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Federal Eye
Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 09/22/2011

With FEMA funding in limbo, what’s being held up?


Residents of Joplin, Mo., walk along storm-ravaged streets in May. This year has brought costly, record-breaking weather disasters across the United States. (Mike Gullett - AP)
A bill extending government funding through mid-November failed to pass the House Wednesday night in part because of objections by Democrats who believe the measure did not do enough to provide federal funding to the victims of recent natural disasters.

Eye Opener

With Congress still toiling over how to pay for federal disaster funding, reconstruction projects in 42 states totaling $447 million are on hold, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency records.

In Louisiana, the Cameron Parish Sheriff’s office still needs $588,996 in federal aid to finish renovations. Another $492,060 is owed to St. Bernard’s Parish, La. to repair pump stations.

In Ohio, Athens County is waiting for $213,184 to finish rebuilding County Road 90. Switzerland Township, population 466, also needs $1,407 to finish road repairs.

Down in Florida, 31 fire stations in Brevard County don’t have the $2,079 needed to finish installing window shutters. Louisville, Ky., is waiting for $995 to help pay for a new security fence around a water tank.

The reconstruction and disaster mitigation projects — mostly road, bridge and public building repairs — are in limbo because FEMA’s disaster relief fund is almost out of money.

In the wake of Hurricane Irene’s destruction, the fund has less than $215 million available, far below the $1 billion agency officials prefer to keep on hand.

Following the late August storm that walloped 12 states, FEMA took emergency measures by suspending payments for older projects in order to provide immediate hurricane relief along the East Coast.

Though individuals eligible for federal disaster aid and state and city government recouping emergency response costs are still receiving funds, projects dating back as far as Hurricane Katrina are once again waiting for money.

Wednesday’s short-term spending bill failed in part because it offset $1.5 billion of $3.65 billion in disaster relief funding with a cut to a program loaning money to car companies to encourage the production of energy-efficient cars. Democrats objected en masse, arguing the program has created jobs and that Congress should provide federal disaster relief no matter its effect on the federal deficit.

Republicans shrugged the vote off.

“Change like this is hard,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said afterward. “We’ll find a way forward so that we can reflect expectations that taxpayers have that we are going to begin to start spending their money more prudently.”

Another vote on the measure could come as early as Thursday, Republicans said late Wednesday.

Whenever Congress gives FEMA the money, it will be able to pay Palm Beach, Fla., the $20,760 needed to rebuild a geriatric center. The boat launch reconstruction project in Pensacola, Fla., that is owed $26,676 can move forward. And Hardinsburg, Ky., will get the $2,400 it needs to fix washed out roads.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Related:

Stopgap bill to keep government running fails in House; shutdown looms

House Democratic leaders urge members to vote ‘no’ on stopgap funding bill

How will FEMA pay for Hurricane Irene?

For more news, visit PostPolitics and The Fed Page.

By  |  06:00 AM ET, 09/22/2011

Categories:  Eye Opener, Congress, Agencies and Departments

 
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