« PreviousContinue »
Senator KENNEDY. Just one question. Mr. Hunt, since the floods in August, has there been any talk of industrial migration from New England by those plants which have been particularly affected?
Mr. Hunt. I am glad to say that we have heard very little. I think I could say any serious
Senator KENNEDY. Do you think companies like American Optical which took a tremendous loss and are in a vulnerable position unless effective action is taken on flood control, and possibly and probably a bill such as this, might migrate?
Mr. HUNT. I have every faith that American Optical will work out its problems as it has. It has done a wonderful job of digging out of mud and silt that the rains brought down and certainly did a job better than we ever thought it could do.
Senator Bush. Mr. Stewart wants to be recognized for a comment. Senator LEHMAN. Mr. Stewart, do you want to comment on that?
Mr. STEWART. Mr. Chairman, Senator Kennedy, the answer to your question is an answer in time and arithmetic. Let's say that it would take a good plant a certain amount of time to relocate, to retrain its people and get into operation. I believe that the question of migration is balanced between that time that it would take that plant to relocate itself thoroughly and the time within which it can see relief from flood control. Do I make the point ?
Senator KENNEDY. Yes. You would say though that governmental action on flood control plus an insurance program would be of assistance to you in figuring out that arithmetic, would it not?
Mr. STEWART. Exactly. If it would take a plant 4 years to relocate and that plant cannot see protection from flood within 4 years, then the mathematics of the situation says it must relocate. So I don't think that what has happened now immediately should be accepted as a criterion. I think that what we do and what we plan to do in the way of a time factor in bringing in insurance and bringing in flood control is going to be the criterion as to whether you get the migration or not. Do I make it clear?
Senator KENNEDY. I think that is very important.
Mr. Hunt, you referred to the matter of the report of the Hoover Commission. I have this telegram which I have already referred to from Mr. Edward A. Sherman, regional director for the Citizens' Committee for the Hoover Report, and I shall put in the record :
Boston, Mass., November 9, 1955. Senator HERBERT H. LEHMAN,
Chairman, Senate Banking and Currency Committee: Testimony this morning before your committee reveals a definite misunderstanding of the difference between the findings and proposals of the Hoover Commission's study task forces and the official reports and recommendations to the Congress by the bipartisan Commission itself.
To clarify this matter I respectfully call your committee's attention to the fact that in the Commission's report on water resources and power in the chapter on flood control there are no recommendations. There are only two recommendations in the whole report that in way affect flood control. The first recommendation is recommendation No. 1 which proposes that there be established a national water policy and suggests nine policy criteria. The only other recommendation remotely concerning flood control is recommendation No. VI in the same report which recommends that construction of headwater dams in the flood-control program of the Soil Conservation Service of the Department of Agriculture be transferred to the Army Corps of Engineers.
EDWARD A. SHERMAN, Regional Director, Citizens' Committee for the Hoover Report. Senator LEIMAN. I want to say I am very glad to have this clarification but, of course, in my opinion it makes no difference since I was directing my remarks against the point of view, whether by the Hoover Commission or the Hoover Commission task force, which have become public documents submitted to the Congress. It is in my opinion à regressive point of view, a parochial point of view, which must be resisted if we are to provide the maximum protection against tragic disaster.
You recall my remarks were based on a statement and testimony by Professor Harris that the recommendation was that flood control be made a matter of local-State or local-interest.
If we ever do that, I repeat, we are certainly going to find ourselves in a very, very difficult position with very little progress made.
I am glad to have this in the record.
I am going to call on Assistant Attorney General Dorice S. Grace representing the attorney general of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
STATEMENT OF DORICE S. GRACE, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY
GENERAL, COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS Miss GRACE. My name is Dorice Grace. I am an assistant attorney general of the Commonwealth.
Mr. Chairman, Senator Bush, Senator Kennedy, the attorney general's experience in disaster dates to 1953 when Worcester County was visited by a tornado. Previously, in 1938, Massachusetts had its first great hurricane disaster. Very few of our citizens were covered by insurance.
After the 1938 hurricane, they purchased windstorm insurance, and when the tornado hit in 1953 their losses to a great extent were covered. Ninety-five percent of the real estate in the area was covered by insurance, and approximately 70 percent of personal property.
The distinction between the losses in the tornado and the flood was the fact that none of the people in the flood area had coverage.
Mr. Hunt mentioned the fact that the loss in Massachusetts alone was $110 million and that $55 million of that $110 million was industrial. Therefore, the remaining $55 million would be for public property and the small-home owner and the small-business man.
It is the small-home owner and the small-business man in whom we are particularly interested. We realize that the small man cannot exist unless industry supports him. But when everything that a homeowner has is suddently carried down the river or the stream, he is in a sorry plight. Neither the Federal nor the State law permits a grant to a private individual. The only relief that was given was to public property. The cities and towns were reimbursed by the State, and to some extent the Federal Government reimbursed the State for certain specified items.
The Army engineers did a perfectly terrific job in getting the roads passable again.
But who is there to help the little man? He may get a loan, and that loan, of course, he must pay interest on, and the loan must ultimately be returned to the person from whom he borrows it whether it is the Small Business Administration or any private loan company.
The Red Cross has made grants. They are the only ones we know of that have made grants. The Salvation Army helped to a great extent.
In inquiring to determine how large a sum any of the people received, $3,000 was the largest figure that I had heard mentioned as given by the Red Cross.
That does not mean that they have not given more, but from inquiring about we learned that people in the western part of the State on several occasions received that amount of money to repair foundations, et cetera.
The loss in Massachusetts covered a very great area, the entire Blackstone area, the Quinebaug and Mad Rivers, the Swift River. That is where the greatest loss to crops occurred. The rivers rushed down with such force that the topsoil was washed away and the crops were destroyed.
It is incumbent upon all of us to do our part in seeing that flood insurance or, rather, an all-covering disaster insurance is enacted in the next session of the Congress.
The hour is late, and I am very grateful to you for listening to me.
Senator LEHMAN. Thank you very much indeed. We are grateful to you for coming.
Senator Bush. Mr. Chairman, I just wish to make an observation, because the distinguished lady's information about the Red Cross is quite different from some of the examples that we have seen in Connecticut.
I think the Senator recalls I mentioned one family consisting of a widow and 1 child in Waterbury where a total grant by the Red Cross was $16,000 for this widow and 1 child, which enabled them to buy a new home, to furnish it, and to replace the clothing of that little family. So, I mean, that is a $16,000 limitation.
Over in Unionville we had a case where the Red Cross put up $2,196 to pay off the mortgage debt on this particular demolished home, on the land; $2,000 to replace the home appliances and furniture, and $7,452 for the construction of a new home, in addition to which the SBA made a loan to that family which consisted of just a man and wife of $5,000.
So that while this is not directly in point or no argument against the need for flood insurance, I do not want the record to show, if we can avoid it, that there has been such a limitation as the distinguished lady suggested.
I know you pointed out that was just what you observed. I know that. I just want to make this statement for the record and not in any criticism but just to make the record that we have observed elsewhere much more generous treatment where the circumstances have required.
Miss GRACE. I am very happy to have that called to my attention. Thank you.
Senator LEHMAN. Senator Kennedy?
Mr. BELANGER. With your permission, Mr. Chairman, we have a few witnesses who happen to be victims of these floods.
Senator LEHMAN. Have you a prepared statement, Mr. Belanger? Mr. BELANGER. Yes; a short statement.
Senator LEHMAN. Will you identify yourself and introduce your associates?
STATEMENT OF J. WILLIAM BELANGER, PRESIDENT, NEW ENG
LAND CONFERENCE OF CIO COUNCILS; ACCOMPANIED BY JOHN E. COLEMAN, CIO REPRESENTATIVE WITH RED CROSS IN CENTRAL MASSACHUSETTS DISASTER AREA, LUTHER LINCOLN, AND CHARLES J. VASSAR
Mr. BELANGER. I am J. William Belanger, and I am the president of the New England Conference of CIO Councils.
Mr. COLEMAN. I am John Coleman. I am the CIO's representative with the Red Cross in the central Massachusetts disaster area, and these gentlemen are Mr. Luther Lincoln, one of the victims, and Mr. Charles Vassar, another one.
Mr. BELANGER. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, we are grateful for your being here today because we have a most serious problem in these New England States which is increasing all the time.
We do not profess to be authorities on flood control or on insurance, but we do know that something should be done. We have tried to probe into this situation to gather some information to help give us some direction, and we have had formal conferences of our State CIO councils in New England. It was unanimously agreed that these organizations would press for immediate enactment by Congress of the broadest possible Federal disaster-insurance legislation.
While we don't wish to claim a monopoly on suffering, it is a fact that the men and women who make up the unions affiliated with CIO and who live and work in the areas affected by the floods were probably as a group the worst hit by these disasters. Every union official and every union representative in this region has been obliged to spend much of his time since last August dealing with relief problems of our membership
We can report on the basis of extensive firsthand contacts with actual victims of the disaster that there is an imperative and an urgent need for an insurance system that will make up to the average citizen substantially all of the costs of the physical damage he suffers as a result of these disasters.
I specifically refer to physical damage, because no one can measure the emotional aftereffects of these catastrophes. Who can measure the sorrow and distress as a result of loss of life or injury to members of one's family or to neighbors or fellow workers? Who can say that there are no inner scars left upon children, let alone adults, who have lived through these periods of terror or deep anxiety?
There is very little if anything we can do to erase these emotional losses which occur because of natural disaster, but we can and must make good the loss of homes, clothing, essential furniture, and automobiles such as thousands of people have suffered in this region during recent months.
The New England Conference of CIO has asked the technicians attached to our national office to study the financial and legal questions involved in framing legislation setting up a genuine disaster-insurance program. We will have future recommendations on the precise terms of legislation we shall favor.
For the moment, we wish to emphasize that it is clear only the Federal Government can provide the type of protection which our experience in recent tornadoes and floods in New England demonstrates to be absolutely needed. It is abundantly evident that the conventional private-industry approach just won't do in these circumstances. There should be no need to belabor this point.
Moreorer', we in New England feel that this program should be made compulsory and universal. The citizens should pay their premiums in the form of tax. No human being can foretell on whom or where or to what extent disaster will strike tomorrow or next year. It should go without saying that we must take every sensible and practical precaution against flood or tornadoes. It would be gross negligence to permit the present state of affairs in respect of flood control and tidalinundation to continue.
But it is not possible to build dams or reservoirs quickly enough to protect against new floods or to find ways and means of avoiding all damage to life and property from rising waters and rainstorms. Full insurance protection is needed and must be had even if, as we hope, the losses turn out to be infinitesimal.
We have read with great interest the draft plans for flood insurance offered by Dr. Seymour Harris in his capacity as chairman of the New England Textile Committee, and we say that we believe that he has good points and that he has good recommendations and that he is a good technician who could offer much to this committee.
We have not studied the Lehman bill, with apologies, or the Kennedy-Saltonstall bill, too closely. We propose to do so and will comment in more detail later on and particularly in Washington. However, our basic approach is somewhat broader than seems to be the approach in these two bills.
The CIO would recommend and would urge that the Federal Government insure the homes and belongings of everyone or as nearly everyone as is possible and that the premiums be paid through tax deductions. If Dr. Harris' estimates are anywhere near correct, reasonable coverage for the average home would be had for annual costs of not more than $5, probably considerably less.
We observed that the experience of our membership who are veterans and carry insurance with the Veterans Administration demonstrates that a Federal governmental setup can work efficiently, humanely, and speedily.
We most certainly don't want an organizational setup to administer disaster insurance which will force us to fight for payments for losses as we too often have to fight today for other social benefits.
As a spokesmin for CIO in New England, I would be derelict in my duty, Mr. Chairman, if I failed to go one step further in this discussion to point out that CIO strongly urges a broad and comprehensive and eminently practical multipurpose river basin development project including flood control calculated to prevent most, if not all, of the vast human and physical wreckage and losses which occur year after year in this region.