House passes $36.5 billion disaster aid bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on federal aid for hurricane=ravaged Puerto Rico (all times local):

3:23 p.m.

The House has passed a $36.5 billion measure that would replenish government disaster aid funds and help the cash-strapped government of Puerto Rico keep functioning in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

The bipartisan 353-69 vote sent the measure to the Senate, which plans to take up the bill next week.

The bill combines $18.7 billion for Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief with $16 billion to permit the financially troubled federal flood insurance program pay an influx of Harvey-related claims. An additional $577 million would pay for western firefighting efforts.

Almost $5 billion of the funding could be used to help the government of Puerto Rico and its local jurisdictions stay functional as they endure unsustainable cash shortfalls in the aftermath of Maria.

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1:50 p.m.

White House chief of staff John Kelly is defending President Donald Trump’s commitment to the rebuilding of Puerto Rico.

He says at a White House briefing the U.S. will stand with Puerto Rico “until the job is done.”

Kelly was asked about the president’s tweets Thursday morning that Puerto Rico shouldn’t expect federal aid to last “forever.”

Kelly says the military and other emergency responders are trying very hard to work themselves out a job. He says the U.S. will “stand with those American citizens in Puerto Rico until the job is done.”

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12:05 p.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says the government needs to ensure that — in his words — “Puerto Rico can begin to stand on its own two feet.”

The Wisconsin Republican says Washington also needs to help the U.S. territory rebuild its economy.

Ryan spoke hours after President Donald Trump suggested on Twitter that the federal role in assisting the island would be limited. Ryan is set to visit Puerto Rico on Friday.

He says Puerto Rico already faced difficult fiscal and economic problems before being devastated by Hurricane…

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