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US Congress Considers Emergency Aid to Florida Hurricane Victims  - 2004-09-07

As the state of Florida continues to cope with damage from two successive hurricanes, Congress is moving to make more money available for emergency operations and relief.

Returning to work after a long recess, House and Senate lawmakers turned their attention to recovery needs in Florida, battered by hurricanes Charley and Frances.

The government's Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) is on the verge of running out of money to deal with a range of natural disasters, including those in Florida.

President Bush asked Congress for $2 billion in additional emergency funding as people in Florida struggle with damage caused by the two storms.

"Clearly, the state of Florida is reeling under this one-two punch that we have just been subjected to, and as a result we've got to act and act quickly," said Florida Senator Bill Nelson.

Senate Majority leader, Bill Frist, emphasized the importance of moving quickly to get additional money into the hands of government agencies dealing with the situation.

"I recognize the importance of getting this money as quickly as possible in the people's hands [so they don't have to be] worried about money coming, and they will be able to take care of people in Florida and with emergencies around the country," he added.

With estimates of the damage in his state still rising, Florida Congressman Bill Young underscored the importance of quick action.

"Seldom has any one state been affected with a disaster such as the state of Florida has in the last couple of weeks," said Mr. Young. "With tropical storm Bonnie, hurricane Charley, hurricane Frances, every section of the great state of Florida has been affected."

Losses in Florida from hurricanes Charley and Frances are in the billions of dollars, with at least 30 deaths blamed on the storms.