How will FEMA pay for Hurricane Irene disaster assistance? By suspending payments related to the Joplin tornado, the Washington Post reports. The FEMA disaster relief fund currently has only $900 million in it, less than the preferred $1 billion minimum. President Obama has already signed emergency declarations for the District of Columbia and Delaware, declared a major disaster in Puerto Rico, and is expected to do the same in other states, moves that will drain the relief fund; Obama will likely need to request additional funding from Congress soon.
The temporary suspension will apply to payments meant to assist in rebuilding roads, schools, and structures destroyed during tornadoes in Joplin and other southern areas. People eligible for individual storm assistance will still be paid, as will some states that are recouping costs for emergency responses to prior disasters, but restrictions will be placed on older, longer-term projects. The decision affects not just the tornadoes but other disasters from years prior, and is meant to prioritize “the immediate, urgent needs of survivors and states,” says a FEMA spokesperson. (Eric Cantor, of course, has already said that any new federal disaster relief money must be offset by spending cuts.)