FEMA says disaster fund will run dry on Tuesday or Wednesday

With the House and Senate at odds over a stopgap spending bill that includes more money for natural disaster relief, the agency that needs the money says it can hold out for a few more days.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has $175 million in its disaster relief fund and the balance could reach zero by Tuesday or Wednesday, an agency spokeswoman said.

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The timing is key because the Senate is not expected to vote until late Monday afternoon on an amendment to a House-passed spending bill that includes funding to replenish the FEMA coffers. Republican and Democratic leaders were arguing on Friday about the bill and when exactly the agency will run out of money.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had warned on Thursday night that FEMA would run dry as early as Monday, but the next morning, he said he talked to the agency’s director and been told that FEMA was not running out that early.

GOP leaders took up the call, however, and on Friday they repeated warnings that the agency’s funding expired on Monday.

“If Congress does allow the balance of the Disaster Relief Fund to reach zero, there are laws that govern federal agency operations in the absence of funding,” FEMA spokeswoman Rachel Racusen said. “Under law, FEMA would be forced to temporarily shut down disaster recovery and assistance operations, including financial assistance to individuals until Congress appropriated more funds.  This would include all past and current FEMA recovery operations.”

The Senate on Friday rejected a House spending bill to keep the government funded and made plans to return to Washington next week.

In a 59-36 vote, the Senate tabled the House legislation approved early Friday morning. The continuing resolution would keep the government funded through Nov. 18; without a new funding measure, the government would shut down after next Thursday.

Democrats in the Senate object to the bill's funding level for FEMA and were upset over deep cuts to an energy program the GOP reduced as an offset to the increased funds to FEMA.


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