By Andrew Taylor
WASHINGTON (AP) — With federal disaster reserves running out, the House is swiftly moving to pass President Donald Trump’s request for a $7.9 billion first installment of relief for victims of Harvey.
GOP leaders also hope to use the urgent Harvey aid bill to solve a far more vexing issue: Increasing the U.S. debt limit to permit the government to borrow freely again to cover its bills.
Wednesday morning’s vote comes as the government’s response to Harvey is draining existing disaster reserves, with Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster accounts hovering at $1 billion or less. FEMA is warning lawmakers that disaster funds run out on Friday, even as a much more powerful hurricane, Irma, is bearing down on the eastern U.S.
This week’s measure is to handle the immediate emergency needs and replenish reserves in advance of Irma. Far more money will be needed once more complete estimates are in this fall, and Harvey could end up exceeding the $110 billion government cost of Hurricane Katrina.