FEMA Official Claps Back At Sen. Merkley For Claims That ICE Diverted Disaster Relief Funds

Virginia Kruta | Associate Editor

Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley went public with a document that he claimed was proof that the Department of Homeland Security had diverted some $10 million in funding from FEMA to ICE.

Sen. Merkley revealed the information on MSNBC Tuesday evening on “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

The information was presented in such a way that it appeared as though funding designated for disaster relief was being funneled away even as the massive Hurricane Florence was charging toward the Carolinas.

FEMA responded, stating that no money was actually being taken away from disaster relief — rather, it was taken from “routine operating expenses,” and due to limitations on certain appropriations, “could not have been used for hurricane response.”

Merkley continued pressing the narrative, however, appearing on CNN’s “New Day” on Wednesday morning with the same story.

FEMA responded once again, saying that a call to Merkley’s office — with the intent of correcting the record — had resulted in dismissal. “We were told ‘It’s a TV hit, you take it where you can,'” FEMA spokesperson Jenny Burke tweeted. “Regardless of the facts?”

What Merkley failed to mention — in any interview — was the fact that the document he showed details which part of FEMA’s budget the money transferred was designated to come from.

“FEMA will curtail training, travel, public engagement sessions, IT security support and infrastructure maintenance, and IT investments in the legacy grants systems for transition to the Grants Management Modernization Program,” CNN reports from a copy of the document.

The money that was transferred, just under $9.8 million, accounts for less than 1 percent of FEMA’s total budget of over $1 billion.

Neither the office of Sen. Jeff Merkley nor “The Rachel Maddow Show” responded to requests for comment on this issue.

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