After Delay Caused By Border Wall And Trump’s Feud with Puerto Rico, Congress Finally Passes $19.1 Billion Disaster Aid Package
Nearly two years after Puerto Rico was hit by two massive hurricanes,
a $19 billion disaster relief bill has been approved by Congress. The House of Representatives passed the bill on Monday night, sending the measure to President Trump, where he is expected to sign it.
The delay in the disaster funding bill was caused by a political argument between President Trump and Puerto Rico that has lasted for over a year.
The relief package will be sent to states like affected by flooding, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural disasters in recent months. The bill passed by a wide bipartisan gap, 354 to 58, and ends a months-long saga in Congress.
The disaster bill, which is typically a bipartisan issue, faced multiple delays. The legislation was halted for months as President Trump and Democrats fought over aid to Puerto Rico, which will now receive more than $1.4 billion in assistance. President Trump and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz publicly argued over hurricane recovery efforts.
The stalling came at a cost as Puerto Rico cut food assistance to a program serving almost half its residents. Many people have yet to return to their normal lives almost two years later.
There were issues of where all the money would be going including funding for a border wall.
There were also internal fighting among some Republicans who wanted money allocated over border funding. This led to some objections by a handful of conservatives in the House who stopped the bill from passing over Memorial Day weekend. The 58 who voted “no” on the bill all came from Republicans.
“Today we are rejecting the political stunts and grandstanding that have made it difficult to deliver much-needed disaster relief to families and communities across America,” Nita Lowey, House Appropriations Chairwoman told USA Today during the floor debate. “Americans across the country have been waiting far too long for the relief and recovery assistance they deserve.”
Ultimately, the bill will fund numerous federal programs that provide aid and rebuilding assistance to local communities, farmers, service members and others nationwide.
Besides Puerto Rico, the relief bill will help in areas like Florida, Georgia, Alabama which were hit by hurricanes in the last year. Also for massive wildfires in California, and floods in the Midwest.
The bill contains $2.4 billion for community development block grants to help with disasters that have occurred since 2017 and $3 billion for the Agriculture Department to cover farmers losses from those disasters. An additional $720 million will be given to the Forest Service to repay money spent fighting California’s deadly wildfires last year.
Many in Congress celebrated to the bill being passed after numerous delays.
Leaders on both sides of the political aisle celebrated the bill passing as many communities have sought assistance for months. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the bill was long overdue and blamed Republicans for the holdup.
“For more than four months, Republicans in the Senate, White House and now the House have forced millions of American families to pay the price for their cruel actions,” Pelosi said in a public statement.
On the Republican side, minority leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, said while the bill will help many it doesn’t solve the many problems at the U.S. border.
“The appropriated resources will begin to provide necessary aid and relief to the millions of Americans around the country struggling from the devastation caused by natural disasters,” McCarthy said. “However, it’s unfortunate that Democrats dragged their feet for so long and yet still refuse to address the humanitarian and national security crisis taking place along our southern border.”
Nonetheless, the relief package is poised to help thousands of Americans affected by the recent natural distastes. The amount of money and magnitude of the legislation highlights the recent frequency of extreme weather conditions that have occurred in the last few years in the U.S.