Senator Blunt says the federal government needs to step up and help Joplin recover.
Blunt has written President Obama [Sen. Blunt letter to President Obama], asking that the federal government provide complete reimbursement of costs associated with recovery from the federally declared natural disaster.
“I am asking for 100% federal reimbursement to local governments,” Blunt tells reporters in a telephone news conference. “They’ve agreed to 75. I think they have to come to a better number than that and the right number, I think, would be 100%.”
Requiring a 25% local match for federal disaster assistance is traditional. Blunt argues the damage to Joplin from an EF-5 tornado was so extensive and so deadly it deserves non-traditional financial help.
Blunt’s optimistic based on how the federal government responded to recent tornado damage in other states.
“I think they’re going to get beyond their normal starting point, which is 75-25,” Blunt says. “In Alabama, they got to 90-10 at Tuscaloosa and I would expect at least that to happen in Joplin.”
About a month ago, more than 200 tornadoes ripped through the South, causing an estimated $3.5 to $5 billion in damage. More than 300 died. Two EF-5 tornadoes died sparsely populated areas. One EF-4 hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Damage to Tuscaloosa has been estimated to exceed $2 billion.
The mounting cost of recovery from natural disasters has sparked controversy in Washington. The second-ranking Republican in the United States House suggested that relief for Joplin would be available only if lawmakers found cuts in other parts of the federal budget to offset the cost. Senator McCaskill, a Democrat, criticized House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia during remarks delivered on the Senate floor, suggesting that Cantor wouldn’t have made such a suggestion had tornadoes ripped through this Congressional district.
Blunt, a Republican, says he understands the anger over the comments, but also understands Cantor’s point. Blunt says he favors fiscal discipline.
“Certainly, we have to prioritize spending at the federal level these days,” Blunt says. “This is clearly a priority.”
Blunt says that if the federal government is going to have FEMA, Congress has to fund it adequately. Blunt adds he was sure after he heard Cantor’s remarks that Cantor would find the savings elsewhere in the budget to free money for recovery in Joplin. Shortly after Cantor’s remarks, a House budget subcommittee cut $1.5 billion from a loan program to provide additional funding for FEMA.