As Hurricane Irma approaches, Republicans eye $1 billion cut to disaster relief


FEMA doesn't have the funds to cover Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, yet Republicans are still considering Trump's proposal to slash FEMA spending by nearly $1 billion.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is running out of funds to pay for disaster relief, just as Hurricane Irma — one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded over the Atlantic Ocean — takes aim at the Florida coast.

In less than one week, FEMA burned through nearly $1 billion in relief funds in response to the catastrophic Hurricane Harvey, which submerged large parts of Texas. The agency now has less than $1 billion on hand to deal with Harvey and looming Irma.

FEMA’s entire disaster relief fund for 2017 is expected to run out on Friday, according to a Bloomberg report. The agency is spending approximately $9 million every hour in Harvey disaster relief.


The agency is running on fumes, yet Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget calls for deep cuts to FEMA’s disaster relief fund. Those cuts, nearly $1 billion in total, are designed to finance the wall that Trump wants to build between the U.S. and Mexico — the wall the Mexican government was supposedly going to pay for.

The funding ripped away form FEMA would pay “for roughly half the cost of Trump’s down payment on the U.S.-Mexico border wall,” according to the Boston Globe.

FEMA, the lead agency charged with overseeing the government's response to natural disasters, plans its disaster relief fund each year to meet the expected needs in that calendar year. And on Aug. 7, FEMA’s head administrator reported to Congress that "absent a new catastrophic disaster, the available funding in the [disaster relief fund] is sufficient to support the needs of disaster survivors and communities through the remainder of the fiscal year.”

All of that has changed with arrival of Harvey and Irma, yet Republicans are still mulling over Trump’s budget proposal, which demands huge disaster relief cuts from FEMA.

In other words, you have Republican members of Congress trying to pass additional disaster relief funding for Harvey in 2017, while they simultaneously consider Trump’s call for deep disaster relief funding cuts in 2018.

Yes, Congress is set to pass a multi-billion dollar spending package for Harvey. But that doesn’t solve FEMA’s budget crunch, because another monster storm is poised to hit the United States.

"Unfortunately, the current disaster relief package Congress is considering for Hurricane Harvey doesn’t account for the additional costs FEMA will likely incur as a result of Hurricane Irma," Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio noted in a joint statement.