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FEMA issues dire warnings ahead of strongest hurricane 'in decades'

FEMA issues dire warnings ahead of strongest hurricane 'in decades'

"It takes more than FEMA to respond to storms of this magnitude", FEMA Administrator Brock Long said in a statement Tuesday.

The administration, however, has a fraught track record when it comes to hurricane relief.

It is estimated that Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm, had total costs of $125 billion while Hurricane Irma had costs of $50 billion and Hurricane Maria cost $90 billion, according to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Where did that money come from?

"This is a scandal", Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley said in a statement, after his office released the documents. He accused the administration of diverting funds from hurricane relief just as hurricane season was starting.

Merkley rejected DHS's claim in an appearance on "The Rachel Maddow Show" Tuesday night, noting that the budget document he obtained shows the "money came from response and recovery".

Because of the loss of the $9.75 million, FEMA "will curtail training, travel, public engagement sessions, IT security support and infrastructure maintenance", DHS writes.

FEMA receives more than $16 billion in funding each year, about twice the funding earmarked for ICE.

The almost $10 million diverted to ICE comes from a roughly $1 billion operating budget that supports much of FEMA's efforts beyond the immediate response to a declared emergency, said a former FEMA official who asked not to be identified because he still does business with the agency.

"Under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from @fema to immigration enforcement efforts", Houlton tweeted.

DHS officials said the account supports FEMA headquarters operational expenses and can not be used for disaster response. DHS/FEMA stand fiscally and operationally ready to support current and future response and recovery needs, ' he added.

Tyler Houlton, a spokesman for Homeland Security, FEMA's parent agency, referred questions to the inspector general's office, which didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Politico, citing three people familiar with the situation, reports that Long used the cars during commutes from his home in North Carolina to Washington and the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general report is now looking into whether or not taxpayer funds had footed Long's bill for travel.

It is true that Congress sets funding levels for all parts of government through the appropriations process.

It's not the first time DHS has redirected money from other agencies to ICE. A small amount - less than $40,000 - was also diverted from "counter terrorism" operations, according to a copy of the 39-page document DHS sent congressional appropriators in June notifying them of the transfers, which went through in August.

"This is yet another example of the Trump Administration's outrageously misplaced homeland security priorities", said Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., the top Democrat on the House Committee on Homeland Security. Both signed off on the reallocation, Republican and Democratic aides told CNN.