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Speaker Pelosi Urges Disaster Aid Approval

00:00AM Sep 16, 2008
via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Timing still uncertain

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

Speaker Pelosi urges disaster aid approval. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Monday that Congress will assemble a disaster relief package to deal with the recovery needs of victims of recent hurricanes, wildfires and floods.

Pelosi did not put a price tag on the package or specify how the measure would move through the House. The package is a response to Hurricane Ike, which ravaged Texas over the weekend, as well as Hurricane Gustav, Western wildfires, tornadoes and Midwestern floods. Democrats had previously announced their intention to enact a disaster package before adjourning. But they have not given a dollar figure for how much they plan to provide, though it is sure to be in the billions.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster relief fund is likely to receive a large share of the money. Money that goes to that fund typically is not assigned to a particular natural disaster, meaning the agency has some flexibility in how it dispenses the funds.

To alleviate some of the financial burden on families trying to rebuild after Ike, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Monday it would institute a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures for all mortgages ensured by the Federal Housing Authority in flood-hit areas, and encouraged private lenders to do the same.

"The devastation caused by Hurricane Ike demands a swift federal response. Congress will move quickly to pass emergency disaster assistance funds to help those in Texas and other states affected by this tragedy,” Pelosi said. "From debris removal and housing needs, to the restoration of infrastructure and local economies, the emergency disaster package will cover the range of recovery needs that must be immediately addressed.”

Within weeks of the disasters that struck the Midwest, Congress appropriated an initial $2.65 billion for immediate recovery needs, as part of the Iraq war supplemental that was signed into law in June. But Pelosi charged that "much of that funding still has not reached families, businesses, and localities that are struggling to restore their communities. It is unacceptable that the Bush Administration and bureaucratic red tape has unnecessarily slowed delivery of these vital funds to the affected regions and individuals. I call on President Bush to direct FEMA, HUD, SBA and other agencies responsible for administering disaster response to expedite release of the funds Congress appropriates to all states, localities, communities, and families in need.”

How disaster aid funding will move through Congress is unclear at this time. While it has been worked on separately from both the continuing resolution (CR) needed to keep the government running after the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year and a possible economic stimulus package, the disaster money is likely to end up attached to one or both of those measures, sources inform.


NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.