What Happens If FEMA Runs Out Of Money? Unless Congress acts, it will happen early next week, putting a halt to projects in communities around the country still struggling to recover from this year's spate of hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires. And it would leave FEMA unable to respond to new disasters.
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What Happens If FEMA Runs Out Of Money?

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What Happens If FEMA Runs Out Of Money?

What Happens If FEMA Runs Out Of Money?

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

As NPR's Brian Naylor explains, that would halt projects to help communities recover from this year's hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires.

BRIAN NAYLOR: If that happens, says Barry Scanlon, president of Witt Associates, a consulting firm, it will be a first.

BARRY SCANLON: And what that means is FEMA is basically going to have to shut down.

NAYLOR: And Scanlon, a FEMA official during the Clinton administration, says along with community reconstruction for this year's disasters, individual aid to disaster victims will also be cut off.

SCANLON: So people who have just been whacked by a disaster at the low end of the economic scale who may need $1,000 to buy new clothes for their children or get food, get appliances, the type of things that the Stafford Act and FEMA's programs are there to help families get through after a disaster.

NAYLOR: FEMA officials in the field will be sent home if funding runs out. Among the many communities still recovering from what became Tropical Storm Irene last month is the town of Rochester, Vermont. Parts of the town were cut off when roads washed out. Selectman Doon Hinderyckx says they're still being rebuilt and a loss of FEMA funds will be costly.

DOON HINDERYCKX: Without that money, some of the Band-Aids won't get turned into permanent fixes that quickly and then it'll probably end up costing more money for FEMA in the long run and lead to, you know, more quicker failures of the infrastructure.

NAYLOR: He calls Congress's deadlock insulting and if the Disaster Relief Fund does run dry, officials at FEMA don't have much flexibility. Dan Kaniewski at George Washington University's Homeland Security Policy Institute says FEMA administrator Craig Fugate is prohibited from shifting funds around.

DAN KANIEWSKI: What if there is a disaster tomorrow? We can't predict what's going to happen next, a terrorist attack, a hurricane or wildfires, whatever it may be. He needs to be able to provide the victims of those disasters immediate assistance and as of Tuesday, he's not going to be able to do that.

NAYLOR: Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.

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