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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.