Wildfires have surged across Maui, causing widespread destruction in their path. While the authorities are dispatching assistance to the island, a potential issue arises. Representatives from FEMA have cautioned that the available funds are becoming depleted.
During the month of July, Deanne Criswell, the Administrator of FEMA, appeared before a subcommittee of the House and informed legislators that the financial resources for disaster relief are on the brink of depletion. She projected this shortage to occur during the peak periods of both wildfires and hurricanes. Criswell highlighted the significant escalation in disaster responses over the past decade, noting that while the agency tackled 108 disasters in 2010, that number soared to 315 in the span of ten years.
She emphasized that the concept of a defined disaster season no longer applies. Criswell predicted that the fund’s exhaustion was imminent, potentially this month, and without intervention from elected officials, it could face a deficit of $4.2 billion by mid-September.
Following Criswell’s alert to the Congressional committee, one month later, Maui was ravaged by wildfires. While the precise origin remains uncertain, there are conjectures that a combination of power lines and strong winds from a hurricane could have ignited certain portions of the fires. The most substantial of these blazes led to the complete devastation of the historically significant town of Lahaina.
During an appearance on CNN’s program “State of the Union” on August 20, Criswell reiterated her concern about FEMA’s dwindling disaster funds. She communicated that the agency foresees a deficit in funding by the middle of September. In order to mitigate the consequences of this shortage, the administrator outlined a strategy of deferring projects to the following year, thereby securing adequate resources for addressing critical life-threatening emergencies. She disclosed that President Joe Biden’s administration is collaborating with Congress to guarantee the allocation of additional funds for postponed recovery initiatives and the forthcoming year’s budget.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, a representative from California and a member of the Republican party, will need to persuade his fellow conservative legislators to approve increased funding for FEMA. Recently, McCarthy indicated his willingness to support a temporary augmentation of funds to prevent a government shutdown.
Simultaneously, the efforts to locate victims and survivors continue on Maui. The tragic toll includes the loss of more than 100 lives, with over 800 individuals still unaccounted for. Among the casualties, a substantial number are children, while others remain unidentified.