Assisting Those Impacted By Hurricane Harvey & Other Recent Disasters
Today, I voted yes on H.Res. 569, approving supplemental disaster relief funds to assist those impacted by Hurricane Harvey and other recent disasters. While this assistance is urgently necessary for communities in Texas and those across the country, the legislation also leaves gaps that we must insist are covered by future disaster relief bills.
The legislation does provides $36.5 billion in emergency funds as a response to the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria, wildfires throughout California, and relief for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This relief package included $6 billion more than what President Trump requested for the Disaster Relief Fund — a boost in aid that will help our neighbors and families who are hurting the most.
Of that allocation, we set $18.7 billion aside for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund. This includes a provision that gives Puerto Rico access to nearly $5 billion in low-interest loans. We must do everything we can to continue ensuring that our relief funds support the American citizens living on the island. Additionally, today’s bill ensures that $16 billion is allocated to forgive a portion of NFIP’s debt so this important program doesn’t hit its cap and is able to pay claims in Texas that resulted from Hurricane Harvey’s damage.
From Beaumont and Port Arthur to Rockport, Port Lavaca, Houston, and towns throughout the Gulf region, recovery efforts need Congress to meet this emergency with the full support of the Federal government. This includes not skimping on medium and long-term assistance priorities that have proved critical in rebuilding from previous disasters. For example, the legislation did not include funding for repairing water infrastructure or restoration and repair of damage sustained by our ports, highways, transit, and infrastructure. It didn’t include healthcare needs such as CDC funding to ease the spread of water-borne and insect-borne diseases. It didn’t include Head Start funding to repair damaged schools or assist displaced students. It didn’t fund public housing assistance to rehabilitate or reconstruct units and serve vulnerable populations. And it left out funding for the Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands’ Medicaid programs.
These are not “nice to haves,” they are must haves if we want the region to successfully rebuild in the coming weeks and months. It’s essential that Congress includes funding for these services in the next round of emergency assistance, and I will continue to advocate for this additional legislation to occur as soon as possible.