Government Efficiency: Disaster Aid May Run Out

Katie Pavlich

8/30/2011 8:15:00 AM - Katie Pavlich

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what happens when politicians don't prioritize government spending, we run out of disaster aid funds.

The government's main disaster aid account is running woefully short of money as the Obama administration confronts damages from Hurricane Irene that could run into billions of dollars.

With less than $800 million in its disaster aid coffers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been forced to freeze rebuilding projects from disasters dating to Hurricane Katrina to conserve money for emergency needs in the wake of Irene. Lawmakers from states ravaged by tornadoes this spring, like Missouri and Alabama, are especially furious.

The shortfalls in FEMA's disaster aid account have been obvious to lawmakers on Capitol Hill for months _ and privately acknowledged to them by FEMA _ but the White House has opted against asking for more money, riling many lawmakers.

"Despite the fact that the need ... is well known," Reps. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., and David Price, D-N.C., wrote the administration last month, "it unfortunately appears that no action is being taken by the administration." The lawmakers chair the panel responsible for FEMA's budget.

FEMA now admits the disaster aid shortfall could approach $5 billion for the upcoming budget year, and that's before accounting for Irene.

As a result, funds to help states and local governments rebuild from this year's tornadoes, as well as past disasters like hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the massive Tennessee floods of last spring, have been frozen. Instead, FEMA is only paying for the "immediate needs" of disaster-stricken communities, which include debris removal, food, water and emergency shelter.

And yes, FEMA is so efficient that they haven't finished clean up work from Hurricane Katrina yet, which happened in 2005. I suggest victims of hurricane Irene don't hold their breathe waiting for the government to come help them, instead, they should rely on private organizations like the American Red Cross and their neighbors. You can make a donation to the American Red Cross by clicking here.