Washington, D.C. (NBC) — It looks like the federal government may face a cash crunch responding to Hurricane Irene. Congress won't be back for another week, and one of the first things they may have to do is find more money to deal with the aftermath of the hurricane.
"I've told governors and mayors from across the affected area, if they need something, I want to know about it. We're going to make sure that we respond as quickly and effectively as possible," President Obama vowed. That could be expensive. Damage estimates from Irene top $2 billion, and that's just insured losses. States and the federal government may have to shell out billions more.
"We're there for the survivors. We'll be there through the length of these disasters," promised FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. But FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, only has about a billion dollars on hand, so they're putting payments for long-term projects from the joplin, missouri tornados on hold.
FEMA expects Congress will free up more money for Irene. If not, states already dealing with tight budgets may have to kick in even more. New York's already doubled the number of National Guard troops helping with the cleanup. It's all adding up.
FEMA says it'll take a few more days to get a handle on the total cost of the damage. Early estimates put the total loss figure at $7 billion.