09.07.11

Senate Appropriators OK Post-Irene Boost In Disaster Aid

WASHINGTON (WEDNESDAY, Sept. 7) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said that approval of an increase in disaster relief funds by a key Senate panel on Wednesday night adds momentum to efforts to secure sufficient help for Vermont and other states hit by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene.

Pressed by Leahy and others whose states face Irene damage, the Senate Appropriations Committee late Wednesday ratified the $4.2 billion increase that had been okayed Tuesday by its Homeland Security Subcommittee for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund, which had fallen to inadequate levels even before Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene pummeled the East Coast and New England.  The action came as the panel debated and voted on FEMA’s annual budget bill, for Fiscal Year 2012.  Leahy is number two on the Appropriations Committee and also a senior member of the homeland security unit, and he had worked with others to engineer the increase.  The appropriations bill faces several more steps, and a counterpart House bill does not include a post-Irene increase.  

Leahy said the magnitude of Vermont’s needs and the fast-approaching winter season have helped propel the momentum for topping up the disaster relief account.  “In words and in pictures, we have been telling Vermont’s story,” said Leahy.  “By now no one doubts the urgency of getting as much done as quickly as possible to help people and communities get back on their feet.  Navigating the legislative process is difficult, but we already are making good progress.”    

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said Wednesday that he intends to support a separate stand-alone disaster relief bill to help ensure enough funding for disaster relief.  Leahy and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) both addressed the Senate Democratic Caucus Wednesday, recounting the destruction across Vermont that Irene left in her wake. 

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