With Congress in Stalemate, FEMA Likely to Run Out of Funds Tuesday

Sep 23, 2011 3:56pm

The threat of FEMA’s running out of money next week has become a little more real today,  given the announcement that the Senate will vote Monday night on an amended measure to fund the government and provide disaster relief funds, which could even potentially fail to pass.

As for when the Federal Emergency Management Agency will run out of money, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have given conflicting estimates, not surprisingly adjusting their interpretations of  the deadline to fit with their political arguments of the moment.

“The Federal Emergency Management Agency could run out of money as soon as Monday,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday.

The Nevada Democrat said, “I have spoken to … [FEMA Administrator Craig] Fugate myself. FEMA’s not running out of money,” and then later on in the day updated his timeline to say that he believes FEMA will run out of money by Wednesday.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said at a news conference today, “The disaster funding for FEMA is likely to run out as soon as Monday.” 

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday? The answer is important as Congress tends to work only when running against a firm deadline.

Based on FEMA’s own projections, it will run out of money Tuesday, the agency told ABC News.

It has about $175 million left in the disaster-relief fund, which would be drained between now and Tuesday if funding is not passed by Congress before then. This is the lowest the disaster-relief fund has ever been, according to the agency.

“If Congress allows the disaster-relief fund to reach zero next week, all response-and-recovery operations could be impacted, and could be required to cease,” an agency official said.

FEMA is still trying to figure out exactly what the options are if funds are not made available by Congress by Tuesday. Agency officials say their priority would be to figure out how to extend operations for as long as possible, if that’s even an option.

Once disaster relief fund hits zero Tuesday, there are many disaster-relief projects that would be immediately affected, such as individual aid to disaster survivors in any state and long-term recovery projects (rebuilding roads, bridges and schools).

FEMA field offices throughout the country would be affected, and possibly closed.

Agency officials said they are still trying to figure out what could be funded, and the more important question, how it could be funded if Congress does not make a move before Tuesday.

The funding for the federal government, the Continuing Resolution, is of course wrapped up into the debate about FEMA funding, because the two are now tied together. The government’s funding will run out second — Friday evening, Sept. 30, if something is not passed by then.

Both Republicans and Democrats, though, repeatedly say they do not want a government shutdown and they don’t want to have FEMA run out of funds. How they achieve that is unclear at this time.

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