WASHINGTON — The White House is asking Congress for at least $30 billion to help fund the resettlement of tens of thousands of Afghans and to pay for the recovery from Hurricane Ida and other recent natural disasters.
The short-term budgetary request to Congress, called a continuing resolution, includes $6.4 billion to help fund the processing and resettlement of Afghan refugees, at least $10 billion for recovery from Hurricane Ida and $14 billion for other natural disasters, an administration official said on a call with reporters.
President Joe Biden has been grappling with a dueling crisis through the month of August. The U.S. had to scramble to evacuate more than 124,000 Americans and Afghans from Afghanistan as the Taliban took control of the country sooner than anticipated. It has also seen fires ravage the Western states as Ida has devastated communities in Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, and New Jersey.
The U.S. anticipates bringing 64,000 Afghans to the U.S. by the end of this month and 30,000 over the next 12 months, the official said. Of the funding for the refugees, $2.4 billion will go to pay for the Defense Department’s operations overseas where the Afghans are being held and processed. An additional $1.7 billion will go to the Department of Health and Human Services to provide funding and resources to the Afghans to help them set up a new home in the U.S., including medical treatment, housing assistance, and English lessons.
The funding for Afghans refugees would also go to support transportation costs between overseas processing sites and the United States, security screenings, humanitarian assistance, public health screenings and vaccinations. The administration official said Afghans "will receive similar benefits to refugees." After 12 months in the U.S., the Afghans will be eligible to apply to become LPRs — lawful permanent residents — and receive so-called “green cards.”
The requested $10 billion for Ida recovery is only an initial estimate and the administration plans to work with Congress to reach a more specific number, the administration official said.
“We fully expect that Hurricane Ida will significantly increase the need for disaster response funding by at least $10 billion,” the official said. “And while it will take time to assess the damage and to arrive at a more specific estimate, we are committed to working with Congress to address those needs as well.”
The request also includes funding for hurricanes over the past 18 months, including Laura and Delta, along with the Puerto Rico earthquake and numerous wildfires.
President Joe Biden was in New York and New Jersey on Tuesday surveying the damage after traveling to Louisiana last week and linked the disasters to the growing effects of climate change.
"They've been warning us the extreme weather would get more extreme over the decades, and we're living in real time now," Biden said during a stop in Queens, N.Y.
Along with seeking additional funding by year's end from Congress, Biden is trying to get Congress to pass a $500 billion infrastructure bill and an additional $3.5 trillion package that includes funds for education, elder care and combating climate change. Biden has used the recent devastation from Ida to make a pitch for the bills to pay for better water infrastructure and clean energy initiatives.
"These disasters aren't going to stop," Biden said. "They're only going to come with more frequency and ferocity and I said I'm working in Congress to pass two important pieces of legislation."
In a memo to House Democrats obtained by NBC News, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield framed the messaging effort around the infrastructure agenda as a boon to the middle class and casts Republican opponents as fighting to protect wealthy donors and Wall Street.
“President Biden believes this comes down to a simple proposition: Scranton, PA v. Park Avenue," the memo said. "Leveling the playing field and ensuring that those who have prospered - the wealthiest and profitable corporations - pay their fair share so that working families, care workers, teachers, firefighters, and nurses get a fighting chance.”