Mayorkas signals FEMA prepared for hurricane season, but needs funding

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said during an interview with the Associated Press that the U.S. is prepared to go into an intense hurricane and wildfire season, but he did raise concerns about budget shortages.

“We expect the disaster relief fund, which is the critical fund that we use to resource impacted communities, we expect it will run out by mid-August. And we need Congress to fund the disaster relief fund,” he told the AP.

The Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) is the primary funding mechanism through which the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides aid to disaster-stricken areas of the country.

Spending on the DRF has increased over time from an average of $5 billion per year between 1992 and 2004 to nearly $17 billion per year between 2005 and 2021, according to

This year, FEMA had $49 billion in the DRF, and it has already spent $26 billion before the start of hurricane season. When the fund runs out, FEMA can divert emergency funds from other programs, and they are authorized use up to $34 million in other budgetary resources.

Mayorkas spoke to the AP while visiting FEMA, an agency that falls under the DHS. Experts think that this year could be one of the busiest Atlantic hurricane seasons on record as climate changes causes storms to be more intense.

The first named storm of the season, Tropical Storm Alberto, brought heavy rain to parts of Mexico.

Mayorkas said that the department is well equipped to deal with hurricanes and other natural disasters this summer, adding that more intense national disasters, partially due to climate change, have allowed the agency to gain experience in dealing with crises.

“As the impacts of climate change have been more and more evident, we have seen and experienced increasing frequency and gravity of extreme weather events,” Mayorkas said.

Earlier this week, environmental and labor groups petitioned FEMA to include extreme heat and wildfire smoke as major disasters under the act that spells out federal disaster responses. This call comes as large swathes of the U.S. are sweltering under record-breaking temperatures.

Mayorkas signaled that extreme heat could soon qualify as a major disaster under the law.

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