Washington, DC - Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY) today led 69 U.S. House members in calling on House leaders to schedule an immediate up or down vote on the emergency funding bill passed last week by the U.S. Senate to provide assistance to those affected by Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and other natural disasters. This bipartisan legislation, which passed with 62 votes in the Senate, would provide $6.9 billion in emergency funding for ongoing disaster relief efforts across the country and prevent FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund from running into the red.
"The New Yorkers I represent don’t want to see political games and half measures," said Hinchey. "The Senate legislation is comprehensive and fulfills the federal government's obligations to small businesses, families and local governments affected by Irene, Lee and other natural disasters. The House legislation falls well short and would require a complicated mess of additional bills and offsets that are a recipe for gridlock. We can't afford to play politics with this critical issue. Too many people in New York and across the country are counting on us. Congress has always provided the funding necessary to deal with natural disasters of this magnitude and this time should be no different."
“This is a time for effective government, not games and gridlock,” said Tonko. “It has been three weeks since communities in Upstate New York and across the Northeast were first hit by devastating flooding. Since then, many have lost everything they own. The House legislation falls short of what our families need to rebuild their homes. It ignores disaster relief programs at USDA that should be guiding the recovery of our farmers and rural communities, but are hamstrung by backlogs and insufficient funds. The Senate bill gets us closer to where we need to be. There is no reason to keep this legislation from receiving a vote. With 48 states that have been impacted by federally declared emergencies this year, any Member – Republican or Democrat – should support allowing a vote on this bill.”
President Obama has requested an additional $5.1 billion in funding for FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund, including $500 million for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011 which ends September 30, and $4.6 billion for FY 2012. The U.S. Senate legislation meets the president's request of $5.1 billion and provides an additional $1.8 billion in funding for disaster recovery programs at other agencies. The House legislation provides a little over half that amount, with $3.65 billion for disaster recovery, including approximately $1 billion for FY 2011, divided between FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and an additional $2.65 billion for FY 2012.