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Storm Relief Could Be Part of Catch-All Spending Bill

Andrew Burton/Getty Images
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to members of the media about recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 31 in Long Beach, N.Y.

When Sandy hit, the Federal Emergency Management Agency had $7.8 billion in its Disaster Relief Fund for fiscal 2013, including some money that had not been spent in fiscal 2012. But because federal programs are running on a continuing resolution (PL 112-75) through March 27, the first half of the fiscal year, FEMA has only about $3.1 billion immediately available, agency officials have said.

Whether Congress approves additional funding through a supplemental appropriations bill or an omnibus carrying the federal accounts through next Sept. 30, efforts to use a measure as a “Christmas tree” for spending earmarks could prove difficult because the August 2011 debt limit law (PL 112-25) limits discretionary defense and domestic spending to $1.047 trillion for the year. Congress could appropriate about $5 billion more for disaster funding under a disaster relief cap in the law.

The cap limits disaster funds to $11.8 billion in this fiscal year. Congress earlier this year appropriated $6.4 billion under the disaster cap, leaving up to $5.4 billion more that could be added. If even more funds were needed, the law allows Congress to appropriate them under an emergency designation.

In a letter last week to Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., 44 House members asked the leaders to support additional funding if needed.

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