FEMA’s relief fund running low amid surge in natural disasters

Reporter: Kellie Miller
Published: Updated:

As of Aug. 29, FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund had a balance of $3.4 billion. As a result, FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell directed the implementation of “Immediate Needs Funding,” which means that FEMA will prioritize available funding for critical response efforts to Idalia, the Maui fires, and any other extreme weather events, while continuing to meet the immediate needs of survivors through the remaining weeks of the fiscal year. 

However, Criswell also said that “Immediate Needs Funding” is not a permanent solution. Instead, the agency said Congress must work with FEMA on the supplemental request that the Biden administration has made.

Currently, FEMA is providing aid to affected individuals in Citrus, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Suwannee and Taylor counties. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-interest loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners jumpstart their recovery.

According to FEMA, “additional designations may be made at a later date if warranted by the results of damage assessments.”

Ultimately, there’s an urgent nationwide need for relief and recovery funding. However, if President Biden’s request isn’t approved, FEMA will have to further reduce its impact. For example, Charlotte County experienced severe flooding from Idalia but is not currently included in FEMA’s latest disaster assistance list.

Congress has been in recess since early August, and hasn’t been able to address this ongoing concern. Congress will reconvene next week after Labor Day. In preparation, Florida Senator Rick Scott said he plans to introduce a bill to approve the additional funding, and he said he’ll push for a quick vote on it.

Senator Rick Scott said, “I will be introducing a bill, the Federal Disaster Responsibility Act, that combines the Disaster Relief Fund Replenishment Act, Hurricane Tax Relief Act, Block Grant Assistance Actand other essential provisions, to make sure that the immediate needs for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund are fully funded and Florida’s military bases, families and growers impacted by disasters have the federal support they need and deserve. Unfortunately, while I’ve spent the months leading up to this storm fighting to make sure the federal government shows up, President Biden and politicians in Washington have been playing games with FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund and insisting that this critical domestic aid be tied to foreign aid for Ukraine. We’ve had enough with Washington playing politics and demand that Congress does what’s right for American families, starting with ensuring our federal government has all the resources it needs to show up after disasters, now and in the future. The moment the Senate reconvenes next week I will be introducing this bill and demanding an immediate vote. Floridians are doing their part and getting ready, and I will not allow Washington to continue playing games with disaster aid and the lives of those needing our help.”

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