Washington FEMA’s disaster relief fund could dry up in weeks and slow 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 relief fund “very closely” ahead of hurricane season and that some recovery projects that aren’t lifesaving measures could be delayed until the next fiscal year if funding falls short.
“Our estimates still say we may have a depletion of our fund — now it’s pushed into mid-September,” Criswell said. “And as we get closer, I mean, this is a daily monitoring of the situation.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there were 15 weather or climate disasters this year before Aug. 8, each causing more than $1 billion in damage. The count does not include the, which decimated Lahaina and caused an estimated $6 billion in damage to the coastal city. The peak of the hurricane season is not until September 11.
President Biden earlier this month asked Congress for $12 billion to replenish the disaster relief fund to address the response to the wildfires and other natural disasters. Congress is in recess until after Labor Day.
Criswell said that amount may not be enough.
“The $12 billion would be able to cover some of the immediate needs we would need to get through this fiscal year,” she said. “As we continue to see increasingly severe weather, that dollar amount may need to increase as we move into the next fiscal year.”
Criswell travels alongon Monday to view the devastation and meet survivors.
“The main thing 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 utter devastation of Lahaina. He’ll talk to some of the families affected and hear their stories.”
“He will really be able to give hope to this community, but also reassure them that the federal government is there,” she said. “He has instructed them to bring the resources they need to help them begin their recovery and rebuilding process.”
While FEMA is responding to the wildfires, it is also preparing for the “really significant impacts” ofon Southern California, Criswell said.
“We already had a lot of staff on the ground. We’re putting in some extra resources to make sure we can support whatever California needs, but they’re also a very capable state and they have a lot of resources,” she said. “So if it exceeds their capacity, we’ll have additional search and rescue teams, resources on hand to be able to go in and support anything they ask for.”