House lawmakers unveiled a bill Tuesday night that would provide $36.5 billion in emergency funding for hurricane and wildfire relief requested by the Trump administration.
With Congress under pressure to provide urgent help to storm victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, the House measure includes $18.7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund, as well as $16 billion to replenish the nation’s flood insurance program.
The legislation would also give Puerto Rico access to a $4.9 billion low-interest Treasury loan so it doesn’t run out of cash as the island recovers. That funding is needed to help the territory pay government salaries and other expenses after Oct. 31. The bill is expected to be voted on by the full House later this week and then taken up by the Senate as early as next week.
“These funds are vital right now, in the near term, to get the aid where it is needed most,” House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen said in a statement. “However, the recovery in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Texas and Florida will be ongoing, and more assistance will be required in the near future.”
Congress needs to act quickly, particularly when it comes to flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program needs additional funding to cover claims from all the recent storms.
The loan authority for Puerto Rico is also a needed financial lifeline for the U.S. territory of 3.4 million people that’s been operating in bankruptcy since May, which makes it difficult — if not impossible — for the government to borrow on its own.
With the island still recovering from the storm, much of the economy there has ground to a halt, radically curtailing the government’s tax collections. Puerto Rico’s treasury secretary, Raul Maldonado, said last week that the territory faces a government shutdown on Oct. 31 that would halt its hurricane recovery…