WASHINGTON - The White House will seek an additional $4 billion to address natural disasters as part of its supplemental funding request, bringing the total to $16 billion — a sign that wildfires, flooding and hurricanes that have intensified during a period of climate change are imposing ever higher costs on U.S. taxpayers.
The Biden administration had initially requested $12 billion in extra funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund, which helps with rescue and relief efforts. But a policy analyst in the Office of Management and Budget, Shelby Wagenseller, said that the fires in Hawaii and Louisiana as well as flooding in Vermont and Hurricane Idalia striking Florida and other Southeastern states mean that a total of $16 billion is needed.
As recently as Tuesday, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell had stressed that $12 billion would be enough to meet the agency’s needs through the end of the fiscal year this month.
Criswell told reporters at a White House briefing that the lower sum "will be a bridge to get us through the end of the fiscal year."
"If we continue to see more storms, we’re going to continuously monitor very closely the health of the disaster relief fund to determine what more may be needed," Criswell said. "But right now, as the situation stands, the supplemental request will get us through the end of this fiscal year."
On Thursday, President Joe Biden went to FEMA’s offices in Washington and pushed for more money, saying, "We need this disaster relief request met, and we need it in September." He said he could not understand why some lawmakers believe the money is unnecessary.
"I’m not even sure what their thinking is," the Democratic president said.
Within hours of Biden speaking, the Office of Management and Budget concluded that another $4 billion needed to be tacked on to the supplemental funding measure, which also includes money to aid Ukraine in its war against Russia and efforts to address fentanyl addiction.
Biden is seeking about $44 billion in total supplemental funding and could face some resistance from House Republicans. Many GOP lawmakers want to limit federal spending, and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in June played down the need for a supplemental after having reached a deal with Biden to extend the government’s legal borrowing authority.