FEMA Says It’s Ready for Hurricane Florence, Defends 2017 Response

Frederick Owens
September 16, 2018

The additional $200 million would put ICE's budget for detention and transportation at more than $3.6 billion.

The Trump administration took almost $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's budget this summer to help boost U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to budget documents shared with USA TODAY.

"The lack of fiscal discipline and cavalier management of funding for detention operations, evidenced by inaccurate budget formulation and uneven execution, seems to be the result of a perception that ERO is funded by an indefinite appropriation", the statement said. FEMA's budget originally was $1.03 billion and the amount transferred was about $9.755 million. "This is a sorry attempt to push a false agenda at a time when the administration is focused on assisting millions on the East Coast facing a catastrophic disaster", he said in a tweet.

The feud between Merkley and FEMA and DHS has handiest escalated since he appeared on MSNBC'S "The Rachel Maddow Exhibit" Tuesday evening and CNN Wednesday morning.

The Post did report that the transfer of funds was a matter of national security and public safety.

"FEMA will curtail training, travel, public engagement sessions, IT security support and infrastructure maintenance, and IT investments in the legacy grants systems for transition to the Grants Management Modernization Program", the document says. A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, which also houses FEMA, said that under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from FEMA to immigration enforcement efforts. FEMA officials said the hurricane could be the strongest storm to hit the Carolinas and Virginia region "in decades".

"I think it came as a shock to everyone that in the first month in the hurricane season, knowing what happened a year ago, that FEMA agreed to have $10 million taken out of its accounts, including significant amounts out of its response and recovery account and another significant amount out of its preparedness and protection account", he said. DHS said the money came from an operations account, which the spokesperson said covers everything from training to office supplies and "cannot be used for disaster response".

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Merkley's office maintains that operations and support funding does impact FEMA's overall disaster relief efforts.

In a briefing Wednesday, a FEMA response and recovery official told reporters the agency has "plenty of resources" to respond to to the storm, now approaching the Carolinas and Georgia.

Both FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to requests from USA TODAY. This would also include travel to his home in Hickory, North Carolina.

But while FEMA officials issued dire warnings about the days ahead, President Donald Trump insisted-despite what Merkley's documents show-that the White House is "sparing no expense" and is "totally prepared" for the storm.

Florence was upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane on Tuesday and was packing deadly winds of 130 miles per hour, but it is expected to strengthen and turn into "an extremely unsafe major hurricane" on Thursday night before making landfall.

"We're ready. FEMA is ready".

Merkley's staff has also noted that $10 million could make a big difference to people coping with hurricanes and disasters. "At the start of hurricane season - when American citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still suffering from FEMA's inadequate recovery efforts - the administration transferred millions of dollars away from FEMA".

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