Entries in Disaster Relief (4)


New York Pols Make White House Appeal for Sandy Relief Funds

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As the White House prepares to send its emergency request for Hurricane Sandy relief to Capitol Hill this week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a personal appeal for more than $40 billion to aid his state.

Emerging from meetings with White House officials and members of key congressional committees, Governor Cuomo expressed optimism that lawmakers will deliver tens of billions of dollars in aid.

"If you've walked the streets and you've talked with home owners and small business owners you know how desperate the situation is and this is no time for politics," Gov. Cuomo said Monday.

Cuomo stood beside the entire New York delegation, including Long Island Republican Rep. Peter King.

"All of us stand behind the governor's proposal," King said of Cuomo's appeal for funds. "I believe it's on target. It's what we need. It has to be done."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Has Declared Record-Breaking 89 Disasters in 2011

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- From Hurricane Irene, which soaked the entire East Coast in August, to the Midwest tornadoes, which wrought havoc from Wisconsin to Texas, 2011 has seen more billion-dollar natural disasters than any year on record, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

And as America’s hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and wildfires set records this year, so too has President Obama in his response to them.

During the first 10 months of this year President Obama declared 89 major disasters, more than the record 81 declarations that he made in all of 2010.

And Obama has declared more disasters -- 229 -- in the first three years of his presidency than almost any other president signed in their full four-year terms. Only President George W. Bush declared more, having signed 238 disaster declarations in his second term, from 2005 to 2009.

But while the sheer number of bad weather events played a big role in the uptick in presidential disaster declarations, Obama’s record-setting year may have something to do with politics as well.

“There’s no question about it that the increase in the number of disaster declarations is outstripping what we would expect to see, given what we observe in terms of weather,” said Robert Hartwig, the president and economist at the Insurance Information Institute. “There’s a lot of political pressure on the president and Congress to show they are responsive to these sorts of disasters that occur.”

While the president aimed to authorize swift and sweeping aid to disaster victims, Congress was entrenched in partisan battles over how to foot the bill. When Republicans demanded that additional appropriations for a cash-strapped Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) be offset by spending cuts, the government was almost shut down over disaster relief funding.

Such budget showdowns have become commonplace in Congress, but a similarly slow response to natural disasters by the president has been met with far more pointed and politically damaging criticism.  Former President Bush learned that the hard way after what was seen as a botched initial response to Hurricane Katrina in 2006.

Mark Merritt, who served as deputy chief of staff at FEMA during the Clinton Administration, said Obama’s record-breaking number of declarations has less to do with politics and more to do with demographics.
People are moving to high-risk areas like beaches and flood plains, more bad weather events are occurring and the country’s infrastructure is “crumbling,” he claimed.

Politics aside, Obama’s higher-than-ever number of disaster declarations may also have a lot to do with the broad scale of this year’s disasters, which led to more declarations of catastrophes because each state affected by the disaster gets its own declaration.

For example, Hurricane Andrew, which hit Florida in 1992, cost upwards of $40 billion in damage, but resulted in only one disaster declaration because the damage was almost entirely confined to one state.

Hurricane Irene, on the other hand, pummeled much of the East Coast this summer, causing the president to make 9 disaster declarations, one for each state affected. Although there were 8 more declarations for Irene than for Andrew, the Irene caused about $7 billion in damage, a fraction of the damage caused by Andrew (up to $42 billion in today’s dollars).

Each presidential disaster declaration makes the federal government -- specifically FEMA -- responsible for at least 75 percent of the recovery costs, relieving cash-strapped state and local governments of the billions in damages caused by this year’s hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


House Delivers Blow to Boehner as Spending Bill Fails

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a major setback to House Speaker John Boehner, the House of Representatives voted Wednesday night 195-230 to reject a stop-gap measure to fund the federal government through Nov. 18 over disagreements on the level of disaster relief funding in the bill.

Despite the GOP’s confidence that the continuing resolution [CR] would pass, 48 House Republicans bucked their GOP colleagues to join the vast majority of House Democrats in their opposition.  Just six Democrats voted with 189 Republicans in favor of the measure.

At issue was the amount of disaster relief funding Congress should enact.  The Senate last week passed a $7 billion FEMA relief bill.  The bill was sent to the House for passage but House Republicans had a different strategy for FEMA funding, attaching the disaster relief to the CR.

The House legislation that failed Wednesday evening would have provided a little more than half the disaster relief money as the Senate bill, with $3.65 billion for disaster recovery, including approximately $1 billion divided between FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make up shortages in fiscal year 2011, and an additional $2.65 billion for the full fiscal year 2012.

The obvious question now is what happens next?  The current CR that keeps the government running runs out at the end of the fiscal year next Friday, Sept. 30.  But the House and Senate are both scheduled to be out of session next week for the Rosh Hashanah holiday, so lawmakers are scrambling to bridge their differences in order to avoid a government shutdown.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called on Republicans to bring a clean CR to the floor and separately pass the Senate’s legislation to increase disaster relief funding.

“The rejection of this bill that destroys jobs was bipartisan,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement.  “The House Republican leadership should now bring to the floor a clean CR and the bipartisan relief package already passed by the Senate.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Shutdown Showdown Redux? Congress Squabbles over Disaster Relief Money

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., are squaring off on a collision course threatening once again to shut the federal government down.
At issue is the amount of disaster relief funding Congress should enact.
The Senate last week passed a $7-billion FEMA relief bill. The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for passage but House Republicans have a different strategy for FEMA funding, attaching FEMA funding to a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government through Nov. 18.

The House legislation provides a little more than half the Senate bill, with $3.65 billion for disaster recovery, including approximately $1 billion divided between FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make up shortages in FY 2011, and an additional $2.65 billion for the full FY 2012.

Senate Democrats say this is not enough money for FEMA, and they chastised House Republicans for calling for relief aid to be off-set when they don’t require the same standard for funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So on Tuesday, Reid announced that when the House of Representatives sends over its CR, which the House will vote on Wednesday, he will amend it to include the $7-billion relief aid which passed in the Senate.
“I was disappointed to see that the House shortchanged the Federal Emergency Management Agency, by failing to provide the funding to adequately help Americans whose lives have been devastated by floods, hurricanes and tornados,” Reid said on the Senate floor Tuesday morning. “Tomorrow, when the Senate receives the House bill to fund the government for six more weeks, we will amend it with the language of the Senate FEMA legislation.”
That means that in order for the government to avoid shutting down next Friday, Sept. 30, when the fiscal year ends, the House would need to pass the amended measure, including Reid’s extra relief money. Members of Congress want to get this done by this Friday, as next week they have a scheduled recess for Rosh Hashanah.
But now, as both sides stand firm, the path forward is unclear.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was asked how he thought the disaster relief funding battle would play out with Reid as the House moves to consider its continuing resolution Wednesday.
“The House bill has in it the disaster relief that the president requested and then some. As you know, we provide for $1 billion in emergency relief and starting the new fiscal year, Oct. 1, we also provide an additional $2.6 billion that will be available for delivering on the needs that the people are asking for us to address,” Cantor, R-Va., said. “You’ve got $3.6 billion combined there in the bill. The CR is going to be written at the level that we agreed at in terms of the debt ceiling agreement.”
“We are delivering on the disaster relief that has been requested. No one will go without their needs being addressed, and I think the House bill, at $1.043 [trillion] is what we agreed to,” he added.
Reid on Tuesday noted that the original $7 billion Senate funding bill had 10 Republican votes -- and that he expects the same out of those senators when faced with the funding now being tied to the CR.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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