Things That Matter

Trump Administration Transferred Nearly $10 Million From FEMA To ICE For Detention Programs

The Trump administration took nearly $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) budget this summer to help the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to a budget report released last week. The document sent to Congress and released by Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, shows that FEMA cut funding on training, IT security and infrastructure investments. It also reveals that FEMA’s operations and support budget was transferred into accounts at ICE to pay for detention and removal operations as well as border fencing and technology.

A 39-page budget document shows that the Department of Homeland Security requested about $9.8 million be transferred from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Senator Merkley, appearing on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” said the Trump administration was taking money from FEMA’s “response and recovery” and “working hard to find funds for additional detention camps.”

Merkely said he was made aware of FEMA’s budget cuts while looking into a solution for family separation and the detention centers set up along the border. He said the document makes it clear ICE is using money from FEMA “to build more detention centers.” Merkely believes the budgeting reallocation happened in response to the administration’s zero-tolerance policy. The policy has led to thousands of families being separated and housed in detention centers, which he says may have increased the need for more money in ICE’s budget.

While the money transfer from FEMA to ICE is less than 1 percent of FEMA’s overall budget, the document does confirm that the money would be spent on ICE’s detention facilities.

The DHS, which includes both FEMA and ICE, told Congress that ICE needed $200 million to cover the costs of detaining and deporting more migrants than the agency expected. To cover the deficit, DHS “reprogrammed” its financial resources, which is allowed under budget rules. Because of the loss of the $9.75 million, FEMA “will curtail training, travel, public engagement sessions, IT security support and infrastructure maintenance,” the DHS writes. Without the money transfer, the document says “ICE will not be able to deport those who have violated immigration laws. ICE could also be forced to reduce its current interior enforcement operations.”

FEMA has acknowledged that funds were redirected but said the transfer hasn’t jeopardized relief efforts.

FEMA’s budget was decimated last year due to the barrage of storms and fires that affected the nation and the agency was criticized heavily for its handling of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

The DHS denies any money transferred came from FEMA’s disasters relief accounts, which pay for work related to hurricanes and other natural disasters.

“Under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from @fema to immigration enforcement efforts,” Tyler Q. Houlton, an agency spokesman, said on Twitter. “This is a sorry attempt to push a false agenda at a time when the administration is focused on assisting millions on the East Coast facing a catastrophic disaster.”

The report comes as the President is denying the number of casualties caused by Hurricane Maria last fall.

President Trump is defended his administration’s response to the devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico last year, arguing new findings that Hurricane Maria killed far more people than initially believed. It’s the latest defense since Trump claimed that the federal response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico was an “unsung success.”

According to the independent analysis commissioned by the governor of Puerto Rico, an estimated 2,975 more deaths than normal were recorded on the island from September 2017 to February 2018. The government’s first estimate was 64 deaths as a result of the hurricane. These numbers have left people wondering if similar results will happen again especially with the release of this document showing less funding for FEMA.

Many are questioning the transfer of money from FEMA to ICE, especially as Hurricane Florence hits the east coast.

Ray Zaccaro, Senator Merkley’s communications director, told NPR the administration’s response to the document has been indefensible.

“This comment from FEMA’s spokesperson is as factual as the president’s assertion that Administration’s response to Hurricane Maria was ‘incredibly successful’ and ‘one of the best jobs that’s ever been done.'” Zaccaro said.

The release of the documents come as Hurricane Florence emptied homes and hospitals in both South and North Carolina. Sixteen people have died in Hurricane Florence so far and hundreds of thousands of people remain without power as the storm drops a lot of rain on the region.


READ: Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria Death Toll Is Now Close To 3,000 People Instead Of The 64 People Originally Reported

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AOC And Chuck Schumer Announce Funeral Benefits For Covid-19 Deaths

Things That Matter

AOC And Chuck Schumer Announce Funeral Benefits For Covid-19 Deaths

More than 27 million people in the U.S. have tested positive for Covid-19 and more than 468,000 have died. The avoidable death toll has caused emotional and financial pain to hundreds of thousands of families across the country. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Chuck Schumer are teaming up to get people benefits to cover unexpected funeral costs.

Rep. AOC and Sen. Chuck Schumer are highlighting funeral benefits to reimburse the families of loved ones who died from Covid-19.

The U.S. government passed a Covid economic relief bill in December to offer some support to the struggling economy. The bill gave some relief to Americans, including $600 relief checks. The previous administration made a show of wanting $2,000 checks before allowing the $600 to go through. The Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan is fulfilling that promise by getting $1,400 checks to Americans to deliver the rest of that $2,000.

Another allocation in the package is $2 billion to reimburse people for some of the funeral costs for Covid victims. According to Bankrate, the average cost of a funeral is around $7,640. This is a tough amount of money for people to come up with without an economic crisis brought on by a pandemic.

Americans can apply for up to $7,000 in reimbursement to cover funeral costs because of Covid.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez understands the financial burden a sudden death in the family can cause. It is something that more than 400,000 families in the U.S. are dealing with as Covid continues to spread and kill thousands of people in the U.S. daily.

“I lost my Dad when I was about 18 years old, and the funeral expenses haunted and followed my family along with many other families in a similar position for years,” Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said at a news conference announcing the funds. “When you suddenly lose a loved one, you’re talking about an expense of four or five, seven, 10 thousand dollars.”

The benefits are retroactive to the beginning of the pandemic.

AOC is quick to respond on Twitter and confirmed that the funeral benefits are indeed retroactive to January 2020. This offers all families who lost a loved one last year to be eligible for a reimbursement of those funeral costs.

The death toll of Covid is expected to continue to climb as vaccines are rolling out and the race against variants is ongoing. Some new strains of the virus spread faster and there is still work to be done to see if they impact the effectiveness of current vaccines.

The money to cover the reimbursements has been allocated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The two New York politicians teamed up to make this possible with $260 million of those funds going to New Yorkers.

Communities of color are still facing a disproportionate share of the Covid burden.

According to a study by the American Heart Association, access to a hospital plays a big role in why communities of color are disproportionately impacted by Covid. One of the most glaring reasons for the devastation in non-white communities is that hospitals are predominately in white communities.

“Our findings suggest that in order to address disparities in the burden of COVID-19 among vulnerable patient groups, we must focus on structural reasons for the higher rates of viral transmission and hospitalizations for Black and Hispanic patients,” Dr. Fatima Rodriguez, lead author of the study, which was funded by the AHA, said in a statement.

READ: Maluma Invited Fans To A Meet And Greet But Now It’s Being Called A Covid-19 Super Spreader Event

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The New Mel Gibson Movie Is The ‘Tone-Deaf’ Portrayal Of A Puerto Rico Hurricane We Did Not Ask For

Entertainment

The New Mel Gibson Movie Is The ‘Tone-Deaf’ Portrayal Of A Puerto Rico Hurricane We Did Not Ask For

We’ll need to take a trip down memory lane for this one.

In the late 2000s to early 2010s, Mel Gibson’s career was tanking thanks to a series of controversies that were related to his homophobic, racist, and antisemitic outbursts.

In 2006, the Oscar-winning actor had been convicted of drunk driving and it had been reported that during the arrest he unleashed a “barrage of anti-Semitic remarks.” During his arrest, he accused Jewish people of being “responsible for all the wars in the world.” In July 2010, a leaked phone call between Gibson and his then-partner Oksana Grigorieva had revealed that he’d suggested that if she got “raped by a pack of n******”, it would be her fault. At the time, Gibson was barred from coming near Grigorieva or their daughter due to a domestic violence-related restraining order.

And yet, in 2020, it seems all is forgiven and Lionsgate has so wiped the racist, homophobic, and sexually abusive comments from their memory that they decided to crown him a hero.

Gibson is set to star in a heist film featuring minorities as criminals and himself as the white savior.

Recently it was announced that Mel Gibson will star in a film that features a hurricane disaster in Puerto Rico. “Force of Nature” stars Gibson as a “retired officer refusing to leave his apartment even as a category-five hurricane begins to hit Puerto Rico.” The twist? Gibson’s character is out to stop a group of local men planning to steal $55m during the catastrophe.

Seems kind of right up the alley of Alt-right men…

Soon after the trailer dropped users on Twitter were quick to slam its premise calling it “tone-deaf” and disrespectful.”

While the new film doesn’t reference the devastation of Hurricane Maria specifically, many were offended by the decision of the production company, Lionsgate, behind the film to produce it in Puerto Rico and make the islanders the villains in poor taste.

“It’s outright disrespectful to the people who went through the traumatic experience that was Hurricane Maria, for Mel Gibson and any Hollywood company to come to Puerto Rico and make a movie where the islanders are the bad guys, and he and the white people are the good guys,” one user tweeted in response to the film.

“So I just saw that Mel Gibson is trending and why… ” another user tweeted. “Dude, if you’re going to do a movie about PR being hit by Cat. 5 hurricane, could actually make it something meaningful, revolving around Boricuas that had to suffer through that kind of disaster, and not whatever this shit is?”

Many were quick to describe the film as exploitive.

Even if the film wasn’t exploitive, it is, it’s certainly a completely tone-deaf mess.

Check it out now.

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