Thursday, February 16, 2017

Federal disaster budget on the chopping block (kerry Eleveld) · Tuesday, February 14, 2017, 8:10 pm

Conservatives have their eye on cutting the disaster relief fund of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). So if a tornado rips through your state or a hurricane breaches your jetties or an earthquake cripples your town, the federal government won't necessarily be there to help rebuild, writes Nathalie Baptiste. 

The proposal to cut disaster aid was part of a lengthy report released last year by the Heritage Foundation. Dubbed a Blueprint for Balance, the document argued that the federal government can save $10.5 trillion over the next decade by slashing funds for some programs and eliminating others. [...] 

The Heritage Foundation is extremely influential in the world of conservative politics, and the Trump administration appears ready to lean on the think tank for policy ideas. Donald Trump's transition team was stacked with advisers from Heritage, and the organization helped the president compile a list of potential Supreme Court picks. The Hill reported in January that a series of massive budget cuts being considered by the Trump administration "hew closely" to the Heritage budget blueprint.

Emergency or disaster declarations by a president currently prompt FEMA to help locales rebuild and provide immediate public health relief for up 75 percent of the costs.

But if the Heritage budget is implemented, state and local governments would have to pony up 75 percent of the costs, up to $5 billion. If the cost of an individual disaster tops $5 billion, the federal government's share would gradually increase, reaching 75 percent only if the damage exceeds $20 billion. The proposal would also completely eliminate FEMA's fire grants, which subsidize local fire departments.


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