Portman, Tillis introduce bill to authorize $86.6B for Disaster Relief Fund

U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced legislation that would appropriate $86.6 billion in emergency funding for the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) through Nov. 21.

Sen. Portman on Sept. 17 sponsored S. 4618 with lead cosponsor Sen. Tillis to replenish the DRF, which is operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), so that it may continue the enhanced federal unemployment insurance benefit of $300 per week, and provide additional resources to support the federal government’s response to catastrophic wildfires in the West and other natural disasters, such as the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast.

“Before Congress adjourns for the election, the House and Senate should act to replenish FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund,” Sen. Portman said. “Thanks to the president’s executive action, this fund is also ensuring that Americans who lost their job through no fault of their own can make ends meet.” 

“Congress must ensure this important lifeline has sufficient funds to assist those in need, and I am proud to co-introduce this legislation with Senator Portman to replenish the Disaster Relief Fund,” said Sen. Tillis.

The CARES Act appropriated $45 billion to the DRF, of which $44 billion has been obligated to cover six weeks worth of lost wages assistance per state, according to information provided by Sen. Portman’s office, which noted that the Lost Wages Assistance program provided $300 per week to complement each state’s unemployment insurance benefit. Once each state uses its six weeks worth of funding, the DRF will have less than what FEMA said would be necessary to fight natural disasters, according to the information.  

At the same time, the DRF also is funding ongoing COVID-19 support, according to the senator’s office.  

“If Congress cannot come together to negotiate another COVID-19 response package, then at the very least we must act to extend these enhanced federal unemployment benefits and help those impacted by the recent wildfires and natural disasters,” Sen. Portman said. “I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this important legislation.”