STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Now, as we just heard, the disaster puts pressure on the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The total damage from the hurricane is expected to add up to several billion dollars.
DAVID GREENE, Host:
NPR's Brian Naylor reports that the agency is forced to make choices.
BRIAN NAYLOR: So FEMA administrator Craig Fugate says his agency will postpone work on some of the repair and restoration projects resulting from the earlier storms to pay for the immediate needs resulting from Irene. Fugate, speaking to reporters in the White House briefing room yesterday, said his decision has already been misinterpreted.
CRAIG FUGATE: A lot of people thought, well, the people that have been impacted by the tornadoes and floods, we're going to take that money away from them.
NAYLOR: But Fugate stresses that is not the case.
FUGATE: The survivors that are eligible for assistance are still getting funds. Individual assistance programs were not affected by this, nor was any protective measures or any debris clearance, or any project that had already been approved.
NAYLOR: Dan Kaniewski, who worked at FEMA during the George W. Bush administration and now teaches at George Washington University, says Fugate is making the right decision.
DAN KANIEWSKI: Yeah, he's got to deal with the cards he's been dealt. He has a limited amount of money, and he realizes - rightly so - that money has to be allocated for the most pressing needs. And right now, it's those individuals who have been impacted by Hurricane Irene. They need to be provided the assistance to make sure that they have a roof over their heads.
NAYLOR: So the administration will be forced to go to Congress for more aid, setting up a potential fight with House Republicans. In the past, emergency aid money has been treated as, well, emergencies, and the money spent was added to the deficit. No more, says House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Speaking on Fox yesterday, Cantor said the money to pay for disaster aid will have to be offset with cuts elsewhere in the budget.
(SOUNDBITE OF FOX NEWS BROADCAST)
ERIC CANTOR: In instances like this, yes, there's a federal role. Yes, we're going to find the money. We're just going to need to make sure that there are savings elsewhere to continue to do so.
NAYLOR: Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GREENE: This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.