House set to pass $36.5B for hurricane, wildfire relief

The House is on track to backing President Donald Trump’s request for billions more in disaster aid, $16 billion to pay flood insurance claims and emergency funding to help the cash-strapped government of Puerto Rico stay afloat.

Thursday’s hurricane aid package totals $36.5 billion and sticks close to a White House request, ignoring — for now — huge demands from the powerful Florida and Texas delegations, who together pressed for some $40 billion more.

A steady series of disasters — massive flooding in Texas, hurricane damage in Florida, and a humanitarian crisis in hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico — could be putting 2017 on track to rival Hurricane Katrina and other 2005 storms as the most costly set of disasters ever. Katrina required about $110 billion in emergency appropriations.

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

Up to $5 billion of the FEMA money could be used to help local governments — especially Puerto Rico’s central government and the island’s local governments — remain functional as they endure unsustainable cash…

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