Louisiana senator warns FEMA against virtual disaster recovery centers


WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Two disasters are now tapping into FEMA funds: Hurricane Laura and the coronavirus.

A part of the money trickles down to relief efforts, while the other flows into unemployment checks.

However, lawmakers are not worried about those funds running out. Instead, one U.S. senator is concerned the pandemic is forcing some recovery efforts to go virtual.

“This thing practically knocked Louisiana into Texas,” said Sen. John Kennedy, R-LA.

FEMA is still calculating the damage, but Kennedy said there is enough money in its disaster relief pool to cover those without homes from the hurricane and those without jobs from the coronavirus.

After President Trump diverted $44 billion to extend federal unemployment benefits, FEMA’s disaster relief fund still has about $25 billion to respond to hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters.

“I don’t want people to worry about that,” he said. 

Fellow lawmakers, like Gov. John Bel Edwards, D-LA, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, are not worried either about finding the necessary funds.

“We’re not going to have any challenges,” Edwards said.

“We’re not going to run out of FEMA funds,” Cornyn said. “I know of no one in Congress who supports that idea.”

Kennedy is more concerned about FEMA’s plan to operate virtual disaster centers over in-person recovery assistance to help people apply for things like federal relief and disaster loans.

“If you don’t have power and you don’t have water, you probably don’t have internet,” he said. 

That’s why Kennedy is urging FEMA to also open several in-person centers.

“I asked very politely,” he said. “The second time I won’t be as polite.”

Kennedy praised the overall federal response but said FEMA needs to qualify more parishes for funding.

“If we don’t get the help that we need, there’s going to be a second hurricane and it’s going to be in Washington, DC because I will bring fresh hell,” he said.

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