Tue Oct 30, 2012, 11:42 AM
fleur-de-lisa (1,780 posts)
FEMA has plenty of money this time
FEMA can tap several billion dollars in additional funds without turning to Congress.
By SEUNG MIN KIM, 10/29/12, posted on Politico.com
Hurricane relief has been a nasty political football on Capitol Hill in the past.
But this time around – thanks to a confluence of several factors – the federal government has plenty of money to cover the costs in the short run as Hurricane Sandy barrels her way up the East Coast.
Nearly $7.8 billion is available for storm response through FEMA’s disaster relief fund, congressional aides said Monday. That includes more than $7 billion set aside in the stopgap spending bill that funds the federal government through March, as well as money designated for disaster relief carried over from last year that was not spent. On top of that — thanks to the debt limit deal last year — FEMA can tap a several billion dollars in additional emergency funds without turning to Congress for extra money.
And regardless of the ideology regarding how to pay for disaster aid, the hurricane is serving as a great equalizer, hitting states represented by a wide range of prominent politicians — with Eric Cantor in Virginia, Chris Christie in New Jersey, and Andrew Cuomo in New York.
“We have plenty of cash in the short term … but we will watch very closely,” said a Senate Democratic aide. “We will not want to end the 112th Congress without making sure the disaster relief fund is sound for fiscal year 2013.”
FEMA administrator Craig Fugate was also confident that his agency was sufficiently equipped.
“We have the funds to respond,” Fugate told reporters on a conference call Monday. “We have the funds to continue response to recovery of previous disasters and we’ll assess the impacts to determine any additional funding needs based on the impacts of Hurricane Sandy.”
A shored-up disaster relief fund and changes to the way that disaster aid is administered could help Capitol Hill avoid a replay of a bitter political fight that exploded last year over the response to Hurricane Irene. In September 2011, Republicans insisted that money allocated for hurricane relief be offset, and proposed paying for aid by slashing funds to an auto-industry loan program – infuriating Hill Democrats. The discussion over offsetting disaster aid also came up after the devastating tornadoes last year in Joplin, Mo. In 2005 with Hurricane Katrina, conservative members of Congress questioned the huge sums going to disaster relief without cutting the government elsewhere to pay for it.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1012/83030.html#ixzz2AnV67ZYQ
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