JOPLIN, Mo. — After a rough year of disasters nationwide, the federal government’s disaster budget is low on cash.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, visiting Joplin to review the recovery efforts in the tornado-ravaged town, called on Congress to find move quickly on replenishing the Disaster Recovery Fund, which has dropped to $215 million, one of the lowest points in the fund’s history.
“We’re running on fumes,” Napolitano said. “We would simply urge the Congress to reach a speedy resolution on this, because it is important.”
Last week, the U.S. Senate passed a $7 billion disaster relief bill. Sen. Roy Blunt voted against most of his party in support of the bill.
Wednesday, the House of Representatives rejected a proposal that would have upped the agency’s funding, on a 195-230 vote. The House attached the funding proposal to legislation that would have cut $1.5 billion from a program to develop fuel-efficient vehicles. The Missouri delegation was split on a partisan line on the vote. All Republicans voted for the legislation, while all Democrats voted against it.
Napolitano said people who are receiving individual assistance from FEMA have been prioritized.
She applauded the agency’s response to the disaster, and promised continued assistance.
“I think performance matters, and FEMA was here almost from the get go,” she said. “We stayed here, and we’re staying here. We will continue to work with the community.”