White House requests $44B in disaster funding

Paul Naron carries out damaged items from his flooded house September 11 after Hurricane Irma struck in Coconut Grove, Fla. The White House on Friday requested emergency disaster funding for the third time. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI

Nov. 18 (UPI) — The White House on Friday asked Congress to approve an additional $44 billion in disaster funding for recovery efforts from hurricane season.

It is the third funding request made by the Trump administration. Congress approved $15.3 billion in emergency funding in early September and $36.5 billion in October, which also included recovery efforts from wildfires in Northern California.

The funding requested Friday by the Office of Management and Budget largely is for areas affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma — primarily Texas and Florida. The OMB said the administration hasn’t finalized damage and rebuilding costs for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, and expects to request more funding for the islands in the future.

“Because Hurricane Maria occurred more recently, damage assessments are ongoing. …” OMB Director Mick Mulvaney wrote in a letter to Congress. “The administration is also aware of the unique challenges facing these territories.”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Congress is committed to assisting the victims of natural disasters earlier this year.

“We appreciate the president’s new funding request and we value our continued partnership in his effort,” he said. “The House will review the request and work with the administration and members from affected states to help the victims get the resources they need to recovery and rebuild.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, said the $44 billion request was “completely inadequate.”

“What was offered up by Mick Mulvaney … is completely inadequate for the needs of the state of Texas and I believe does not live up to what the president wants to achieve,” he told reporters during a news conference.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, echoed the criticism, saying he’s “not satisfied.”

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, during her Friday briefing, said she didn’t consider $44 billion to be a “low amount.”

“My guess is if you ask any average citizen in this country, they won’t feel like it’s low either,” she said.

Sanders added that Texas “has not put any state dollars into this process. We feel strongly that they should step up and play a role.”

Mulvaney called on Congress to consider reducing spending elsewhere to counteract the emergency disaster funding this fiscal year. The OMB suggested $59 billion in offsets in federal programs like rural business grants and conservation efforts.

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