Trump administration seeking $5.95 billion ‘down payment’ on disaster funding

The Trump administration on Friday is expected to ask Congress for nearly $6 billion in disaster relief funding as part of an initial request for funds in response to Hurricane Harvey, two administration officials said.

The White House is expected to send Congress a request for $5.95 billion in funding, a senior administration official and White House official each said. About $5.5 billion will go to FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is rapidly burning through cash as the primary agency handling disaster relief. The remainder of the emergency funding request will go to the Small Business Administration, which is doling out disaster recovery loans to homes and businesses damaged by the storm.

House GOP leaders have signaled the House will take “quick action” and a vote could come as early as next week but nothing firmly scheduled yet.

The nearly $6 billion request will be described as a “down payment” on federal aid in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan from White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, the senior administration official said. The Trump administration is expected to make subsequent funding requests to help in the multi-billion dollar rebuilding effort that will need to take place in Texas and Louisiana, where tens of thousands of people were forced from their homes due to hurricane damage and flooding brought on by record-breaking rainfall.

Separately, the administration is expected in the upcoming debate over a bill to avoid a government shutdown by the end of month to ask for authority to spend $6.7 billion in disaster relief for FEMA more quickly, the administration officials and a senior House GOP leadership aide said.

As it stands now, the request for the down payment emergency aid is not tied to any proposal to increase the federal debt limit, the sources said.

Congress must raise the debt ceiling deadline by the end of September, a deadline that may move up due to the additional disaster funding requests. The debt ceiling deadline is a controversial matter in Congress and some hoped to see the issue tied to disaster funding to ensure the debt ceiling would be raised.

President Donald Trump promised swift action to approve disaster relief funding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

State and federal officials have warned that rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey would take years and FEMA Administrator Brock Long said his agency is committed to remaining involved in the area for years to come.

The administration’s initial request comes as swaths of land in Texas remain steeped in several feet of flood waters. Recovery efforts are still underway and tens of thousands of people remain in shelters.