Agencies Respond to Tornado Under Shadow of Sequester

May 21, 2013

Federal agencies snapped to respond Tuesday to the devastating Oklahoma tornadoes, the first major natural disaster to strike since sequester-related budget cuts took effect in March. Like most agencies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is having to absorb a 5 percent reduction that will cost its disaster relief fund about $950 million, according to the White House budget office.Although it’s “too soon” to assess whether the cuts are affecting FEMA’s response, “we’ll be asking that question,” John Hart, a spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla,, said in an email. The disaster relief fund currently has about $11.6 billion, Hart said.FEMA officials could not be reached for comment, but in a news release said they had already dispatched a team to Oklahoma City to coordinate with state and local governments on recovery operations. Also on the scene were urban search and rescue teams and a separate outfit to aid with communications, the release said.

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