FEMA Could Face Serious Rescue & Relief Challenges Amid Funding Cuts
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is seeing Hurricane Harvey as one of the worst disasters to hit Texas in nearly all of its history. For Brock Long, the director and administrator of FEMA, it’s a storm that the “United States has not seen yet.”
While Long’s efforts to tackle the disaster up until now have been commendable, the fact remains that he’s heading a government agency that is under-capacitated in terms of both federal funding as well as senior staff.
FEMA faced criticism under the Bush administration when it failed to properly respond to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A law was enacted at that time to ensure that the government was in a better position to respond to such crises in the future.
However, many Americans fear that the agency may lag in its deliverance during the current disaster as it faces funding cuts from the center.
The agency, which falls under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is facing budget cuts as the Trump administration proposes to divert funds from FEMA towards other initiatives that fall under the DHS—like building the Mexico wall on the southern border or increasing funds for border patrolling.
Meanwhile, many senior positions at the agency also remain unfilled by the Trump administration. The DHS is currently being served by an acting secretary after the Department lost its former secretary, General John Kelly. Likewise, Director Brock Long is also working without a deputy administrator.
At the National Hurricane Center, the key position of director of the agency is still vacant, while the Center is being headed by the deputy director in charge.
At the same time, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is run by FEMA, is dealing with a huge budget deficit and is also about to expire in September. The Program is already burdened with a $24.6-billion debt owed to the Federal Treasury, even before it starts receiving any insurance claims from those affected by Hurricane Harvey.
But Long has got too much on his plate and says these issues are the least of his concern right now.
Concerns are mounting over the agency’s ability to respond to the ongoing need for rescue and relief in the aftermath of a disaster which, according to the director himself, could continue for over a year.
“Trump Praises Government’s Harvey Relief Efforts,” The Wall Street Journal, August 27, 2017.
“Trump’s FEMA director is facing his first big challenge with Hurricane Harvey,” Vox, August 27, 2017.
“Hurricane Harvey Adds to Debt Woes of Flood Insurance Program,” Newsmax, August 26, 2017.