TUNKHANNOCK, Pa. — Standing in the living room of their house, now full of mud, slime and debris, Helen and Peter Kelly cannot believe that Congress is bickering over disaster aid to people like them.
The roaring waters of the Susquehanna River burst into their home more than two weeks ago. “Water — you work with it every day, and then it destroys your whole life,” Mrs. Kelly said.
Her husband, still looking shell-shocked, said: “We lost everything. Stove, washer, dryer, TV. Hot water heater, clothes, dishes, refrigerator. Everything, just gone.”
The Kellys also lost confidence in government and politicians.
“I wish they would understand that people like us are really in need of assistance,” Mr. Kelly said, pointing to a bathtub filled with mud and to the blades of a ceiling fan twisted out of shape by torrents of floodwater.
With just five days to go before the start of a new fiscal year, the Senate is scheduled to take a test vote on Monday on a stopgap spending bill that includes money for disaster relief. The Senate action seems unlikely to resolve the impasse with the House, where the Republican majority wants to offset some of the cost with cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.
People here in northeastern Pennsylvania, already traumatized by the loss of their homes, were further disheartened by word that FEMA’s disaster relief fund was running short of money.
“Members of Congress are playing with people’s lives, not just their own political careers,” said Martin J. Bonifanti, chief of the Lake Winola volunteer fire company. “While they are rattling on among themselves down there in Washington, people are suffering.”
FEMA provides money to eligible individuals and households to help pay for home repairs, temporary housing, replacement of personal property and other serious needs related to a disaster. In the absence of action by Congress, the agency’s disaster relief fund could be depleted by midweek, federal officials said.