USA - FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell says emergency funds could be depleted within weeks
Washington — FEMA's disaster fund could dry up within weeks and delay the federal response to natural disasters, the agency's administrator warned Sunday.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell told "Face the Nation" that the agency is watching its disaster relief fund "very closely" ahead of hurricane season and that some recovery projects that are not life-saving measures could be delayed into the next fiscal year if funding falls short.
"Our estimates do still say that we may have a depletion of our fund — now it's pushed into the middle of September," Criswell said. "And as we get closer to that, I mean, this is a day-by-day monitoring of the situation."
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there were 15 weather or climate disaster events this year before Aug. 8, with each causing more than $1 billion in damage. The tally does not include the recent wildfires on Maui, which decimated Lahaina, causing an estimated $6 billion in damage to the coastal city. The peak of hurricane season is not until Sept. 11.
President Biden asked Congress earlier this month for $12 billion to replenish the disaster fund to address the response to the wildfires and other natural disasters. Congress is on recess until after Labor Day.
Criswell said that amount may not be enough.
"The $12 billion was going to be able to cover some of the immediate needs that we were going to need to get through this fiscal year," she said. "As we're continuing to see the increasingly severe weather events that dollar amount may need to go up as we go into next fiscal year."
Criswell is traveling with Mr. Biden to Maui on Monday to view the devastation and meet with survivors.
"The biggest thing that the president needs to see is just the actual impact," Criswell said of the importance of the visit. "It really feels different when you're on the ground and can see the total devastation of Lahaina. He'll talk to some of the families that have been impacted by this and hear their stories."