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National Govt & Politics
Federal disaster relief tab continues to increase with damage from Hurricane Irma
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Federal disaster relief tab continues to increase with damage from Hurricane Irma

Federal disaster relief tab continues to increase with damage from Hurricane Irma
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

Federal disaster relief tab continues to increase with damage from Hurricane Irma

The end of the nation's twelve year streak when it comes to avoiding major hurricane strikes on the U.S. coastline is already having budget implications for the federal government, with the tab only expected to grow as Hurricane Irma moves away from the state of Florida, as state, local and federal officials will begin to start figuring out how much was damaged, repeating the process from Hurricane Harvey just two weeks ago.

On Sunday, President Donald Trump approved an initial federal emergency declaration for nine counties in Florida, opening the spigot of disaster funding for damage related to Irma.

"Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster," the White House announced.

The office of Florida Gov. Rick Scott said that the "Major Disaster Declaration" from Mr. Trump authorized:

+ 100 percent federal reimbursement for evacuation costs, the costs associated with Emergency Operation Centers. After one month, the feds will pick up 75 percent of the tab, for both local and state expenses.

+ The feds pay 75 percent of the cost for debris removal by individual counties.

"As Hurricane Irma moves through Florida, Governor Scott will work with President Trump and FEMA to approve more funding to additional communities affected by the storm," the Governor's office stated.

Last Friday, the Congress gave final approval to $15.3 billion in emergency disaster relief aid for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Small Business Administration, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

But lawmakers fully acknowledged that they were going to need to approve even more in the weeks ahead.

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) said he had been told last Thursday by the head of FEMA that an extra $7.4 billion in disaster funds for that agency would run out within weeks.

“His response was that these funds will last until the end of this month,” Hastings said.

"As I said before, our committee is ready and willing to address any additional funding needs that may arise as a result of Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and other major disasters," said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (D-NJ), the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, which will have to deal with additional disaster aid requests.

In one example of how Harvey and Irma have already impacted the federal budget, the New York Times reported on Sunday that the Trump Administration had been considering a plan from a special commission on opioid problems in the U.S., to use money normally in the FEMA budget to fund treatment options in the states.

But, with the billions needed in federal disaster aid, that plan from Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey to tap that FEMA money seemed unlikely to occur.

Another change came in a massive spending bill that's expected to get a final vote in the House this week, which did away with a GOP plan to shift $857 million in unused FEMA disaster funds to help build a wall along the border with Mexico.

Instead of taking money from FEMA, House Republicans decided to move $857 million from something known as the "Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program Account."

Already, the Governor of Texas has said he thinks his state will need over $100 billion in disaster aid from the feds. Irma will only add to those totals in Florida.

And unfortunately, there could be more on the way.

Read More

News

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  • Memorial Day -- it is a holiday many Americans celebrate by spending time with loved ones and enjoying the May weather.  >> Read more trending news But how might some of the more than 21 million U.S. veterans view and celebrate one the country's most somber holidays, which was created to remember the men and women who died fighting for their country? Retired U.S. Army Gen. Bob Drolet told WHNT, 'We're engaged in conflict today in the Middle East and there are people who are giving their lives almost on a daily basis. So you have to have a day where you remember the sacrifices.'  And there are many sacrifices to remember. According to findings from the Pew Research Center, since Sept. 11, 2001, about half of U.S. vets have served alongside a comrade who was killed, with that number rising for men and women in combat.   And because of those firsthand horrors experienced in battle, many soldiers and veterans spend Memorial Day a bit differently than the average American might.   Take Capt. David Danelo, the author of 'The Return' and a Marine Corps infantry officer who served in Iraq. 'I'm proud to be a civilian and I'm proud to be a Marine,' he said.  In honor of Memorial Day, Danelo talked to Legacy.com and said that on Memorial Day, he not only remembers his fallen comrades, but goes to visit the graves of those who may have been forgotten. 'There's one cemetery in Philadelphia that has a Civil War veteran who I'll go see. He’s long been forgotten and nobody thinks about him. I just walk around there and pay my respects to (his) memory.'  The 'Flags In' ceremony is another way a lot of soldiers commemorate Memorial Day: placing flags on the graves at Arlington National Cemetery.  'It's kind of an emotional process to know, 'cause I feel connected to each one of these soldiers that served before me. So it's kind of like a brotherhood thing. We just want to take care of our brothers and sisters, make sure they look good,' Pfc. Michael Samuel told USA Today.  But still, at least for wounded retired Army Staff Sgt. Luke Murphy, there is a feeling that civilians could make more of an effort to pay respects to fallen soldiers.  In a CNN op-ed piece Murphy gave an emotional account of losing his friend and fellow service member Sgt. 1st Class Jason Bishop while serving in Iraq.  Murphy wrote, in part, 'When soldiers die, they don't just roll over and quit like in the movies. They fight like hell. ... And sometimes they lose. The biggest loser is the family, though. ... The next biggest losers are the guys who were with the soldier. Many times they've got survivor's guilt. ... So, what do nonfamily members and nonveterans think about on Memorial Day? Sometimes I think they just don't give a damn.' Murphy suggests that people who want to show respect for members of the military make a donation to organizations such as Homes for Our Troops. That's the program that built Murphy and his family a new home that is accessible for someone with his injuries.   So however you choose to spend Memorial Day, whether by the pool or at a parade, try to remember why the holiday exists. 
  • An Oxford, Mississippi, police officer has been charged with the murder of a north Mississippi mother. >> Read more trending news The shooting happened Sunday afternoon in the 1000 block of Suncrest Drive. Officers arrived to the scene to find an “unresponsive person” who was pronounced dead at the scene. The victim was identified as Dominique Lashelle Clayton, 32. She was the mother of four, according to neighbors. Friends told WHBQ-TV that Clayton was shot in the back of the head during a domestic situation. Her 8-year-old son found her after being dropped off at the house by a family member on Sunday. Interim Oxford Police Chief Jeff McCutchen said the department learned on Sunday that Matthew Paul Kinne, an Oxford police officer, was possibly 'involved' with Clayton. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation took over the case, and Kinne was developed as a suspect. Dominiques Clayton's sister, Shyjuan, said Kinne and Dominique Clayton had been having an affair. Kinne was arrested Monday night and is being held in the Panola County jail. He is charged with murder. “We will not hide behind our badge,' McCutchen said. 'Dominque was a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend and a member of our community. This day is about her.” Kinne has been a police officer with the Oxford Police Department for four years.
  • Operating rooms at Seattle Children’s Hospital were shut down after discovery of Aspergillus, a fungus that can cause infections, hospital staff said Tuesday. >> Read more trending news 'Last weekend, air tests detected Aspergillus in several operating rooms and equipment storage rooms at our main campus,' a hospital spokeswoman said. 'Aspergillus is a common mold often present in the air we breathe. However, in rare instances, it can cause complications for surgical patients. Though we believe the risk to our patients is very low, we will be contacting our surgical patients who may have been exposed. The fungus postponed between 20 and 50 surgeries per day, and 3,000 patients were being notified, hospital staff said. A patient hotline has been activated: (206) 987-1061 'Patient safety is our top priority, and we are taking this situation very seriously. All affected operating rooms have been closed and will remain so until we are confident that the areas are clear of Aspergillus. We are postponing or diverting some surgical cases and moving others to our Bellevue campus. We will also perform some cases in areas of our hospital that have been determined to be clear of Aspergillus, like our cardiac catheterization facility. We are working with an outside industrial hygienist to investigate the source of the Aspergillus and implement mitigation measures. We have also reported the situation to the Washington State Department of Health.' Most people breathe in Aspergillus spores every day without getting sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control. “However, people with weakened immune systems or lung diseases are at a higher risk of developing health problems due to Aspergillus,' according to the CDC's site. 'The types of health problems caused by Aspergillus include allergic reactions, lung infections, and infections in other organs.” Seattle Children’s Hospital did 11,498 outpatient surgeries and 4,586 inpatient surgeries across their facilities in the 2018 fiscal year, according to hospital statistics. Seattle Children’s has roughly 50,000 annual emergency department visits and 38,000 urgent care visits across all locations.
  • A controversy over a massive American flag is now reaching a new level as the company responsible for flying the flag is rallying community support to fight the City of Statesville, North Carolina, which has reportedly filed a lawsuit to have the flag removed. >> Read more trending news Camping World posted a message to its Facebook page on Saturday saying the city has filed an injunction against Camping World, fining the company $50 per day going back to Oct. 15, 2018. That totals nearly $11,000. The company said it flies the 40-by-80-foot flag outside of its Gander RV location as a way of paying tribute to the country’s military veterans. The city had compromised last year by allowing an exemption for a larger flag than what city ordinance permits, but not the size that Camping World was seeking. The company chose to fly the flag anyway and Camping World’s CEO has pushed for a change of the ordinance. An online petition has also been started at Change.org in support of the company keeping the flag flying. As of Monday morning, more than 7,900 people had signed the petition.  WSOC-TV has covered the debate for years. In 2015, the state said the store couldn't fly the flag because of a city ordinance.  The city's lawsuit claims a flag within 100 feet of a highway cannot be larger than 25 by 40 feet. The company's CEO said similar flags are up at more than 200 stores across the country, including several cities in North Carolina, none of which have had any problems with them. “I don’t care if it goes to $500 a day. It's not coming down,” Marcus Lemonis, CEO and chairman of Camping World and Gander RV, said. Lemonis said it’s personal to him. “My family has been car dealers, had been car dealers since the 1960s, and our key trademark was always flying our flag in our dealership in South Florida,” he said. “My family is largely immigrants of the country.” Council minutes from October show leaders tried to amend the ordinance to allow a flag of this size, but the motion failed 3 to 5. The City of Statesville sent a statement saying Gander RV applied to fly a flag far smaller than the one the company put up. A spokesperson said the city only started fining the company after asking it to replace the flag several times.
  • A 3-year-old Georgia girl died Saturday after what police described as a heinous sexual assault and beating. The girl, identified by police as Janiyah Armanie Brooks, of Albany,  died at 12:15 p.m. Saturday at an Atlanta hospital, where she had been on a ventilator, WALB-TV reported. >> Read more trending news  Update 7:15 p.m. EDT May 21: A GoFundMe account has been set up in the name of Janiyah Brooks, who died Saturday after a brutal attack and sexual assault. So far, the fund has raised almost $4,000 of its $5,000 goal to help the family of the 3-year-old with burial expenses. The girl’s mother and stepfather were both arrested and are facing numerous charges in the case. Update 10:15 a.m. EDT May 20: Janiyah was unresponsive when Albany police responded to her home one week ago. She had been severely beaten with injuries to her head, ribs and hands, according to police. She also had injuries to her vaginal area. It wasn’t the first time Janiyah had been hurt, an investigation by the agency’s family protection unit and the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services found. An exam showed further evidence of old wounds, Albany police said in a news release. Her parents called 911 around 7:30 a.m. May 13, but they did not disclose the nature of the problem with their daughter. Her stepfather, 20-year-old Gregory Parker, only told officers the girl was unconscious, police said.  Parker was arrested on Friday in connection with the assault. The next day, Janiyah died, WALB-TV reported. Parker was initially arrested on charges of aggravated child molestation, rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated battery and first-degree cruelty to children. Police have not said if additional charges will be filed in light of his stepdaughter’s death. Original report: Albany police responded to the girl's home about 7:30 a.m. May 13 for an 'unknown problem,' the department said in a news release Friday. When officers arrived, Gregory Parker, 20, said his stepdaughter was 'unresponsive,' police said. Emergency personnel transported the girl to the hospital. Investigators said the girl 'had been severely beaten and sexually assaulted,' according to the news release. 'The child had injuries to her vaginal area, ribs, along with swollen hands and unknown trauma to her head,' the release said. 'She appeared to have old wounds, as well.' Parker, 20, was arrested and charged with rape, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, aggravated battery and first-degree child cruelty, authorities said. The girl's mother, 19-year-old Crystal Brooks, also faces charges of aggravated battery, battery, first-degree child cruelty and giving a false statement initially, police said. >> Read the Police Department's Facebook post here Medical examiners will perform an autopsy on the child Monday, officials said. Read more here or here.