Does FEMA have enough money to make it through the year?

Fort Worth Star-TelegramJune 24, 2011 

In April, tornadoes tore through the Southeast, flattening neighborhoods and killing almost 240 people in Alabama.

A month later, a massive tornado packing 200-mph winds killed 142 people and injured 900 others in Joplin, Mo.

And large wildfires continue to blaze in Arizona, scorching hundreds of thousands of acres and devouring homes.

Those are just some of the disasters that have triggered responses from the Federal Emergency Management Agency this year -- and hurricane season only arrived this month.

Despite the frantic pace, FEMA officials say they are prepared for whatever blows ashore this summer.

"It's been very, very busy. We've definitely had the entire gamut," said Tony Russell, FEMA's Region VI administrator in Denton. "But I haven't seen any issues with us not being able to support our governors to the fullest."

FEMA has declared 45 major disasters this year and is assisting recovery for past disasters, including some of the 81 declared in 2010. This year, the agency also declared seven emergencies and awarded dozens of fire management assistance grants, including 33 in Texas.

The pace has raised worries that the agency will run out of relief money.

Congress appropriated $2.7 billion for the FEMA disaster relief fund in fiscal 2011, which ends Sep. 30. More than $4.5 million in unused funding was also made available, according to FEMA in Washington.

The fund now has about $2 billion remaining, officials said.

With $1.8 billion proposed for the fund in fiscal 2012, the Office of Management and Budget estimates that the fund could no longer be solvent by calendar year 2012, depending on weather activity.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., chairwoman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Committee, lobbied in a letter to her Senate colleagues for additional funding and has pressed President Barack Obama for the same.

"Without this funding, FEMA will have to stop recovery efforts in 50 states in spring 2012," she wrote last month.

Read more of this story at Star-Telegram.com

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