Mitt Romney commits to FEMA

Mitt Romney helps to gather donated goods at a storm relief campaign event in Kettering, Ohio, on Oct. 30, 2012. (Getty Images)

After ignoring questions this week about his plans for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Mitt Romney said in a statement Wednesday night that he would not eliminate or underfund  the agency. 

"I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters," Romney said. "As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first-responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters."

In a primary debate last year, Romney agreed that federal disaster response could be curtailed to save federal dollars, with more responsibility given to states and the private sector. Campaign aides have told reporters that the Republican candidate would not eliminate FEMA. 

Under the current system, local and state officials respond to disasters and make requests of the federal government for additional supplies or money only when needed.

President Obama's budget cuts FEMA funding by 3 percent. Both Romney and running-mate Paul Ryan have proposed deep cuts to discretionary spending, which includes FEMA and its disaster fund. Neither singles out the agency for cuts, but they have not said it would be exempted either. 

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.

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