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Latest Puerto Rico Debate Shows Shortcomings of 'As-Needed' Disaster Relief Funding

Washington, D.C.– The following is a statement from Michele Nellenbach, director of infrastructure at the Bipartisan Policy Center, on the renewed congressional debate over supplemental disaster relief funding for Puerto Rico:

“This latest argument over Puerto Rico relief once again reveals the shortcomings of funding disaster relief on an as-needed basis. Relying almost exclusively on emergency supplemental appropriation bills helps fuel these types of debates over which state, territory, city, or county has received the appropriate level of resources. This process ignores the fact that Congress and the administration know a certain number of extreme weather events will occur each year and the people impacted will need the nation’s help.

“Treating every disaster as a ‘surprise’ when it comes to the federal budget is fiscally irresponsible and ignores the scientific evidence that disasters such as flooding, hurricanes, and wildfires are occurring more frequently and with increased severity. Congress needs to better account for these costs in advance and equip FEMA and the 16 other relevant federal agencies with budgets that reflect the true risk annually posed by disasters. We cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand, waiting for a disaster to strike.”

​Michele Nellenbach is available for comment.

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