WASHINGTON – President Bush (search) asked Congress late Monday for more than $7.1 billion to help Florida and other Southeastern states recover from their lashing by four hurricanes.
It was Bush's third request for supplemental storm aid to Capitol Hill.
Congress has already approved Bush's first request of $2 billion and is considering his second, $3.1 billion proposal — meaning the price tag for all three should exceed $12.2 billion. The government will have to borrow money to pay for the packages, adding to already huge federal deficits.
The latest request includes $4.5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (search), which provides assistance to individuals and to state and local governments.
That means that if the requests are all approved, FEMA would get more than $8 billion for the four storms that have pummeled the Southeast since mid-August. The most FEMA has ever spent for a natural disaster was $7 billion after the 1994 Northridge earthquake in California.
The latest request was coming to Capitol Hill as the remnants of Hurricane Jeanne (search), the fourth in a row, rumbled north into Georgia after adding to the damage its predecessors caused in Florida.
While the first two requests focused on hurricanes Charley and Frances, the latest was supposed to include damage caused by Ivan — and some initial funds for recovery from Jeanne.
The new package also contains $889 million for the Defense Department to repair military facilities in the affected area.
Other requests in the $7.1 billion package include:
— $600 million to make emergency repairs to hurricane-damaged roads and highways.
— $472 million in Small Business administration loans for businesses and homeowners.
— About $400 million for the Agriculture Department to aid farmers suffering crop and other losses.
— $81 million for the Army Corps of Engineers to restore navigational channels and other repair projects.
— $132 million to repair major federal facilities, including installations of the Veterans Affairs Department and other agencies, including wildlife refuges.
— $50 million in disaster and famine relief assistance to Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica and other countries struck by the hurricanes.
The repeated pummeling has frustrated many in Florida and made some of its lawmakers impatient for more federal assistance.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said that even a $500 million farm aid package that he said Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman has discussed would cover no more than half his state's crop losses from Charley and Frances alone.
"They need help, and they need it now," Nelson said of his constituents.
The cumulative spending has also begun to irk conservative lawmakers. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., a leader of that group, said conservatives would probably propose paying for the latest package with budget savings but would broadly support aid in the end.
"Even the most committed green-eyeshade conservative in Congress is still broken-hearted for the families in Florida," he said in an interview.