U.S. House to vote on $36.5 billion
disaster relief package
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[October 12, 2017]
By Amanda Becker
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of
Representatives is expected on Thursday to approve $36.5 billion in
emergency relief for hurricane-hit areas such as Florida, Texas, Puerto
Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as California, struck by
Included in the bill is $18.7 billion for the Federal Emergency
Management Agency's disaster relief fund. Of that, $4.9 billion is
earmarked for loans to local governments to ensure that the
cash-strapped U.S. territory of Puerto Rico can keep government programs
operating beyond Oct. 31.
Other funds in the legislation include $576.5 million to be directed to
the federal government's wildfire control efforts. Some $16 billion
would go to the National Flood Insurance Program to help it cover claims
after reaching its borrowing limit.
Once passed by the Republican-led House, the Senate, also controlled by
Republicans, is expected to take up the relief package later this month
after it returns from a week-long recess.
Leaders of both major parties have applauded the bill.
"These funds are vital right now, in the near term, to get the aid where
it is needed most," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney
Frelinghuysen, a Republican, said in a statement.
Frelinghuysen added that "more assistance will be required in the near
future" and said his committee would be monitoring the crises as they
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The U.S. Capitol Building is lit at sunset in Washington, U.S.,
December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Democratic Representative Nydia Velázquez of New York, which has a
large Puerto Rican community, said the relief package was "just the
start" of federal aid to Puerto Rico, where large portions of the
island remain without electricity or running water three weeks after
Hurricane Maria made landfall.
"Much more needs to be done, but, for now the bill includes critical
measures that the island needs in the short term to respond to this
once-in-a-generation humanitarian crisis," Velázquez said in a
Puerto Rico is burdened with nearly $72 billion in pre-hurricane
debt that is being overseen by a federally created oversight board.
Velázquez said the funds earmarked for loans to local governments
would assist Puerto Rico's "liquidity crisis" and that steps must be
taken to ensure that creditors are unable to access funds meant for
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Roberta Rampton in
Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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