The White House is likely to face a challenging situation as it approaches the upcoming election season, where it may have to display partiality towards certain groups. A government reliant on federal assistance functions smoothly until citizens realize that some of their peers are receiving larger shares of the benefits.
In late 2022, Senate Leader Chuck Schumer discreetly secured $800 million in funding for FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter program as part of a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill. This funding was ostensibly designated to aid cities in providing essential services such as shelter, food, health care, and Covid-19 testing to individuals arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.
One would naturally assume that most of the funds would be allocated to cities and states grappling with the influx of migrants at the border, such as El Paso and Del Rio in Texas and Yuma and Tucson in Arizona. However, a significant portion of the funding was directed towards large urban areas far from the border, which are typically Democratic.
As part of the initial round of funding in 2023, Democratic strongholds received tens of millions of dollars. Cities like Chicago, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Denver, Boston, and New York City received substantial amounts, with New York City being the largest recipient at $30 million.
While border states received a significant share of the funding, tensions arose as resources dwindled amidst the ongoing border crisis. By June, only $363 million of the original allocation remained, and New York City was granted an additional $104 million, more than any single border state. This allocation led to criticism from five Democratic senators and former Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who accused the Biden administration of favoring New York City over border communities and lacking transparency in their decisions.
Schumer and Hakeem Jeffries defended the allocation, asserting that the funding was intended to address the specific needs of New York City. They argued that New York City was disproportionately affected by an influx of asylum seekers and should, therefore, receive a larger share of the funds.
Kyrsten Sinema expressed her frustration with the situation, suggesting that New York Democrats had manipulated the allocation process for their benefit. She emphasized the importance of understanding border communities’ challenges and criticized the lack of unity and transparency within the Democratic party.
This divide within the Democratic party raises questions about whether self-interest will overshadow collective interests. The clash between these factions could widen, especially as resources become scarcer. Traditionally, border debates centered on Republican calls for border security versus Democratic demands for funding to support migrants, but the current scenario is more complex.
Sinema and others advocate for increased resources to address the border crisis impacting their constituents, while New York Democrats seek federal funding for their ambitious goals. The allocation of resources now becomes a contest for favor with the White House, potentially leading to negative consequences for Democrats during the election season. If the party fails to find common ground and internal disputes escalate, it could provide the opening for Republican criticism and attacks on President Biden’s vulnerabilities.
Future resource allocations will likely hinge on what each faction can offer the administration during the election season. While directing greater resources to border cities contradicts the White House’s preferred image, emphasizing the humanitarian crisis associated with migration draws attention to the less favorable aspects of Democratic policies. The White House might prefer to downplay border concerns and disproportionately fund cities that align with their migration goals as long as someone else bears the financial burden.