White House officials and congressional leaders are discussing a plan that would authorize roughly $6 billion in emergency assistance to deal with the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, and President Trump could send a specific request for the funding as soon as Friday, people briefed on the discussions said.
White House officials and congressional leaders have discussed authorizing $5.5 billion toward the depleted Disaster Relief Fund, which is run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Another $450 million could be authorized for the Small Business Administration’s Disaster Loan Program. FEMA is in charge of coordinating the U.S. government’s response to things like hurricanes and floods, and the SBA can extend loans to help companies rebuild and recover.
No final decisions about the funding amount have been made, and conversations remained fluid Thursday evening.
Trump has said he would move swiftly to help Harvey victims recover and rebuild from the flooding in Houston and other parts in Southeast Texas, and some Democrats have already said the area could need more than $150 billion in federal aid. The $5.95 billion request is expected to be just an initial down payment on a larger package of federal aid that would come together later, people briefed on the planning said. White House officials and congressional leaders are hopeful that a request of that size could be approved swiftly.
Once Trump sends the official request for the emergency funds to Congress — either Friday or sometime next week — a number of scenarios could play out, people involved in the discussions said.
The House of Representatives could authorize the money on its own or combine it with a broader package to fund the federal government for the next fiscal year, which begins in October. Then the Senate could decide to pass the same bill, or attach an increase in the debt ceiling to the legislation because it would likely have bipartisan support.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the White House was preparing to send a request to Congress. Bloomberg News reported the specific amounts under consideration Thursday.