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Entries in FEMA (16)

Sunday
May262013

Sen. Coburn: Tornado Recovery Not Federal Government’s Responsibility

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In an appearance on CBS’s Face The Nation Sunday, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn said he was standing by his position that recovery efforts for major disasters should be handled at the local level and not by the federal government.

“We've kind of transferred the responsibility for storms and damage to the federal government instead of to the state government,” Coburn said. Coburn has come under fire in the past over for his stance that any federal disaster aid must be offset by other budget cuts, a position that he is maintaining even after the EF5 tornado struck Moore, Okla. last week.

“We’ve created kind of a predicate that you don’t have to be responsible for what goes on in your state,” he continued.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer, also appearing on Face The Nation, disagrees.

“When the hand of God strikes in a very serious way, the localities can't handle it by themselves,” he said, “Americans band together and say, 'we're going to help the afflicted area.'”

Oklahoma’s governor, Mary Fallin, also stressed the need for federal aid.

“This is a massive debris field,” she said. “It's not just a couple of blocks. It's miles. It's 17 miles long. Almost a mile and a half wide.”

Fallin told Face the Nation her first request of the president, who is visiting Moore Sunday afternoon, will be to ensure that money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency keeps flowing to those in need.

“We know at different times in the past, money hasn't always come as quickly as it should, so I'm hoping that FEMA will be very prompt to get the relief here,” Fallin said.

The governor also said that the building of more "safe rooms" for use during tornadoes is a conversation that school officials need to have. The tornado in Moore killed 24 people, including several children when it flattened an elementary school. Fallin said many schools across the state were already looking into building safe rooms.

“Many of them have rebuilt rooms of some sort as a safe room in their school, and we're certainly going to encourage that, but I do think it's important to have a very vigorous discussion as to what can we do.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan062013

President Obama Signs Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill 

White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama signed a bill into law Sunday that allows the National Flood Insurance Program to help meet new claims from damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy, The Hill reports.

The $9.7 billion bill, H.R. 41, provides a short-term increase in the borrowing authority of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood insurance program. FEMA warned that the program was expected to deplete all of its funds by Monday without the authorization, the paper says.

The House and the Senate passed the bill on Friday. The House is slated to vote on a second Sandy recovery bill on Jan. 15, which could provide an additional $51 billion in storm relief efforts, according to The Hill.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct302012

Paul Ryan Balances Storm Relief with Politics Just Seven Days Out

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images(La Crosse, Wis.) -- Paul Ryan cancelled three events in the battleground state of Colorado on Tuesday to thank volunteers in his home state of Wisconsin who were distributing goods for people affected by superstorm Sandy.

But that doesn’t mean the campaign disappeared.

It’s a tricky job the GOP vice presidential nominee has, of scrubbing official political events but still wanting to express empathy and not look overly political to the millions suffering from Sandy’s wrath -- and getting local coverage of the photo op critical to viewers in swing states who may still be making up their mind. Mitt Romney, in Dayton, Ohio, Tuesday, faced the same delicate balance.

At his first stop Tuesday, just hours after Sandy slammed into the Eastern seaboard leaving billions of dollars in destruction and at least 35 people dead, Ryan thanked volunteers who were waving Romney/Ryan signs and gathering canned goods, water and other non-perishable items to be driven to New Jersey.

Along with wife Janna and brother Tobin, he shook hands and said, “This is what Americans do.”

“We’ve got a lot of our fellow Americans in the Northeast who are hurting right now,” Ryan said. “Let’s keep the people who are suffering in our thoughts and prayers.”

Ryan noted that Romney has spoken to “governors in the area.” A Romney spokesperson said Monday that the GOP presidential nominee had been in contact with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. Both are Republicans and surrogates on the trail, although Tuesday morning Christie poured praise on the president, saying he had done an “outstanding” job during Sandy.

Dressed in his red North Face jacket, Ryan asked volunteers not to, “forget about the Red Cross…They need donations. If you have the ability to give blood, that’s something else they need as well. So we just want to come and thank you for what they do in the victory center every day.”

A Ryan aide told reporters the Wisconsin congressman had donated to Red Cross at some point Monday night or Tuesday.

In signs of how politics still raised its head Tuesday, Ryan was joined by Wisconsin senate candidate and former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson as well as Wisconsin native Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus. And the Romney campaign sent out a press release announcing Ryan's arrival at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, a 30-minute drive from the vice presidential candidate’s second stop of the day in Hudson, Wis. The brief walk off the plane from Ryan will be on local news channels in Minnesota, a state ABC News just downgraded Monday from "safe" for the president to "lean Obama."

Minneapolis Tuesday also witnessed an appearance by Obama’s "explainer-in-chief," former president Bill Clinton, who made a strong case for Obama’s re-election in an address met by loud cheers at the University of Minnesota.

Both campaigns are advertising there. As of last Friday, the Obama campaign had placed a $511,000 television ad buy on broadcast stations in Minneapolis for 12 days -- Oct. 27 through Nov. 6 -- according to a source tracking spending on the airwaves. The Romney campaign also went up on the air in the Minneapolis-St. Paul media market, reserving time from last Saturday through Tuesday. Ad tracking sources say that buy was small -- $30,000 -- and marked the first time Romney has placed ads in Minnesota during the general election.

At the event, Ryan was also asked about his House-passed budget proposal, which suggested $11 billion for “Community and Regional Development,” a government function that includes FEMA and disaster relief. The president’s was $19 billion. It’s not possible to say exactly how much of those cuts would be directed at FEMA since the budget proposal is a broad outline, but when asked about it at the LaCrosse campaign office, Ryan didn’t answer, ignoring the question.

Ryan’s spokesperson Michael Steel said, "There are no FEMA cuts in the House-passed budget."

“And if you are comparing this to the president’s budget, I would note it got zero votes in the House or Senate,” Steel zinged.

Steel would not comment on Romney’s statement at a 2011 debate, in which Romney said he’d like to see more of the responsibility of relief efforts put to the states rather than the federal government, something Romney himself also wouldn’t comment on at a similar event in Ohio on Tuesday.

Another Ryan spokesperson, Brendan Buck, said Ryan does support federal assistance for disasters and called the issue nothing more than politics.

“Paul Ryan believes providing aid to victims of natural disasters is a critical obligation and should be treated as a high priority within a fiscally responsible budget,” Buck said. “It’s sad that some see these heartbreaking events as opportunities to distort his record and play politics. A Romney-Ryan administration will always ensure that disaster funding is there for those in need. Period.”

Ryan returns to true campaigning Wednesday with a three-stop tour of Wisconsin on Wednesday. He will end the day in his hometown of Janesville to spend Halloween trick or treating with his three young children.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct282011

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

Monday
Sep262011

Senate Passes Government Funding and FEMA Deal: Shutdown Averted

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In the end, they fought until there wasn’t much left to fight about.

“Let’s fight when there’s something to fight about, there’s nothing to fight about tonight,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor Monday evening. “We’ve basically resolved this issue.”

Or, to be more correct -- they fought until FEMA’s updated accounting really resolved the issue.

Monday’s afternoon announcement that FEMA would have enough money to keep it up and running until the end of the week paved the way forward for the Senate to reach a deal Monday night that will keep the government and FEMA running. Both Republican and Democratic leaders acknowledged that FEMA’s announcement unlocked the deadlock and gave both sides a way out.

“Today’s news story coming out saying that FEMA’s disaster aid has enough money to last through this fiscal year, and this afternoon I received word from Jack Lew of OMB and FEMA that they will be able to get though the week without additional funding,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “That means that they can get through the fiscal year without more money.”

Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell R-Ky., came to the Senate floor afterward and agreed, saying it is a “compromise” and a “reasonable way” to keep the government operational.

By a bipartisan vote of 79-12 Monday evening the Senate approved a clean, six-week Continuing Resolution with no supplemental FY11 funds and no offsets to fund the government through Nov. 18. The measure gives FEMA $2.65 billion in funds for the next fiscal year, starting next week, without any added emergency spending for the end of this fiscal year. In addition the Senate passed a one-week CR to fund the government through Oct. 4 by a voice vote that the majority leader’s office says is in case Speaker Boehner needs additional time to bring the House back into session to finish the job on the six-week CR.

Although both sides in the Senate Monday night seemed happy the brinkmanship was over, for the time being, McConnell found one last reason to tweak his Democratic colleagues in the Senate a bit before voting.

“In my view this entire fire drill was completely and totally unnecessary, but I am glad a resolution appears to be at hand,” McConnell said.

The Senate has wrapped up its work for this week and will adjourn until next week. This measure will now be sent to the House of Representatives. The hope is that the House can pass the whole six-week package unanimously, but the House may only be able to pass the one-week extension, so the Senate is giving that option to them as well.

If they do not, Reid said the one-week funding bill that the Senate passed Monday provides a short-term funding bill until Oct. 4.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep262011

Is a Government Shutdown Looming?

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Once again Congress is tied up in knots over how to fund the government -- complete with dire warnings that a critical agency, in this case FEMA, is about to run out of money and that the entire government could shut down by week’s end.

Congress can’t seem to do anything anymore without going into crisis mode, but top Democrats and Republicans in Congress tell ABC News there is no doubt that this will be resolved.

Here’s what’s going on:

Congress must pass a funding bill before the fiscal year ends on Friday.  FEMA also needs emergency disaster money to keep it running for the rest of this year -- until the end of the week.

The showdown, which will play out with a Senate vote Monday at 5:30 p.m., boils down to this: House Republicans passed a temporary funding bill last week but they off-set FEMA’s emergency money with about $1.5 billion in spending cuts to two alternative energy loan programs.  Senate Democrats voted down the House bill because they oppose those cuts.

The off-setting cuts for the FEMA emergency funding represent a tiny portion of the overall bill to keep the government funded, and this is the only part of the bill in dispute.

There are three ways this dispute can be resolved -- and will be resolved by Monday evening:

1. At 5:30, if Senate Democrats get the 60 votes they need to pass the bill without the off-setting cuts, the House will be forced to come back from recess and pass the new bill with Democratic support.

2. At 5:30, if Senate Democrats fail to get the 60 votes, they would be forced to pass the House bill and accept the cuts they don’t like.

3. The entire issue could be resolved before the 5:30 vote.  How?  The administration is working to find accounting maneuvers that would enable it to find enough money to keep FEMA running for the rest of the week without more cash from Congress.  If that happens, there will no longer be a need to have off-setting cuts and the dispute will be over.

At any rate, ABC News has been told FEMA will likely not run out of money on Tuesday as it previously warned.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep232011

Congress FEMA Funding Standoff Will Continue Through Monday

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The standoff between the House and the Senate over emergency funding for FEMA will continue until at least Monday.

The Senate has voted to table -- essentially kill -- a House-passed bill that would have funded both the U.S. government and provided $3.65 billion FEMA needs for disaster relief. One Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, voted with Republicans against shelving the bill.

Citing the need for the leaders from both chambers and both parties to “cool off” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced that he will cancel the start of a recess for the coming Jewish holiday, and Senators are expected to be in Washington, D.C. to work on Monday.

“The two Democratic leaders, Reid and Pelosi, and two Republican leaders, McConnell and Boehner, should just cool off a little bit,” Reid said referring to himself in the third person, “everyone once in a while needs a little cooling off period. The government is not shutting down, I spoke with Mr. Fugate myself. FEMA is not out of money.”

Reid and Democrats in the senate want to give FEMA $7 billion -- nearly twice as much as Republicans in the House -- and fund the government in a separate measure. The Senate’s FEMA funding bill would not be off-set with spending cuts elsewhere.

Reid scheduled a procedural vote at 5:30 pm Monday with an amended measure: accept the smaller FEMA proposal from the House, but strip out the spending cuts from the House bill.

Reid said that he hopes on Monday “more reasonable heads will prevail.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY., objected to hold the vote Monday.

“There’s absolutely no reason in my judgment to delay funding for disasters in Monday,” McConnell said, adding that he’s “pretty confident” that the measure will fail anyway in the Senate, so why delay the debate any longer.

“It’s my view we ought to have the vote today rather than having to wait until Monday and basically squander the next few days toward getting an agreement we know we have to reach.”

But Reid got his way and the Senate will reconvene on Monday to have the vote.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep222011

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

Tuesday
Sep202011

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

Friday
Sep162011

FEMA Bill Passes in the Senate, Faces Uphill Climb in the House

Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- By a vote of 62-37, the Senate passed the $7 billion FEMA relief bill to provide aid to states across the country that have been ravaged by natural disasters this summer.

“It is a victory that still needs another step,” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ., said after the vote.  “And I hope that the Senate sent a message to my House colleagues, particularly the Tea Party, that this is not a time to turn those people ravaged by the flood upside down once again by holding this legislation hostage.”

The bill will now go to the House of Representatives but faces a an uncertain future there.  Republicans in the House have a different strategy for FEMA funding.  They plan to attach disaster relief funding -- about half as much -- to a larger stop-gap spending bill that will fund the federal government through Nov. 18, which contains their $3.65 billion in disaster assistance for FEMA.  The House is expected to bring that larger government funding bill to the floor for a vote by Wednesday.

“That amount of money is not sufficient,” Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said Thursday night of the House’s proposed funding in the continuing resolution, adding that “FEMA is running on fumes.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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