Irene`s federal cost USD 1.5 bn: White House

The White House has estimated that Hurricane Irene will cost federal taxpayers USD 1.5 billion in disaster relief.

Last Updated: Sep 06, 2011, 13:06 PM IST

Washington: The White House has estimated that
Hurricane Irene will cost federal taxpayers USD 1.5 billion in disaster relief, further ballooning a government account that
was already the focus of fresh partisan friction between
President Barack Obama and Congress.

The preliminary estimate, released by White House budget
director Jacob Lew, is on top of USD 5.2 billion needed for
other recent disasters, including tornadoes that levelled much
of Joplin, Missouri. Lew said the USD 1.5 billion should last
through next year.

The Obama administration has said last month`s debt
ceiling deal with Congress allows the government to pay for
disaster spending by borrowing, which increases federal
deficits.

That is a longtime practice for financing emergencies. The House`s No 2 Republican, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, has said disaster spending should be offset by cutting other parts of the budget.

In a blog he posted announcing the initial estimate, Lew
said the administration would work with Congress to finance
the disaster spending but he showed no sign that the administration would back down.

"We are one country. A disaster in one corner is felt by
Americans all across our land. That is why when it comes to
taking care of our neighbours in need, we will not let
politics get in the way and will do what is right to help them
recover and rebuild," Lew wrote.

PTI