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Posted at 3:31 p.m. on May 24, 2013
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., sent a “Dear Colleague” letter on Friday thanking his fellow representatives for their support in the days since a tornado hit his hometown of Moore and declaring that leaders have “assured” him the Sooner State will have the resources it needs to rebuild.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund has approximately $11.5 billion, which would be enough to cover the damage in Oklahoma unless other disasters hit. Cole was one of two members of Oklahoma’s 7-person congressional delegation to vote in favor of a disaster relief bill that provided funds to the Northeast in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. As CQ Roll Call first reported earlier this week, Oklahoma’s two Republican senators, Tom Coburn and James M. Inhofe, would like to see any future disaster bill offset.
Cole has been one of the rare voices in the Republican party to speak out in favor of disaster assistance even if it is not paid for by cutting elsewhere from the federal budget. Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y — who told GOP donors to quit giving to the party as it blocked Sandy relief — also said earlier this week that Oklahoma tornado relief should be approved without commensurate savings if needed.
Read the key sections of Cole’s letter after the jump.
The Oklahoma Insurance Commission has provided an initial estimate that this tornado caused $2 Billion in damage, much of which will be covered by private insurance. While there will be some need that is not covered by private coverage, it will be some time before that need is fully assessed. While the damage has been great, the resilience of my constituents in Central Oklahoma is greater. Supplies began pouring in almost immediately, and nearly $100 Million in private funds have been pledged to help the victims of this disaster recover.
While there has been talk about a supplemental appropriations bill, I have been assured that the amount of money in FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund (“DRF”) will be more than enough to cover this tornado as well as keep the fund current to address future disasters our country may face. The DRF currently stands at $11.5 Billion and earlier this week, the House Appropriations Committee reported out a Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill for FY 14 that added $6.2 Billion to the DRF. Additionally, both President Obama and Speaker Boehner have assured me that however severe the damage, Oklahoma will have everything we need to recover. In the unlikely event that a supplemental appropriation is needed, I am optimistic that it will have strong bipartisan support.
More disaster relief money could be necessary before the end of the fiscal year this fall. Government forecasters are predicting a busy hurricane season.
On Thursday, Gerry Bell of the Climate Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explained the concerns about the 2013 season.
“This year, oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the Atlantic basin are expected to produce more and stronger hurricanes,” Bell said. “These conditions include weaker wind shear, warmer Atlantic waters and conducive winds patterns coming from Africa.”
Niels Lesniewski contributed meteorological expertise to this report.