WASHINGTON — The Biden administration wants Congress to approve more than $37 billion to help communities across the country recover from various natural disasters, including Hurricane Ian, which struck Florida and the U.S. southeast in late September hit and Fiona hit Puerto Rico.
The additional funding request comes on top of a $9 billion COVID-19 funding request and a third White House request for nearly $38 billion in additional aid to Ukraine sent up Capitol Hill Mid November.
Congressional spending plan includes $2.5 billion for victims of the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fire
The most likely timeline for the three motions to move forward is next month, when Congress must pass spending legislation before a makeshift government funding bill expires on December 16. If some sort of spending package isn’t law by then, a partial government shutdown would begin.
President Joe Biden met with congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday to discuss the bills to be passed during the current session of Congress, including the spending package.
The Biden administration wrote in the 43-page Natural Disaster Funding Application that the federal government “must help our communities recover and rebuild from extreme weather events and natural disasters.”
“That’s why we’re asking for $37.3 billion to fund critical disaster relief and recovery efforts in Florida, Puerto Rico and other communities across America that have been affected by severe flooding, wildfires, drought and extreme heat in the past year,” the budget said White House office wrote in the document.
“As the President often says, we must be there for these communities every step of the way — as long as it takes.”
Hurricanes, floods, drought, fire
The disaster proposal would direct $29.6 billion to various federal departments and agencies to continue recovery efforts from Hurricanes Ian and Fiona.
Another $7.7 billion would be used for other major disasters and unmet needs, including $100 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help with ongoing Kentucky flood recovery.
The White House proposed to Congress to provide $270 million to the US Department of Energy to help local, state and tribal governments with power grid resilience and offset the impact of extreme drought on hydropower in the West.
President Biden is asking for nearly $3 billion more for victims of northern New Mexico wildfires
Under the disaster proposal, which must be approved by Congress, the US Department of Homeland Security would receive $2.9 billion to “settle claims by survivors related to the Hermits Peak fire in New Mexico.”
The US Department of the Interior would receive $262 million to help deal with flooding at the Bureau of Indian Education’s TóHajiilee Community School in New Mexico and other natural disasters such as landslides on Alaska’s Denali Park Road.
The White House also wants US lawmakers to approve $73 million for Interior to continue recovery efforts related to Alaskan Typhoon Merbok.
The $29.6 billion Hurricane Ian and Fiona recovery requirement would be split between multiple U.S. departments, including $3.5 billion for Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and $2.1 billion for the Department of Agriculture to provide financial assistance for crop damage and “payments in excess of crop insurance.”
The US Department of Homeland Security, which includes FEMA, would receive $15 billion to continue hurricane relief and make payments from the National Flood Insurance Program to policyholders.
Biden said at the start of Tuesday’s Roosevelt Room meeting that he hoped the four leaders and his administration “could work together to fund the government, COVID, and the war in Ukraine — all contentious and momentous issues.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, later said at the White House she and her GOP peers agreed to try to get Biden a year-round government funding bill, before they go into winter break.
But House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy said after Pelosi and Schumer spoke that he was willing to delay key government funding decisions until next year if his party regains control of that chamber.
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“If we can’t find common sense on budget bills, then yes, we will support a CR and fix this next January,” McCarthy said, referring to pending resolutions or near-term government funding bills.
McCarthy said he “wouldn’t write a blank check for anything,” noting he wants to “ensure that any funds” Congress spends on aid to Ukraine “go to the right places.”
Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the panel that will draft the spending package, said Tuesday afternoon that natural disaster funding is a possibility since so many states have been impacted this year.
“Florida stands out from a lot of the rest and I’m sure that will be part of the conversation,” he said, noting that bipartisan talks on state funding are gaining momentum.
Shelby said he expected Republicans to back additional aid to Ukraine, saying when “people are fighting for freedom like this, we should never turn our backs.”