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How states unlock money to meet hurricane expenses

Erika Beras Sep 13, 2018
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A motorist drives through heavy rain before the approaching Hurricane Harvey hits Corpus Christi, Texas, on Friday.
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Hurricane Florence was downgraded to a Category 2 storm, but it could still cause extreme flooding inland. Several states along the Eastern Seaboard and the District of Columbia have declared a state of emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence making landfall later this week.

States need authorization before they can spend more money on an emergency than is officially budgeted.

“Government can only do the things that it’s explicitly been given the legal ability to do,” said Joseph Trainor, a director at the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware. 

And there’s a lot of business around a giant storm. States and local governments will be spending on contracts, overtime for workers and shelters. The state of emergency declaration makes it all happen faster. Normal bid procedures are suspended and once a state declares a state of emergency, then it can request federal aid, but sometimes that’s still not enough.

The town of Columbia, South Carolina is still recovering from Hurricane Joaquin, which happened three years ago, according to Mayor Stephen Benjamin.

“The reality is that we’re seeing the financial damage just go up precipitously,” Benjamin said. 

And, the town is now bracing for Hurricane Florence, which is due to hit land by the end of the week.

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