Biden to seek additional disaster relief funding

September 1, 2023

The White House is seeking an additional $4 billion in supplemental disaster relief funding, bringing the total request to $16 billion. 

“We need this disaster relief request met. And we need to do it in September. We can’t wait,” President Biden said in remarks Thursday about ongoing federal response efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia in Florida and the Southeast as well as massive wildfires in Maui.

Biden was reiterating a plea made Tuesday by FEMA Director Deanne Criswell ahead of Idalia’s landfall. She said she had implemented “immediate needs funding,” as FEMA’s coffers are being depleted by recent massive disasters, and the federal agency’s disaster relief fund which currently has a balance of just $3.4 billion.

“Congress must work with us on the supplemental request that the Administration has made on the behalf of FEMA,” she had insisted.

The Biden Administrated had initially requested $12 billion in extra funding for FEMA’s disaster relief fund, but according to Shelby Wagenseller, spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Hurricane Idalia, fires in both Maui and Louisiana, and flooding in Vermont have pumped up the budget necessary to meet disaster relief needs.

“If we continue to see more storms, we’re going to continuously monitor very closely the health of the disaster relief fund to determine what more may be needed,” Criswell told reporters on Tuesday. “But right now, as the situation stands, the supplemental request will get us through the end of this fiscal year.”

Biden is seeking about $44 billion in total supplemental funding which also includes supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia. However, his request comes as many Republican lawmakers want to limit or even reduce federal spending, and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in June downplayed a need for supplemental funding.

Some House Republicans have threatened a government shutdown when the federal fiscal budget expires on September 30 unless they get the budget cuts they seek.

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