KANSAS CITY, Mo.—The battle over the federal budget continues in Washington as another possible government shutdown looms closer. But if Congress doesn't act fast, for the first time in history the federal government may not have enough money to pay for disaster relief.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency may run short of funds as soon as Tuesday, and FEMA officials say that the situation is critical. The disaster fund pays for all costs associated with presidentially-declared disasters, and relief payments drained the agency's account following Hurricane Irene.
Republicans and Democrats are gridlocked over the disaster relief funds. Republicans say that they want to fund FEMA with cuts to an automobile industry loan program, while Democrats insist that disaster relief should come without any strings attached.
"We can't borrow money every time something bad goes wrong in America," said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
"We've agreed to their number on FEMA. Do they want government to shut down? Do they want FEMA to close? And FEMA will close. They have money to go through Monday or Tuesday if we're fortunate," said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
FEMA froze funding for Joplin tornado relief in late August to allocate more money for Hurricane Irene. The Senate will likely vote on the matter on Monday.