White House sends initial Harvey aid request to Congress

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Following record levels of flooding across Texas and Louisiana, the Trump administration sent its initial request to Congress for $14.55 billion in Hurricane Harvey emergency spending. The request is intended to fund preliminary recovery efforts and shore up the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster aid reserves, which are currently running low. The White House requested that approximately $8 billion of those funds be made available immediately.

Congressional lawmakers are scheduled to begin deliberations on a longer-term aid package on Wednesday, September 6. The initial aid request will likely move quickly through the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate with broad bipartisan support. Congress is expected to spend September and October working on a more comprehensive aid package as federal and local agencies assess the extent of the hurricane’s damage.

The total cost of recovery from Hurricane Harvey remains unclear. However, Houston Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) estimated that the combined bill could total $150 billion, including flood insurance payments, property damage and infrastructure repairs. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the storm’s damage could amount to as much as $180 billion, which would be costlier than either Hurricane Katrina or Sandy.

Negotiations on a broader Hurricane Harvey recovery package could complicate other legislative business in Congress as Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 ends on September 30. Lawmakers have just 12 legislative days to debate and vote on several spending measures and to raise the debt ceiling. To meet these upcoming fiscal deadlines, some House members have proposed attaching Hurricane Harvey aid to the must-pass debt ceiling bill – a move that would require bipartisan consensus.

NACo is closely monitoring these legislative developments and on September 6 will co-host a Capitol Hill briefing titled, “The Future of the National Flood Insurance Program: Helping Communities Prepare and Respond.” This event will bring together key stakeholders to discuss reauthorization priorities of local and state governments in areas impacted by catastrophic floods.

For more of our resources on emergency management, please see the following:

Policy Brief: Reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program

Case Study: Improving Emergency Response Times Through Geospatial Modeling and Simulation

Webinar: National Flood Insurance Program: What Counties Need to Know

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