Indiana legislators watch Irma response, knowing more federal money will likely be needed

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Hurricane Irma hits the Florida coast on September 10, 2017. Skies darken and rain batters Miami, Florida.

WASHINGTON – A new Ball State University study concludes the damage from Hurricane Harvey to residential and commercial structures will be the costliest in U.S. history.

And assessments for Hurricane Irma are still in the very early stages, but recovery is estimated in the billions of dollars.

“The president has directed the full resources of the federal government to be brought to bear,” Vice President Mike Pence said Sunday at FEMA headquarters.

And that includes money.

Days after FEMA would have run out of money late last week, President Donald Trump signed a $15 billion emergency aid package for Hurricane Harvey, just hours before Hurricane Irma came ashore.

“It’s devastating,” Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) said. “Billions of dollars. But I think billions of dollars are still needed.”

The question is whether Congress has the ability to fund multiple large-scale and long-term recovery efforts and how much taxpayer money it will take?

“It’s gonna cost a lot of money,” President Trump said Sunday. “Right now we’re worried about lives, not cost.”

And early this week, members of Congress are taking note.

“Oh I believe more money will likely be needed,” Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) said. “This is a first tranche so to speak.”

The deal to fund FEMA after Hurricane Harvey, which also included raising the debt ceiling, angered some Indiana Republicans and Democrats, including Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) who voted against the measure and Carson who voted for it.

“People want to negotiate and make political points but to attach the two is unfortunate,” Carson said. “But it had to get done.”

Banks said adding the provision to raise the debt ceiling was enough to make him vote no.

“This was a deeply disappointing deal the president struck with Democrats,” he said.

Concern goes beyond funding FEMA overall alongside specifically the National Flood Insurance Program which is billions of dollars in debt.

“It was the initial response,” Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) said. “There will probably be more to come. But I think it’s critically important to support these programs. We’ve got to change them going forward because some of them don’t work incredibly well, and we’ve got to fix them and we have an opportunity to do that, but we also have to make sure the funding is there.”

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