Accusations from Democrats that the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s budget is hamstrung in its ability to respond to Hurricane Dorian because of money used for issues on the southern border aren’t based in reality, according to FEMA’s acting director.
Last week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted a jab at President Donald Trump for shifting $155 million in FEMA funds to deal with the crisis at the southern border.
“Our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and Florida are bracing for a hurricane. @realDonaldTrump, stop raiding disaster funds and work to ensure FEMA is ready to help these Americans,” the New York Democrat tweeted.
Our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and Florida are bracing for a hurricane.
@realDonaldTrump, stop raiding disaster funds and work to ensure FEMA is ready to help these Americans. https://t.co/GPquHpVmwe
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) August 28, 2019
Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fred also criticized the president in a tweet that same day.
“The President must be out of his mind if he thinks it’s a good idea to shift funds out of @FEMA for immigrant detention at the border while a potential Category 3 Hurricane #Dorian bears down on the United States,” she tweeted.
The President must be out of his mind if he thinks it’s a good idea to shift funds out of @FEMA for immigrant detention at the border while a potential Category 3 Hurricane #Dorian bears down on the United States.
— Commissioner Nikki Fried (@NikkiFriedFL) August 28, 2019
In a segment about the hurricane on “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace noted that in 2014 former President Barack Obama shifted $270 million from FEMA to deal with a migrant crisis.
Wallace then asked Pete Gaynor, the acting FEMA administrator, about criticism from Democrats that the transfer would hurt FEMA’s efforts.
“We have plenty of money and resources to deal with 2017 and ’18 disaster recoveries, and to include response in 2019, this season,” he said, according to Fox News.
FEMA’s overall fiscal 2018 budget was about $15.5 billion.
“You know, we live with risk every day, we assess risk. We assess that that $155 million is low risk and it’s not affecting our preparedness whatsoever for Dorian,” Gaynor continued.
Wallace asked Gaynor how much the president was in contact with him about the storm.
— Peter Gaynor (@FEMA_Pete) September 1, 2019
“Daily, hourly,” Gaynor said. “If I’m not talking to his staff, we’re talking to him. We did a VTC to Camp David yesterday. We’re in his office, the Oval Office, a couple days ago. The vice president is involved. The entire staff is involved … He has his finger on the pulse.”
Gaynor also urged residents in the vast hurricane target area not to relax just because the storm has not hit yet.
“I know people are getting tired because this has been a long duration storm and it hasn’t even touched, you know, Florida or the East Coast. So, we want people to — you know, don’t dismiss this storm. We are not out of it. Life-threatening dangerous surge, water, wind, is coming your way. Take the time now to prepare you and your family,” he said.
Gaynor said the hurricane doesn’t necessarily need to come ashore to trigger a deadly storm surge that could flood low-lying coastal areas.
“Storm surge is one of the things that we worry about most. You know, the majority of — 90 percent of all weather-related deaths come from water, flooding surge. Fifty percent of those deaths are people in cars driving through flooded waters. So, you’ve got to take this storm seriously,” he said.
Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan also said the FEMA funding shift will not impact the response to Dorian, according to the New York Post.
“No money has been moved yet. We have to do a notification to Congress in advance. Any potential transfers will not impact our ability to respond to this storm or any other storms in the rest of the hurricane season,” he said.
Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, a former governor of the state, said he was assured when the funding shift was proposed that Florida would not suffer.
“They’ve all convinced me that there’s plenty of money to take care of them,” he said, referring to hurricanes. “I was just down on the border two days ago, we still have issues at our border.”