Congress expected to move quickly to approve Irma recovery money

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Congress is expected to act soon to send more federal money to Irma recovery efforts as the Southeas...

Congress is expected to act soon to send more federal money to Irma recovery efforts as the Southeast begins the long damage-assessment process following the record-setting storm.

Sources on Capitol Hill expect lawmakers to act within weeks to approve more money for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal offices such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Small Business Administration that assist with reviving communities and businesses following natural disasters. One Senate source estimated the body could greenlight more money within the next week or so.

Lawmakers cleared an initial $15.3 billion on Friday to go to disaster recovery efforts following Hurricane Harvey. FEMA is also authorized to use that money for its initial Irma response.

White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert told reporters Monday that the federal government “right now (has) plenty of resources to get through this.” Senate aides estimated that FEMA should have enough money to get through the rest of the month.

But the government is quickly burning through that money and its coffers will soon need to be replenished now that Irma has made landfall.

“We’ll ask for a third, perhaps fourth supplemental appropriation for the purpose of rebuilding,” Bossert said. “We’ll do it smartly.”

The Trump administration has yet to send an official request to Congress for more money, but conversations have begun between the administration, Congress and state and local officials about next steps. Federal agencies are expected to release cost estimates of initial damage in the coming weeks.

Key lawmakers from both parties said they stood ready to quickly approve more money for recovery efforts.

“I think with regard to Irma and Harvey we’re going to do whatever we have to do,” U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said in an interview Monday afternoon from his home in Marietta, where he was waiting out the storm. “America comes together when people are hurting and in trouble, and there’s a role for the federal government to play.”

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said he expects the chamber “will quickly come together to support the rescue and recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Irma and in some of the other disasters, particularly the fires out west.”

The Senate easily passed the Harvey spending bill on a bipartisan 80-17 vote.

A FEMA representative said the agency’s “top priority is to make sure we have all of the necessary resources on hand to support states, tribes and territories in their efforts to carry out lifesaving and life-sustaining activities and to meet the immediate needs of disaster survivors.”

Georgia’s junior senator, David Perdue, evacuated his family from their Sea Island home to Atlanta over the weekend.

“This is not something that just makes good ratings for the Weather Channel,” the Republican said Monday evening. “This is a real catastrophe down there, so I’m just hopeful that we can get everybody back home safe and get this thing assessed very quickly.”

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