The East Coast is bracing for the ever-strengthening Hurricane Sandy, which will affect 50 million people when it makes landfall on Monday evening. President Obama has declared a state of emergency in 7 states and DC, allowing them to receive federal funds for emergency disaster assistance.
Depending on the outcome of next week’s election, future victims of natural disasters may not be able to receive the same kind of assistance. Mitt Romney has suggested shutting down FEMA and turning disaster relief over to private companies. Meanwhile, House Republicans have repeatedly attempted to slash funds for disaster preparedness and response in 2011:
According to the House Appropriation Committee’s summary of the bill, the [GOP’s 2011 continuing resolution] funds Operations, Research and Facilities for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association with $454.3 million less than it got in FY2010; this represents a $450.3 million cut from what the president’s never-passed FY2011 budget was requesting. The National Weather Service, of course, is part of NOAA — its funding drops by $126 million. The CR also reduces funding for FEMA management by $24.3 million off of the FY2010 budget, and reduces that appropriation by $783.3 million for FEMA state and local programs.
With each major natural disaster in 2011, House Republicans dug in their heels over providing disaster relief. They repeatedly demanded the funds be offset by other spending cuts in the budget — even as a deadly tornado tore through Missouri, an earthquake shook Virginia, and when Hurricane Irene struck the east coast last year.
The politicization of disaster relief is likely to continue; the House Republican budget ignored a bipartisan agreement to make it easier to fund disaster relief, instead insisting again that spending cuts offset the emergency aid.