Texas is just starting to move from crisis to recovery mode following Hurricane Harvey, and Puerto Rico is about to be hit head-on by Hurricane Irma as soon as tonight, with Florida likely to be hit by the weekend. So this seems like an inconvenient time for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be running out of money. By Friday, just as the nation’s weather reporters will be standing in a hurricane and telling people to stay inside. You’d think someone would have said something.
As of 10 a.m. Tuesday morning, FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund, which pays for the agency’s disaster response and recovery activity, had just $1.01 billion on hand. And of that, just $541 million was “immediately available” for response and recovery efforts related to Hurricane Harvey, according to a spokeswoman for FEMA who asked not to be identified by name.
The $1.01 billion in the fund Tuesday morning is less than half of the $2.14 billion that was there at 9 a.m. last Thursday morning — a spend rate of $9.3 million every hour, or about $155,000 a minute.
As of Wednesday, the administration is working frantically on a plan to blame Barack Obama for the nation’s disaster management agency running out of money between two massive hurricanes. And Congress will probably vote to fund disaster relief — the Trump administration has asked for an extra $8 billion of extra funding.
The House is supposed to vote on the additional funding today, and the Senate later this week, though they have to have an important ideological fight over raising the debt ceiling, too. When you’re between two hurricanes, the smart move is to threaten to default on the nation’s debt. Shows the International Bankers you’re serious. Then of course if the Senate bill is different from the House’s, they need to work that out, and maybe in the conference committee they’ll toss in another Obamacare repeal while they’re at it.
For now, FEMA is being very careful about spending, limiting it to “immediate needs” like “lifesaving, life-sustaining response efforts” for Harvey and, real darn soon, Irma. The agency can also shift around money from other projects, although there’s a limit to how long that would cover the bills.
Oh, yes, and Elizabeth Zimmerman, FEMA’s former associate administrator for the office of response and recovery, points out that “We’re not even at peak hurricane season,” which seems like a really pessimistic outlook. After Harvey and Irma, what are the odds of more natural disasters occurring, anyway? Probably only slightly more likely than the USA electing a president who’s a loudmouthed reality TV star with literally no experience in governing whatsoever.
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