creens display information on Hurricane Ian inside the National Response Coordination Center at FEMA headquarters in September 2022. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

USA - FEMA announces $3 billion for climate resiliency as time runs low for Congress to replenish its disaster fund

CNN — In a record-breaking year of disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is announcing nearly $3 billion Monday for communities to build resiliency against climate change-fueled extreme weather.

The new money, which will come from Congress’s bipartisan infrastructure law passed last year, is being announced just as the agency is running out of disaster-relief funds and a dangerous hurricane is bearing down on Florida. FEMA needs Congress to approve additional spending when it’s back in session to prevent the agency from falling into the red.

The infrastructure law contained billions of dollars to help make communities more resilient to the impacts of a warming planet, like rising sea levels and stronger storms. FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell told CNN studies have shown resilience is an investment that pays off.

“Every dollar that we spend in resilience – like this money right here – saves us $6 in response and recovery costs,” Criswell told CNN. “We want to reduce that complexity of the recoveries, which saves money on the disaster relief fund, because then we don’t have to spend as much to help communities recover from these types of disasters.”

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 31: FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell addresses the media from the National Hurricane Center on May 31, 2023 in Miami, Florida.  With the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1, FEMA and NOAA officials spoke to the media and encouraged people to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In a record year of catastrophes, FEMA's disaster fund is slipping into the red before hurricane season even peaks

The resiliency funding, the details of which were shared first with CNN, is coming from a different source than what props up FEMA’s disaster relief fund – the money the agency uses to respond to storms. That fund is dangerously close to empty in a year that has had a record number of billion-dollar disasters to-date and a hurricane taking aim at Florida this week.

Criswell told CNN that the agency’s disaster relief fund is projected to run out of money “toward the middle of September” unless Congress passes additional funding to replenish it. Congress is expected to return after Labor Day.

Despite bipartisan support in the Senate, House conservatives have warned they are unhappy with disaster funding being tied to additional funding for Ukraine – which could set up a protracted spending battle. If funding isn’t passed soon after Congress returns in early September, it could hamper the agency’s response to future Atlantic hurricanes and delay long-term recovery efforts in Maui.

FEMA has already factored into its spending the immediate response to the Maui wildfires, Hurricane Hilary in California and the initial response to Idalia, Criswell said. The agency is monitoring the disaster relief fund “daily,” she said, to see if they need to adjust “to make sure that we always have enough to support lifesaving efforts.”

“We are putting plans in place for how we would use our tools to help make sure that we always have funding to support the immediate lifesaving needs,” Criswell said.

Administration officials hope the infusion of new funds for climate resiliency will help make communities stronger and safer. In a first, FEMA is awarding resilience funding for extreme heat, agreeing to fund a project proposed by Portland, Oregon, to plant 10,500 trees over the next three years to provide more shade, improve air quality, and help with flooding during major rainstorms.

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