Trump Might Redirect Disaster Aid Funds To Build His Wall, Which Is Troubling

by Chelsea Stewart
Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Nobody wants to pay for President Trump's border wall with Mexico — not Democrats, not our southern neighbor and not a lot of taxpayers. Still, he's determined to get it done, weighing any and every option available that will get him the $5 billion-plus he's repeatedly asked for. If you're wondering who will pay for the border wall now, there's a new update: Trump is reportedly considering using funds meant for disaster aid and recovery to fulfill his promise. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for any further comment on the matter, but did not hear back by the time of publication. Yikes.

According to a Jan. 10 report from The New York Times, the White House is determining whether it can pull funds from the Army Corps’ $13.9 billion budget, which was allocated in 2018 after a series of major natural disasters hit the United States, such as Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that hit Puerto Rico in 2017 and left catastrophic damage worth an estimated $100 billion.

Apparently, officials have been determining whether they could do such a thing without having to declare a national emergency, which Trump previously said he was considering. But Democrats are already on the defense. A congressional source close to the situation told The New York Daily News on Jan. 10, "There are several discussions being had that would aim to protect Texas, California, and Puerto Rico's disaster recovery dollars from being used for the unintended purpose of an expensive and ineffective wall."

Mario Tama/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Additionally, it seems that storm and disaster aid is needed now more than ever. More than $2 billion of the Army Corps' budget is supposed to help recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, which is nearly half of what Trump is asking for to build his wall, reports NBC News. The island is still not done recovering and the recovery efforts have been largely criticized, with many calling out FEMA for its lack of supplies and challenges in delivering aid. In September 2018, CBS News reported major problems like slow responses from FEMA regarding recovery efforts, closed schools, shuttered businesses and more — even nearly a year after the storm hit. In October of 2018, a resident told USA Today, “It’s like the hurricane hit yesterday." FEMA did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's request for comment on Puerto Rico's recovery. A government report from the island, shared in December of 2018, also said the storm had a $43 billion impact on Puerto Rico's economy, beyond the cost of the damage itself.

Hurricane Maria isn't the only major disaster in recent years. In November of 2018, there were wildfires that shredded parts of California and killed 85 people, per USA Today. And in September of that year, Hurricane Florence left the Carolinas with serious flooding and other devastation. Dr. Timothy Hall, a senior research scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, tells Elite Daily that storms are indeed worsening, which may result in more serious damage, so pulling funds from storm aid doesn't seem like the best idea.

Sean Rayford/Getty Images News/Getty Images

And even if Trump was somehow able to pull funds from storm aid, there could be other negative effects. According to the Times, Congress might shut down some of Trump's other efforts if he makes such an aggressive move. Such a move could also face backlash, as was the case in September 2018, when it was reported that Trump pulled $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies to allegedly pay for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers. Elite Daily reached out the White House and FEMA for further comment on the matter, but did not hear back. A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security tells Elite Daily via statement at the time:

Under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from [FEMA] to immigration enforcement efforts. This is a sorry attempt to push a false agenda at a time when the administration is focused on assisting millions on the East Coast facing a catastrophic disaster. The money in question — transferred to ICE from FEMA’s routine operating expenses — could not have been used for hurricane response due to appropriation limitations.

If the disaster aid funds don't work out, another option Trump has is to declare a national emergency, which would allow him to pull funds from the Department of Defense and other sources to finance the wall. Or he can reach an agreement with Democrats, although they have vehemently stated that a wall is a no-go and that they're only willing to pay $1.3 billion for border fencing and barriers.

Either way, this doesn't look good. We'll see if Trump asks anyone else for the funds.