Tester highlights Montana flooding, impact of House cuts on emergency response

Senator questions adequacy of federal resources following dramatic budget cuts by House of Representatives

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today used a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to highlight how dramatic cuts to emergency responders by the House of Representatives could impact Montana communities facing widespread flooding.

Tester, in an exchange with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, cited a recent decision by the House Appropriations Committee to gut the federal emergency response budget, even following devastating flooding and deadly tornadoes across the nation.

“Does the recently passed House Homeland Security appropriations bill even come close to providing what you need?” Tester asked Fugate.  “In my understanding, it’s at least a billion dollars short.”

“You know what the needs are out there,” added Tester, a member of the Homeland Security Committee which oversees FEMA.  “You’re the guy on the ground.  You’re the guy the Senate and the House I think look to, to make sure there’s adequate funding out there.  Is it adequate or is it not?”

Fugate acknowledged that FEMA is still assessing damage from weather disasters across the country to determine if their resources are adequate.  He also acknowledged the possibility that FEMA may be forced to request emergency additional resources to address disasters in Montana and elsewhere across the country.

Other members of the Appropriations Committee agreed with Tester, expressing concern that the House of Representatives “short-changed” the federal disaster relief fund by as much as $3 billion, and are attempting to pay for past disasters with funding intended for current and future efforts.

Tester also used the hearing to highlight Montana communities affected by ongoing flood waters.

“I flew over southern Montana and saw the roads and the bridges that are out, and I have northern Montana just getting hit this week,” Tester told Fugate.  “We’ve got Roundup that’s going to be flooded again, and we’ve got a levy in Glasgow that’s about to be breached.”

Video of Tester’s exchange with Fugate is available online HERE.

Tester recently launched an online flood resource center, tester.senate.gov/flood, for Montanans affected by the flooding.  He also recently joined Governor Brian Schweitzer to see firsthand affected communities across the state.