As officials respond to multiple natural disasters in the U.S., President Joe Biden has asked for additional funds for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Relief Fund.
On Thursday, the same day President Biden visited FEMA headquarters, he asked Congress for $4 billion in additional funding. This is in addition to a $12 billion request the White House previously made.
"Given the intensity of disaster activity around the nation — including fires on Maui, in Louisiana, and across the country; massive flooding in Vermont; and now a major hurricane that hit Florida and the Southeast — the administration is seeking an additional $4 billion for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund," an Office of Budget and Management spokesperson said on behalf of the White House.
FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund is used to provide immediate assistance to state and local governments during major disasters. The fund also helps with repairing infrastructure and provides financial assistance to eligible disaster survivors.
While visiting FEMA headquarters, President Biden implored Congress to pass the funding request right away.
"Every American expects FEMA will show up in the middle of a disaster," he said. "And I'm calling on Congress to make sure you're able and have the funds to be able to continue to show up and meet the needs of the American people to deal with immediate crises that we're facing right now, as well as the long-term commitments that we have to make to finish the job in Maui and elsewhere."
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said she believes FEMA has enough funding for ongoing disaster responses following the Hawaii wildfire and Hurricane Idalia's landfall. But she expressed concern as the hurricane season has not ended yet.
"Every day, we are looking at what the cost of these storms are as we approach the end of this fiscal year. And if we have another storm, we're going to have to closely monitor what impact that's going to have and any other actions we might have to take," she said.
According to data from the Congressional Budget Office, the money spent by FEMA in response to major disasters can vary based on the year.
For instance, there was a huge spike in spending in 2005 when FEMA responded to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma all within weeks of each other. There was also a huge spike in 2018 with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and then again in 2020 and 2021 with COVID-19.
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