets on mold for returning home owners

--.National Disaster Medical System personnel and U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers have provided medical care to more than 1,000 people affected by Hurricane Harvey. More than 1,100 personnel from HHS currently are on the ground helping those affected by the storm. HHS Secretary Tom Price, declared a public health emergency for the state to assist Texans in receiving unimpeded care from local providers and healthcare facilities. Additionally, the Disaster Distress Helpline, a toll-free call center, continues to be available at 1-800-985-5990 to aid people in coping with the behavioral health effects of the storm and help people in impacted areas connect with local behavioral health professionals.

--The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising people that food, medicine, and medical devices should be thrown out if they have come in contact with flood water or were stored improperly during a power outage. The FDA is also identifying regulated facilities affected by the storm to assess any risk.

--The U.S. Social Security Administration is coordinating with the U.S. Postal Service for 46 alternative pick up points in the impacted areas around Houston where individuals can pick up benefit checks. A press release identifies the pick-up points by zip code of where individuals can go. For beneficiaries with Direct Express cards, Comerica will be waiving fees for all cardholders impacted by Harvey, even if they have been evacuated to another area out of danger.

--The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) activated the Surge Capacity Force (SCF) on Aug. 28, to supplement federal personnel supporting states as they respond to the catastrophic impacts from Hurricane Harvey.

--The DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) is helping facilitate access to communications and other critical infrastructure as recovery efforts begin. NPPD is supporting critical emergency communications through multiple avenues: Emergency responders placed 1,599 Government Emergency Telecommunication Service (GETS) calls on Tuesday, August 29. NPPD has posted a US-CERT alert on Potential Hurricane Harvey Phishing Scams attempting to take advantage of efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to hurricane survivors. Deployed NPPD workers are helping to maintain or establish coordination with owners and operators of priority facilities to determine their facility status.

--The DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and FEMA have developed guidance for impacted states, localities, and other federal recipients on "how to effectively communicate with the whole community and carry out their disaster-related activities in a non-discriminatory manner."

--The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has posted a web alert to those affected by Hurricane Harvey to Available Immigration Services in English and Spanish. USCIS has posted on uscis.gov and amplified via social media, information concerning natural events and how they can affect USCIS applications, petitions or immigration status in English and Spanish. Check uscis.gov for the operational status of USCIS offices in the Houston area.   The USCIS website address and National Customer Service Center number - 1-800-375-5283 - continues to be amplified via social media and posted on uscis.gov and usa.gov for those needing further information or assistance with rescheduling appointments.

--U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has deployed approximately 200 law enforcement personnel from Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) and Special Response Teams (SRTs) around the country to provide security for search and rescue teams and to assist with search and rescue operations.

--The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has deployed housing specialists to Texas and is deploying up to 100 additional personnel. HUD teams are currently evaluating damaged subsidized housing in the affected areas and they are developing comprehensive vacancy lists that will assist with relocating some shelter residents. HUD has also released a list of its programs that help following a disaster and we are beginning a social media Q&A push specifically targeting homeowners affected by the flood.

--The U.S. Department of the Interior released a message to employees and a video showing Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke commending the more than 100 Interior employees supporting the state of Texas through eight FEMA mission assignments as well hundreds of additional Interior personnel who are providing assistance. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) employees have been deployed in 17 crews to measure and repair damaged gauges and take high-water measurements, often under dangerous conditions.  DOI’s Office of Law Enforcement and Security has assembled or deployed 7 Quick Response Teams.

--The National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and USGS are supporting FEMA Task Forces by locating and providing dozens of shallow water boats for search and rescue. Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) pilots are guiding Interior drones to locate people in need of help. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement continues to monitor Gulf of Mexico oil and gas activities and inspect platforms.

--The Department of Justice (DOJ) has over 2,000 federal law enforcement personnel deployed to support public safety and security efforts in SE Texas consisting of 59 Quick Reaction Teams (QRTs) and 18 Mobile Command Vehicles (MCVs). 700 Federal Law Enforcement Officers (FLEOs) have been approved to support Houston Police Department. In addition, ATF has 225 SRT agents supporting the Houston FD and Houston PD.

--The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) handled emergency and relief operations at a number of airports in the Hurricane Harvey area, including Houston Hobby and George Bush Intercontinental. The FAA has issued over 40 unmanned aircraft system authorizations to drone operators supporting the response. The authorizations cover a broad range of activities by local, state and federal officials who are conducting damage assessments of critical infrastructure, homes and businesses to prioritize and expedite recovery activities.

--The Department of the Treasury has suspended certain tax filing and payment deadlines, as well as certain fuel excise taxes, for those affected.  Loans and hardship distributions from employer-sponsored retirement plans have also been authorized, and facilities and personnel have been provided to assist with FEMA’s response efforts. They are encouraging national banks and federal savings associations to work with their customers affected by the storm by reassessing various fees and debt obligations, and we are working to ensure that all federal benefit payments reach those in the affected areas.

--The Financial and Banking Information Infrastructure Committee (FBIIC), has been coordinating federal and state banking agencies’ responses to the storm’s impact on the financial sector in Texas. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing stands ready to process all requests for redemption of mutilated currency.Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is providing help to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Special tax relief and assistance is available to taxpayers in the Presidential Disaster Areas. They are monitoring the situation closely to resolve potential tax administration issues as they are identified. The IRS frequently updates its information on disaster relief efforts related to Hurricane Harvey.  

--The Environmental Protection Agency says it "continues to deploy response personnel to Austin, Beaumont-Port Arthur, Houston, and Corpus Christi where Unified Command teams are identifying and evaluating impacts of the hurricane and floods." It says drinking water and waste water assessments continue to be a priority in these same areas.  EPA drinking and waste water assessment teams are working in coordination with TCEQ to assist drinking water and waste water facilities maintain and/or resume their operational status.  Additional teams will deploy to Corpus Christi and Houston to conduct these priority assessments. Also, "EPA is standing by as the Arkema plant is expected to experience more explosions/fires over the next few days. ASPECT surveillance aircraft continues to monitor the site and is be available for additional assessments."

--The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has information for people who want to help Hurricane Harvey survivors, and for those who are dealing with, and recovering from, the storm’s long-term effects.  The FTC warns consumers to be cautious of charity scams, and to do research to ensure that your donation will go to a reputable organization that will use the donation as promised. For survivors, the FTC provides a few points to consider in a personal disaster recovery plan.

-The General Services Administration’s (GSA) top priority is protecting the life and safety of those in impacted areas. Several federal facilities are temporarily closed but GSA remains fully operational. Information on the status of federal buildings can be found here.

--Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) plants in Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana continue to be unaffected by the storm. The NRC has two inspectors onsite at South Texas Project nuclear plant in Bay City, and is closely monitoring the status of radiological materials licensed by the agency located in the three affected states. The agency is using Facebook and Twitter to communicate status updates.

--The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is supporting federal agencies with guidance and tools regarding human resources issues for federal employees adversely affected by the storm. This includes guidance on Human Resources Flexibilities for Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath, the authorization of a special solicitation to allow federal employees and military personnel to assist with cash or check donations outside the normal Combined Federal Campaign, and the establishment of an Emergency Leave Transfer Program (ELTP) for federal employees adversely affected by the storm.

--The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that as of Aug. 31, the SBA will offer an automatic 12-month deferment of principal and interest payments for SBA-serviced business loan and disaster loans that are in “regular servicing” status for residents and businesses in the declared counties. 

--The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is continuing to restore service in the affected areas. Press releases issued in the Postal Service’s Houston and Rio Grande districts provided additional information to customers displaced on how they can retrieve Treasury checks they receive, via U.S. Mail.  This includes checks from the Social Security Administration, Veterans Administration (VA), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Railroad Retirement Board.  In addition, they will distribute any identifiable medications sent through the mail.

--USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov continues to support federal agency messaging efforts on their home pages and they’re compiling federal agency updates and messaging on rapidly growing Hurricane Harvey pages found at https://www.usa.gov/hurricane-harvey andhttps://gobierno.usa.gov/huracan-harvey. They continue to use social media to promote life safety messages, and are beginning to push recovery information, information on how to help survivors, and applying for FEMA disaster relief jobs.


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