At least 39 states are waiting for the federal government to provide more than $2 billion in promised emergency relief funding to help repair roads and bridges damaged by natural disasters, according to Stateline.org
That figure is 20 times what Congress usually sets aside each year for the Federal Highway Administration’s emergency relief program, the online state news and research service reported Monday.
Some of the requests for emergency highway money go back several years. But the record number of declared disasters in 2011 — 84 so far — has made a long wait for federal road aid even longer, contributing to state budget problems, and forcing states to come up with other ways to fund repairs.
“States do get reimbursed,” highway administration spokeswoman Nancy Singer told Stateline. “But it may take some time.”
Even though federal officials acknowledge the problem, there’s not much they can do about it unless Congress acts to provide the necessary funding.
The Senate passed a bill earlier this month that included nearly $2 billion to help erase the highway relief debt owed to the states.
But the version that finally passed the House failed to include the money because of differences over government spending priorities. Now it’s up to a conference committee to decide whether the states will get paid anything.
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