White House Submits Third Disaster Aid Package
Last week, the White House sent its third disaster aid request to Congress asking for $44 billion—a move that many in Congress criticized, as it’s about one-third of what Texas and Puerto Rico recently asked for in their damage assessments.
If approved, this funding package would mean Congress has pitched in nearly $100 billion in emergency funds to help disaster-ravaged communities.
The request asks for $25.2 billion for disaster programs run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration; $4.6 billion to rehabilitate damaged federal facilities and other agency recovery efforts; $1 billion for agricultural assistance; $1.2 billion for an education recovery fund and $12 billion for a new flood mitigation program run by the Community Development Block Grant.
The request also acknowledged that immediate relief efforts for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are ongoing, saying, “For Puerto Rico in particular, the Administration seeks, as part of this request, authority to provide public assistance under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act without limitation of pre-disaster condition and causation. Related to that, the Administration will work closely with Puerto Rico to develop a plan for rebuilding, which will inform the future request for long-term recovery funding.”
In addition, the request also asks that some of the funding be offset by spending cuts, and stipulation that was not a part of the first two relief packages.
Despite acknowledging that much more work will need done in Puerto Rico even if this request is passed, many in Congress were quick to point out that the aid falls well short of what just three of the communities—Texas, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico—have asked for.
Texas has asked for $61 billion, Puerto Rico asked for $94 billion and the U.S. Virgin Islands requested $7 billion.
Politico reported that Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn called the request “wholly inadequate,” and was joined by Rep. Nita Lowey, a top Democrat, who said the request “does not come close to what local officials say is needed.”
As to the offsets, Congress seems equally divided with Mark Walker, R-N.C., pushing to pay for the extra spending and Mark Meadows, R-N.C., saying that an offset to the emergency funding wouldn’t be sustainable.
There also seems to be little agreement on when the package will be up for approval. Some say the aid request will be reviewed next month as part of the year-end spending deal while others say that it could be approved separately before December.