CBS Local — Lawmakers have approved nearly $8 billion in funding for relief aid following the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana. The news comes as FEMA was reportedly set to run out of money as the organization helps flood victims rebuild.
The House approved the $7.85 billion package in a near unanimous vote on Sept. 6. Only three of the 422 lawmakers present voted no on the measure. The funding package now heads to the Senate where a controversial hike in the national debt ceiling is reportedly being attached to the bill.
House Speaker Paul Ryan slammed the addition, claiming Senate Democrats and Republicans were playing politics with hurricane victims’ lives.
“Let’s just think about this: We’ve got all this devastation in Texas. We’ve got another unprecedented hurricane about to hit Florida, and they want to play politics with the debt ceiling? I think that’s ridiculous and disgraceful that they want to play politics with the debt ceiling at this moment,” Ryan said.
The approved plan will send $7.4 billion to the cash-strapped Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund and $450 million to the Small Business Administration’s disaster loan program. According to reports, FEMA had just over one billion dollars left for their efforts as of Sept. 5. A FEMA spokesperson allegedly admitted that only $541 million was available for victims of Hurricane Harvey.
The potential infusion of cash into hurricane relief efforts comes as Hurricane Irma approaches the Florida coast. The Category 5 storm has already reached wind speeds of over 180 mph. Florida governor Rick Scott has asked the White House for a “pre-landfall” state of emergency to be declared.