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FEMA head denies intentionally misusing federal vehicles after report of watchdog probe

FEMA head denies intentionally misusing federal vehicles after report of watchdog probe”

Asked about the issue during a briefing on US preparations for Hurricane Florence, which is now barrelling toward the US Southeast coast as a Category 4 storm, FEMA Associate Administrator Jeff Byard said the agency still had "plenty" of resource to respond.

In a statement to CBS News on Thursday, Jessica Nalepa, director of external affairs for FEMA said, "Any questions regarding a particular investigation should be directed to Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General (DHS OIG)".

The budgeting document, "Department of Homeland Security FY 2018 transfer and reprogramming notifications", indicates that $9,755,303 was taken from FEMA, about 0.9 percent of the agency's listed overall budget, and given to support ICE.

The Department of Homeland Security's internal watchdog office is investigating whether Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long used government resources for personal travel. Instead, it was money from an administrative account, and there is $25.6 billion in FEMA Disaster Relief Fund.

He told USA TODAY that after the devastation of last year's storms, including hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma, FEMA should have the funds it needs to be prepared for another disastrous hurricane season.

Merkley says the money was for an expansion including "more detention centers".

The transfer was approved by the Republican chairs of the House and Senate Homeland Security appropriations subcommittees, but not by the rest of the subcommittees' members.

The deal struck between Republican and Democratic lawmakers will keep the government open through spending bills that include a "continuing resolution" that fund federal agencies until December 7.

"It wasn't enough to rip thousands of children out of the arms of their parents", Merkley said in a statement Tuesday night.

A spokesman for DHS denied any disaster relief funding was transferred to immigration enforcement.

"We have plenty of resources both monetary, staff and commodities to respond to the unsafe storm that is Hurricane Florence", said administrator Jeff Byard.

Small's organization provided Merkley with the DHS document. "My pledge to each of you is that my administration will not rest until you have the resources, the tools, and the authorities you need to do your job, and do it properly and do it strong", he said.

Trump praised immigration and border agents at the White House last month amid calls from some Democrats to abolish ICE.

This June, a group of immigrant and human rights groups raised the alarm about ICE's requests for fund transfers, accusing DHS of "asking for forgiveness rather than permission after dramatically overspending its appropriated budget in ways both morally reprehensible and fiscally irresponsible". That includes staff, meetings and exercises, he said - all crucial to readiness for the next hurricane season.



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