WASHINGTON − Hurricane Idalia and other recent natural disasters have drained the federal government’s relief funds faster than expected, the Biden administration said Friday in a request to Congress for more emergency money.
Three weeks after asking lawmakers to approve an additional $12 billion, the White House budget office said it now needs $16 billion.
The request came the day after President Joe Biden made a public appeal to Congress for the emergency funding while visiting the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“I’m calling on Congress to make sure you’re able to have the funds to be able to continue to show up to meet the needs of the American people,” Biden said, “to deal with immediate crises that we’re facing right now as well as our long-term commitments that we have to make to finish the job in Maui and elsewhere.”
Biden is heading to Florida on Saturday to tour damage from Hurricane Idalia.
A Category 3 hurricane with 125-mph winds when it hit Florida’s Big Bend region Wednesday morning, Idalia battered homes and flooded roads before quickly moving to Georgia and South Carolina. The full extent of the damage won’t be known for several days, Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall said Thursday.
FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund was down to about $3.4 billion this week after months of significant disasters including wildfires in Hawaii, Louisiana and elsewhere in the country and massive flooding in Vermont.
The Biden administration requested an additional $12 billion in disaster relief funding for FEMA earlier this month as part of a larger $40 billion supplemental budget request that also includes $13 billion in emergency defense aid for Ukraine opposed by many Republicans.
Biden said some Republican members of Congress think the FEMA funding “is somehow not needed.”
“I’m not even sure what they’re thinking is. But we need this money done. We need this disaster relief request. And we need to do it in September. We can’t wait,” Biden said.
Congress is set to return from recess after Labor Day weekend, when Biden also wants Congress to adopt a short-term funding measure to avert a government shutdown when the current budget ends Sept. 30.