With Dems and Republicans hurtling towards a government shutdown over the disaster relief funding fight, the nonpartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors has fired off a letter to GOP and Dem Congressional leaders, urging them to fund disaster relief right away, without offsetting it with spending cuts elsewhere:

Dear Leader Reid, Leader McConnell, Speaker Boehner, and Leader Pelosi:

I write on behalf of the nation’s mayors to urge you to replenish the Disaster Relief Fund right away and to do so without requiring other programs to be cut. If anything warrants emergency funding, it is disaster assistance. To do otherwise violates our nation’s commitment to its communities and their residents and small businesses to help them recover from disasters — events over which they have no control.

As a nation we have always considered helping our communities and their residents recover from disasters a key function of government. The Disaster Relief Fund is expected to run out of money next week. Approved projects in communities that had disasters six months or a year ago, or longer, have been placed on hold so that what are considered more urgent needs from the more recent spate of disasters can be met. For the people in the communities with “older” disasters — like Des Moines and Joplin — who have been forced from their homes and workplaces, the needs seem pretty urgent.

The nation appears on target this year to experience a record number of disasters, with 81 declared thus far. Compounding the problems are the serious economic and unemployment problems we face -- problems which have significantly limited the ability of local and state governments to provide their share of the help that is needed. When their revenues are down, other federal funds have been cut, and some have been forced to lay off first responders, this is not the time for the federal government to renege on its responsibilities.

The nation’s mayors urge you to do the right thing and replenish the Disaster Relief Fund now!


Tom Cochran

CEO and Executive Director

The letter comes after Senate Dems voted today to table the House bill that would have funded the government while offsetting the funding to FEMA with spending cuts elsewhere. The showdown is expected to drag through the weekend, with Republicans insisting that unless Harry Reid and Dems agree to the spending cuts the GOP is seeking, they will bear the blame if FEMA runs out of money next week, as it’s scheduled to do.

It probably won’t do anything to shift the dynamic, but Dems will likely grab on to this letter to argue that public officials outside Congress — who are on the front lines of municipal disaster preparedness — support their vision of disaster relief as something that should be provided by the Federal government with no political strings attached.