Advertisement
News by VICE

Congress Is Giving Puerto Rico Some Disaster Aid Funding — FINALLY

It's a lot more than President Trump initially agreed to

by Emma Ockerman
May 23 2019, 8:19pm

Just in time for their weeklong recess for Memorial Day, the Senate finally struck a deal to help out disaster-hit parts of the country — and they’ve decided to back-burner the border funding the president had wanted in the package.

The multibillion-dollar disaster aid package demanded by states had been in flux for months, thrown into dispute over how much aid storm-battered Puerto Rico deserved and whether the bill should include funding for border security. In the end — and after months of infighting — border funding was removed from the bill, to be negotiated at a later date. And Puerto Rico received between $900 million and $1.4 billion, according to Washington Post reporter Jeff Stein, compared to the $600 million Trump initially agreed to.

Overall, the Republican-controlled Senate agreed to $19.1 billion in aid. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the bill in its current form provides enough money for Democrats to get on board, and it’s similar to the one the House passed earlier this month with the support of 34 Republicans and every Democrat. (The House also passed a version of the same disaster bill in January, valued at $14 billion, but it was held up in the Senate.)

The bill could be passed by the Senate late Thursday and approved by a voice vote in the Democrat-controlled House on Friday, according to Politico.

“It’s past time, way past time, to bring these negotiations to a close,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday.

For months, communities in California, Texas, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Midwest have languished without the much-needed government cash to heal destruction brought by hurricanes, flooding, fires and tornadoes. President Donald Trump repeatedly accused Puerto Rico of receiving too much money for a 2017 hurricane that killed thousands, and called the House version a “BAD DEMOCRAT Disaster Supplemental Bill” that would hurt border security. He’s indicated that he’ll now approve disaster funding without border security measures, according to Politico.

Now, Congress will return to negotiations over border funding after the disaster package makes it past Trump’s desk, Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, told the Washington Post.

“We’re going to try to push that separately when we come back,” Shelby said. “It’s a good deal. This disaster issue has played on for months and months. Let’s hope we can move it out of the Senate today.”

Cover: Southern Marin Fire Department members search a crushed house in the aftermath of a mudslide that destroyed three homes on a hillside in Sausalito, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Short)