Lawmakers mull emergency aid as disasters pile up

By Andres Picon | 06/17/2024 06:21 AM EDT

Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz has invoked the deadly Maui fire as he urges reluctant colleagues to approve billions of dollars in supplemental funding.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), shown speaking at the COP28 Summit in December, is leading a push in Congress to approve additional disaster aid as hurricane and wildfire season approaches. Joshua Bickel/AP

Ten months after a deadly wildfire ripped through the coastal community of Lahaina in Hawaii, Sen. Brian Schatz is urging colleagues to do two things: Approve more disaster aid and overhaul the way some federal agencies distribute the money.

In floor speeches, meetings with congressional leaders and conversations with Biden administration officials, the Hawaii Democrat has invoked last year’s blaze that killed 101 — and the ensuing uncertainty about how Maui residents will rebuild — as a cautionary tale of what could happen across the country this summer.

“We’ve waited a long time, but we can’t wait any longer. The disasters keep piling up, and with them, the urgent needs of survivors,” Schatz said recently at the Capitol. “Congress needs to step up and help here.”


“We need more money,” said Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), whose home state was devastated by record flooding last summer.