Joplin, Missouri, was a long way from the path of Hurricane Irene, but that city could still pay a steep price from hurricane-related damage.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is temporarily suspending payments for long-term rebuilding projects in tornado-ravaged Joplin - such as roads, schools and other buildings - to help pay for damage caused by Irene this past weekend.  Funds in other disaster-hit areas were also frozen.

According to reports, FEMA has less than $1 billion in disaster relief funds available, and a private estimate indicates that Irene may have caused up to $7 billion in damage to the East Coast of the United States.

A FEMA spokesperson says that the decision prioritizes the immediate, urgent needs of survivors and states when preparing for, or responding to, a disaster.  FEMA says it will  reinstate the funding once funds are back at "acceptable levels."  FEMA wants to have enough money available for the next large disaster or event.

FEMA says it will still provide funds to people eligible for assistance. The White House may ask Congress for supplemental disaster relief funding to cover additional expenses.

It's estimated that tornado damage in Joplin is in the billions of dollars. The city of 50,000 is only now finishing debris removal from the May 22nd storm and turning its attention to rebuilding infrastructure.