Too Little, Too Late? Biden to Visit Maui — Next Week

( – On August 8, Hawaii’s Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke issued an emergency proclamation related to the Pulehu Wildfire raging in Maui County. For some inexplicable reason, FEMA didn’t authorize the use of federal funds until the following day. Making matters worse, President Joe Biden didn’t issue a major disaster declaration until August 10. In yet another slight to the nation’s 50th state, the White House left islanders hanging for a whole week until it finally announced the president would take time off from the campaign trail to visit the decimated island — on August 21.

Equally concerning is the news that FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) is set to run out of money sometime in August, calling its ability to accomplish much in Hawaii into question. By the way, Congress is in recess until September.

With any luck, the Biden administration can shuffle enough discretionary funds to the DRF to keep it running until federal lawmakers return to Washington, DC.

There is a little bit of good news on that front. Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, recently introduced a bill (S.2029) to shuffle enough federal funds to allow FEMA to operate or to authorize it to run in the red until Congress can pass a supplemental spending measure.

On August 10, the Executive Office of the President’s Office of Management and Budget submitted a request to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for additional funds for several federal projects and executive branch offices and agencies. The 65-page document includes $12 billion for disaster relief funds.

NBC News recently reported that McCarthy has privately indicated his willingness to pass a stopgap measure. However, the Biden administration already threw a massive wrench into its request — a call for an additional $24.1 billion in military aid for Ukraine.

Sen. Rubio issued a press release blasting the administration’s request, noting that the supplemental aid proposal included “numerous requests that should be a part of regular appropriations.” He accused Biden of holding Americans “hostage by tying critical domestic disaster relief to foreign military aid.

With any luck, Biden’s delays and political wrangling won’t amount to too little too late for desperate Hawaiians.

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