Today, Congressman Cedric Richmond (LA-02) led 56 Members of Congress in a letter to the House Speaker and Majority Leader calling on them "to assure the American people that the federal government remains a committed partner in helping to restore communities in the wake of natural disasters" and "make it clear that budgetary offsets will not be required prior to emergency funding."
This letter comes in the wake of Hurricane Irene and the Federal Emergency Management Agency's announcement that it would shift to "immediate needs funding." As a result, it will not begin any new rebuilding projects in disaster zones to focus on its response to Hurricane Irene and preserve what little disaster funding it has on hand.
Full text of the letter and a list of signatories are below.
September 2, 2011
The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker of the House
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Eric Cantor
Office of the Majority Leader
H-329, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor,
We write to urge you to reinstate Congress' longstanding approach to emergency funding for national disasters and abandon this new policy of requiring budgetary offsets before funding is approved. If this was the policy after Hurricane Katrina, survivors would have been waiting for months or even years for assistance. The federal government has been instrumental in helping Gulf Coast citizens with the hard work of rebuilding their communities. Make no mistake: The recovery of the Gulf Coast would have been impossible without federal investment. We must remember this lesson as we seek to address today's disasters--the spring tornadoes, floods, and most recently, Hurricane Irene.
As communities on the east coast contend with the considerable damage caused by Hurricane Irene, it is imperative that Congress responds swiftly to this disaster. We should make it clear to affected families that their government will be there to help--just as it has always helped American families after disasters. This session, you stated that Congress must cut the budgets of valuable federal programs to fund emergency relief. Reaching agreement on funding cuts is a contentious exercise, as evidenced earlier this year when our government was driven to the brink of shutdown and default. We have already seen the result of subjecting disaster funding to the politics of partisan budget cutting.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) budget is pushed to its limits. As a result, last weekend, FEMA announced a shift to "immediate needs funding" to focus on its response to Hurricane Irene and preserve what little disaster funding it has on hand. This announcement means new rebuilding projects will be delayed nationwide. When Congress is asked to provide supplemental funds to pay for Irene and other ongoing disaster response efforts, we must respond expeditiously. It would be irresponsible and heartless for this body to delay recovery projects while Members fight over cuts. Congress must put the needs of American disaster victims above its budget squabbles.
We call on you to assure the American people that the federal government remains a committed partner in helping to restore communities in the wake of natural disasters. We strongly urge you to make it clear that budgetary offsets will not be required prior to emergency funding.
Eleanor Holmes Norton
Jesse Jackson Jr.
Sheila Jackson Lee
Chris Van Hollen