Biden Asks Congress For $30 Billion To Help Disaster Relief And Afghan Evacuees

Sep 8, 2021
Originally published on September 8, 2021 7:18 am

President Biden is asking Congress for billions in additional funding to help with natural disasters and aid for Afghan evacuees.

The White House wants $24 billion in additional funding to help recovery efforts for the California wildfires and several hurricanes, including Hurricane Ida. Biden administration officials are also asking for $6.4 billion to help with resettling vulnerable Afghans in the United States.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the request for disaster relief necessary to help communities recover quickly from the destruction caused by hurricanes, wildfires and flooding.

"Given the scale and scope of these natural disasters, everyone must work together to get Americans the help they desperately need," he said in a statement. Schumer also toured storm damage from Ida with the president on Tuesday afternoon in the New York borough of Queens. Biden visited areas in New Jersey hit by Ida earlier Tuesday.

The money to resettle vulnerable Afghans comes as the Biden administration estimates that 65,000 will be brought to the U.S. by the end of the month. An additional 30,000 would arrive over the course of the next 12 months. The U.S. and allies evacuated about 124,000 people last month from Kabul, the Afghan capital.

"This money is certainly critical ... to make sure that we are fulfilling this bipartisan commitment to our Afghan allies and partners," a senior administration official said Tuesday on a call with reporters.

Shalanda Young, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in a blog post that aid would be used for security screenings as well as humanitarian assistance to Afghans through the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. It would also include funding for public health screenings and vaccinations.

"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," she wrote.

She said the short-term funding request would help address urgent needs but also provide Congress additional time to pass full-year funding bills.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Biden wants Congress to allocate billions of dollars to help deal with two huge issues - natural disasters and resettling Afghan evacuees. The request represents two of the ongoing challenges that the Biden administration is facing right now. NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez reports.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: The White House is calling for more than $24 billion to help with ongoing wildfires in California and hurricanes that have hit the United States. President Biden traveled to New York and New Jersey yesterday, where he blamed the devastation caused by the latest storm Ida on climate change.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The nation and the world are in peril. And that's not hyperbole. That is a fact. They've been warning us the extreme weather would get more extreme over the decade, and we're living it in real time now.

ORDOÑEZ: Biden officials are also asking for $6.4 billion to help resettle vulnerable Afghans who were evacuated when the United States ended the war. The administration estimates that 65,000 Afghans will be brought to the U.S. by the end of the month, with thousands more over the next year. The money would go to security screenings and public health checks. It would also provide those allowed into the country help with their basic needs.

MATTHEW SOERENS: A week or so ago, we were being told that, well, Afghans are going to be paroled in and it's - we don't know if there's going to be governmental funding to help with that.

ORDOÑEZ: That's Matthew Soerens of the national resettlement agency World Relief. He and others have been critical of the administration's decision to leave so many Afghan allies behind. But he said it was important for the U.S. to contribute funds.

SOERENS: There has been really great private support from churches, individuals, and we're still going to need that. We always do with refugee resettlement. But for the government to basically provide at least the normal funding they do for refugee resettlement is an important step.

ORDOÑEZ: The Biden administration wants Congress to move quickly and include the funding in legislation that would help avert a government shutdown at the end of this month.

Franco Ordoñez, NPR News, Washington.

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