WASHINGTON − President Joe Biden called on Congress to urgently approve additional disaster relief funding, characterizing it as essential for recovery efforts in the Florida following Hurricane Idalia and ongoing relief efforts from Hawaii’s wildfires.
Biden made the appeal during a surprise visit Thursday to the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters, where he also announced plans to visit Florida on Saturday to tour damage from Hurricane Idalia.
“I’m calling on Congress to make sure you’re able to have the funds to be able to continue to show up to meet the needs of the American people,” Biden said, “to deal with immediate crises that we’re facing right now as well as our long-term commitments that we have to make to finish the job in Maui and elsewhere.”
Hurricane Idalia arrived in Florida’s Big Bend region Wednesday morning, producing hefty storm surges and 125 mph winds, before quickly moving to Georgia and South Carolina.
FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell said this week that FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund is down to about $3.4 billion.
The Biden administration requested an additional $12 billion in disaster relief funding for FEMA earlier this month as part of a larger $40 billion supplemental budget request that also includes $13 billion in emergency defense aid for Ukraine opposed by many Republicans.
Biden said some Republican members of Congress think the FEMA funding “is somehow not needed.”
“I’m not even sure what they’re thinking is. But we need this money done. We need this disaster relief request. And we need to do it in September. We can’t wait,” Biden said.
Federal officials are conducting damage assessments along the hurricane’s path. Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall said a full extent of damage won’t be known for several days.
It is unclear whether Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will greet Biden in Florida, but Biden and DeSantis have appeared together during past presidential trips following disasters.
“They are very collegial when we have the work to do together,” Sherwood-Randall said.
Reach Joey Garrison on X @joeygarrison.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden presses Congress for more disaster funds after Hurricane Idalia