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Aides for both parties today said it was too early to tell whether a supplemental appropriations bill would be needed. Lawmakers are expected to consult with key federal officials, including FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, to get an assessment of the damage and any need for additional funds for disaster relief.
It helps that the hurricane is coming within the first month of the budget year and that there was a sharp drop in federal major disaster declarations in the previous year, with 34 called for 2011 following the record 99 In 2010. That means some fiscal 2012 funds likely are still available.
Still, Claire Rubin, a disaster relief consultant based in Virginia who has written a book on FEMA and state emergency response programs, said the agency eventually will need its own relief.
“They will run out of money,” Rubin said. “At a minimum, they are talking about damage in the low, single-digit billions. “If there is damage to a lot of public infrastructure, that will have to be paid for largely by the federal government.”