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September 16, 2021 12:45 PM, EDT

Congressional Funding Leaders Pursue Emergency Disaster Relief

Hurricane Ida damage in Pointe-aux-Chenes, La. Storm clouds from approaching Tropical Storm Nicholas loom behind homes destroyed by Hurricane Ida in Pointe-aux-Chenes, La., on Sept. 14. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

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The top Democrat in the U.S. Senate recently affirmed the chamber’s goal of advancing funding legislation for the federal government by the end of the month that would include disaster relief aid.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) indicated that senators will plan to consider a fiscal 2022 appropriations bill meant to avert a partial shutdown of certain federal agencies.

“Every member of my caucus agrees we cannot allow a government shutdown,” Schumer said Sept. 14. “We will have to come together and we will come together. We’ve come together on every major issue, ’cause every member of our caucus, with no exceptions, realizes our unity is our strength.”

Chuck Schumer

Schumer

Schumer and fellow Democratic leaders are signaling the potential for attaching additional disaster relief aid to fiscal 2022 funding legislation. Doing so would be in response to recent severe weather events, such as Hurricane Ida. The Senate majority leader has endorsed a White House request for about $30 billion in relief aid for states, such as Louisiana, that were devastated by natural disasters.

“The Biden administration’s request for emergency disaster relief funding is just what is needed to help hard-hit communities all across the country,” said Schumer. “The Senate will begin working with Republicans to enact this emergency relief by the end of September to help communities recover quickly from the destruction caused by hurricanes, wildfires and flooding, including most recently Hurricane Ida.”

Louisiana transportation agencies were recently issued $5 million in federal emergency relief funding linked to Hurricane Ida. The Federal Highway Administration announced the “quick release” emergency relief funds to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development for repairs to roads and bridges. The Category 4 storm made landfall Aug. 29, hitting Louisiana with winds reaching 150 mph. It also flooded the Gulf Coast and it went on to reach the East Coast.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has indicated the Biden administration plans to continue to respond to the impact of Hurricane Ida. As she put it in a recent statement, “President [Joe] Biden has made clear: The entire federal government will do everything possible to help Americans facing acute needs in the wake of a catastrophic storm.”

Before the end of the month, the congressional appropriations committees, with jurisdiction over government funding programs, are expected to propose a temporary stopgap funding legislation meant to avert a partial government shutdown. The bill is likely to be a short-term funding proposal. Current fiscal year federal funding authority expires Oct. 1.

The Senate has yet to approve its fiscal 2022 funding bills. On the House side, a fiscal 2022 transportation funding measure was approved this summer. The House bill would dedicate $84.1 billion in discretionary spending for the U.S. Department of Transportation and related infrastructure programs, representing an additional $8.7 billion. That would be more than an 11% increase from the fiscal 2021 level.

“Our transformative and historic funding increases will create good-paying jobs, grow opportunity for the middle class and small businesses and provide a lifeline for working families and the vulnerable,” said Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).

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