Hurricane relief: Disaster upon disaster

WHAT IT IS

  • Hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused destruction along southern states, with many other states affected.
  • Insurance and relief aid can come in different forms, but about $6 billion will be considered insurance loss.
  • Small Business Association (SBA) – providing small businesses with low-interest loans.
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – providing funds to those without home insurance.
  • Texas and Louisiana is expected to need $50 billion in aid, while Florida is likely to require a little less in aid.

WHY IT MATTERS

In the midst of a Congress budget crisis, these hurricanes have caused damage to geography, thousands of families, and the U.S. economy (not just Florida and Texas economies). Finding the money to help all areas affected could be difficult, if Congress can even agree on a plan.

  • OPTION 1 – “Break it up”

    • Separate bills:   This idea would be to set up smaller bills providing aid packages so that funding is rolled out over time.
    • Tag it on:   This could also be accomplished by tagging aid help to other legislation that will likely be passed by Congress anyway.
    • Stuck in mud:   Congress has a hard time passing one piece of legislation, making people fearful that aid will disappear as they try to pass many smaller bills.
  • OPTION 2 – “One size fits all”

    • Lone bill:   One method of relief could be passing an immediate bill for aid, which is what happened with Hurricane Katrina.
    • Two hurricanes:   Unfortunately, two hurricanes makes it difficult to split money among areas that need relief.
    • Baby steps:   President Trump has made a deal to give $8 billion in aid to Texas until Congress comes up with legislation.

WHERE WE ARE NOW

  • Majority of people do not have flood insurance, and those who do get it through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is currently in debt.
  • NFIP is set to expire at the end of September and will need to be reauthorized.
  • FEMA is made to provide short-term help and temporary housing and is not equipped to help long-term, for those without insurance only.
  • Many people are displaced after the hurricanes, with over 40,000 already approved for help from FEMA.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • Many of the Texan and other GOP representatives voted against the aid given to New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy.
  • As hurricanes tore up the east coast, wildfires burned in the west. How can we balance handling both natural disasters?
  • Should flood insurance be promoted more among areas along coasts, since very few in the entire country have flood insurance included in their home coverage?
  • Should we build up a larger “rainy day” fund in FEMA?