U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington, D.C., Aug. 31, 2023.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — The White House is requesting an additional $4 billion from Congress to bolster funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is down to its last $3.4 billion after a string of major disasters.
Friday’s request is in addition to a $12 billion ask last month for FEMA’s disaster relief fund, part of an overall $40 billion stopgap funding ask. It also comes a day after the White House asked Congress to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government as budget negotiations continue.
The White House said the additional funds are needed in the wake of fires in Hawaii and Louisiana, flooding in Florida due to Hurricane Idalia, plus flooding in Vermont in July.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said this week that the disaster relief fund would be exhausted in the first half of September if it is not replenished.
Criswell told reporters Tuesday that FEMA is prioritizing the immediate needs of people affected by the Maui fires, Idalia and disasters still to come, which means recovery efforts from past disasters are on the back burner.
“I want to stress that while immediate needs funding will ensure we can continue to respond to disasters, it is not a permanent solution,” Criswell said. “Congress must work with us on the supplemental request that the administration has made on behalf of FEMA.”
President Joe Biden visited FEMA headquarters Thursday and thanked personnel for their work while also promising Americans affected that the federal government would be there for them as they recover.
“I’m calling on Congress to make sure you’re able to 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 we have to make to finish the job in Maui and elsewhere,” Biden said Thursday.
Congress is currently out of session on August recess, but the Senate is slated to return next week. The House returns the week after. Biden pressed lawmakers to move fast on the FEMA request.
“We need this money done, we need this disaster relief request met, we need to do it in September, we can’t wait,” Biden said.
The president will travel to Florida on Saturday to assess the damage done by Idalia.