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Biden ida tour

U.S. President Joe Biden tours a neighborhood affected by the remnants of Hurricane Ida in Manville, New Jersey on September 7, 2021. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Biden Admin. Requests Billions for Disaster Relief, Afghan Refugee Resettlement

"Just your regular reminder that failing to mitigate risk (including taking action on climate change) is the more expensive option (and also leaves people dead and communities destroyed)."

Jessica Corbett

The White House on Tuesday called on Congress to urgently pass a stopgap spending measure that includes billions of dollars for providing relief from recent disasters and resettling Afghans who left their country as the U.S. withdrew after nearly two decades of war.

"With the end of the fiscal year rapidly approaching, it's clear that Congress will need to pass a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to provide more time for the FY 2022 process to unfold," wrote Shalanda Young, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in a memo.

"The window provided by a short-term CR," she continued, "will allow movement toward bipartisan agreement on smart, full-year appropriations bills that reinvest in core priorities, meet the needs of American families, businesses, and communities, and lay a strong foundation for the future."

The memo came as wildfires continued to rage across the U.S. West and President Joe Biden visited communities in New York and New Jersey impacted by the remnants of Hurricane Ida last week. During the trip, protesters gathered to demand that the president end fossil fuels.

Biden and others have drawn a clear connection between the climate emergency—notably driven by the extraction and use of fossil fuels—and devastating storms like Ida.

The Biden administration is urging Congress to "appropriate over $14 billion as part of a CR to address the natural disasters that occurred prior to Hurricane Ida," Young explained. "We fully expect that Hurricane Ida will significantly increase the need for further disaster response funding, by at least $10 billion."

Responding to that development, Samantha Montano, a disaster researcher and an assistant professor of emergency management at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, tweeted, "Just your regular reminder that failing to mitigate risk (including taking action on climate change) is the more expensive option (and also leaves people dead and communities destroyed)."

"Given the scale and scope of these natural disasters, everyone must work together to get Americans the help they desperately need."
—Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

Leah Stokes, a climate expert and associate professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, concurred in comments to the Washington Post.

"It's clear the cost of inaction on climate change are mounting every year," she said. "Acting on the crisis is much cheaper than continuing to ignore or delay."

Congressional Democrats are currently developing legislation to invest $3.5 trillion in climate and social programs—a reconciliation package in line with Biden's Build Back Better agenda that they plan to pass alongside a smaller bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that the administration's new "request for emergency disaster relief funding is just what is needed to help hard-hit communities all across the country."

Schumer vowed to begin coordinating with Republicans to enact the relief by the end of the month to aid those impacted by fires, floods, and hurricanes, including Ida, which first made landfall in Louisiana. He said that "given the scale and scope of these natural disasters, everyone must work together to get Americans the help they desperately need."

The White House is also requesting that Congress appropriate $6.4 billion to "enable the success of this multifaceted, historic mission" of resettling refugees following Biden's withdrawal of all American forces from Afghanistan at the end of August.

As Young detailed:

The operation to move out of danger and to safety tens of thousands of Afghans at risk, including many who helped us during our two decades in Afghanistan, represents an extraordinary military, diplomatic, security, and humanitarian operation by the U.S. government. This operation has spanned the globe, beginning with moving evacuees from Afghanistan to third-country transit hubs on military air and charter flights. At transit hubs, evacuees are housed on U.S. bases, where they undergo biometric and biographic security screenings before they are allowed into the United States. In addition to security processing, evacuees receive extensive Covid-19 and other public health precautions and are resettled in the United States with the help of government-funded NGO partners.

Citing a government official, Forbes reported that the administration expects about 65,000 vulnerable Afghans to arrive in the United States by the end of the month, followed by another 30,000 over the next year—on top of those who arrive as part of the U.S. refugee cap.

Mary Kaszynski, director of government relations at VoteVets, called on Congress to grant the administration's request, describing it as "essential."

The advocacy group Win Without War applauded the request and declared that "the end of U.S. ground forces doesn't mean the end of our commitment. Congress must spend whatever is necessary to ensure Afghans seeking refuge find it."

According to The Hill:

While the administration succeeded in evacuating more than 124,000 people by the end of last month, their efforts have shifted to discussions with the governments of Qatar and Turkey to assist the Taliban in reopening Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport and securing land routes for border crossings.

But frustration is boiling over among critics in Washington who say the administration is failing on multiple fronts in its pledge to evacuate any American who wants to get out.

The outlet noted that "while the administration says there are a little more than 100 American citizens in the process of being evacuated, they have not provided a tally on green card holders, Afghan allies who either completed or are in the application process for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV), and other at-risk Afghans who are targets of the Taliban."

Axios reported Tuesday that "the nation's broken system is making it harder than it should be to manage the Afghan refugee crisis—and the Afghan refugee crisis is making it harder to fix the system."


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