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Why Louisiana might not see money for flood relief until after the election

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Why Louisiana might not see money for flood relief until after the election

WATCH  | Why Louisiana might not see money for flood relief as soon as it needs.

No budget, no relief

Last month, Louisiana was devastated by floods that killed 13 people and caused an estimated $8.7 billion in damage. Governor John Bel Edwards requested $2.8 billion from the federal government.

Unfortunately, the money's not headed to Louisiana anytime soon, because Congress has not passed a budget. 

This doesn't mean the federal government is headed for something like the 2013 shutdown when parks were closed and government offices were shuttered.


CR keeps government running, but not much else

That 2013 debacle happened because legislators couldn't agree on a short-term budget.  But this year, they are on track to pass a stop-gap budget called a Continuing Resolution, or CR.

The problem for Louisiana is that CR budget bills usually maintain the spending levels from the previous year, so they won't include the $2.8 billion Edwards requested.

So let's break this all down

Congress is supposed to pass 12 appropriations bills over the course of the year. These bills are supposed to start in committees in the House and Senate.

Once passed by their respective chambers, the Senate and the House come together to negotiate a budget they both can agree on, in what's called conference.

Finally, the budget is sent to the president for his signature. 

But this process didn't happen this year. Actually it hasn't happened since 1996.

The 12 appropriations bills

1. Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug
2. Commerce, Justice, Science
3. Defense
4. Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies
5. Financial Services and General Government
6. Homeland Security
7. Interior, Environment
8. Labor, Health and Human Services, Education
9. Legislative Branch
10. Military Construction, Veterans Affairs
11. State, Foreign Operations
12. Transportation, Housing and Urban Development

Homeland Security funds FEMA -- this is where Louisiana's situation comes into play. 

How is the government still open?

Congress uses Continuing Resolutions and omnibus spending bills to set the budget for the upcoming year.

Continuing Resolutions are bills that fund the government for a couple of months, and they usually maintain the same spending levels as the previous year.

 They are designed to buy time until a more robust spending bill can be agreed to.


Catching the Omnibus

Omnibus spending bills combine the 12 appropriations bills into one larger bill.

They take longer than the Continuing Resolutions to negotiate because the funds last longer, but they still don't take as much time as the 12 appropriations bills.

This is how the government has been funded since 1996.

Taking October off

Congress is set to agree to a CR before the new fiscal year starts on October 1, 2016. Then they are supposed to work on a Omnibus bill, most likely after the election -- Congress takes the entire month of October off.

The hope is that the flood funding will come in the Omnibus if it doesn't make it into the CR, which most doubt it will.

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