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Disaster funding runs out soon

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Sep 26, 2011

Disaster funding runs out soon

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Sep 26, 2011

Tess Vigeland: Disaster victims counting on help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency got a small reprieve today. The agency says its disaster relief fund will last ’til the end of the week.

FEMA is caught up in the congressional battle over funding the entire federal government. Republicans want the disaster spending paid for with cuts to other programs. Democrats don’t.

Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall Genzer looks at what happens if the FEMA well runs dry.

Nancy Marshall Genzer: Amanda Michaels, her boyfriend Josh and their 20-month-old daughter struggled even before a series of storms hit their small town of Tunkhannock, Pa. They were unemployed. He’d lost his job at the Proctor and Gamble factory after injuring his leg at home. The couple never did have insurance. They couldn’t afford the co-payments. Then, the storms forced them out of their apartment and into a shelter. Michaels lost everything, including her car.

Amanda Michaels: All the motor is soaked. The interior has like three, four inches of water in it still, plus the mud.

Someone from FEMA inspected the car, but Michaels hasn’t heard yet if she qualifies for any aid. She could use it for a down payment on a new apartment. Without it, she doesn’t know where she’ll go when the shelter closes.

Gene Dziak heads the county’s emergency management agency. He knows of 61 homeless families. He says the county needs help clearing up rubble, and dealing with a firehouse flooded with five feet of water, sewage and oil.

Gene Dziak: A lot of the homes have home-heating oil with tanks there were outside that were dumped and leaked home-heating oil in this water.

Dziak says he doesn’t know what the county will do if FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund runs dry.

Barry Scanlon is a former FEMA official, now with Witt Associates.

Barry Scanlon: Historically, the balance of the disaster relief fund has never hit zero. It’s sort of playing chicken with the people who are out there hurting the worst.

People like Amanda Michaels, who just want to get back to where they were before the storms hit.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

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