US House approves $35 billion for disaster relief funds that will benefit Puerto Rico

by | Oct 13, 2017 | Congress | Comments

The United States House of Representatives approved by a vote of 353-69 the Supplemental Appropriation for Disaster Relief Bill, HR 2266, which allocates over $35 billion for emergency response and would benefit Puerto Rico in the recovery phase after the devastation from two hurricanes in less than two weeks. This was reported by the Resident Commissioner, Jennifer González-Colón (R, NPP), who earlier today addressed the House chamber calling on fellow congressmen to vote in favor of the measure.

“The Supplemental Appropriation for Disaster Relief Bill that we have in front of us is a big one, however, it is the first step of our goal. The funds included this bill are urgently necessary to provide resources for American families and communities that are suffering. It will help to continue current efforts, provide immediate relief and helping to start the reconstruction process,” González-Colón said.

Yesterday in a press conference, Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner announced the filing of the legislative piece that appropriates $35 billion in emergency funding and includes Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. GOP House Leadership members who hosted and endorsed that press conference included Speaker Paul Ryan, Conference Chair Cathy McMorris, Majority Whip Steve Scalise and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

“I want to thank [Puerto Rico Congresswoman] Jenniffer [González-Colón] for the work she has been performing I want to echo what [Majority Leader] Kevin [McCarthy] has said. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people in Puerto Rico. We’re going to show it with action and expressing our concern directly to them on Friday”, said Speaker Paul Ryan, who arrived with González-Colón to Puerto Rico, along with other congress members.

“Puerto Ricans are American, and as Americans we take care of our own. This island is totally devastated and I’m pleased that the delegate from Puerto Rico, Jennifer Gonzalez, is with us today and has been such a tireless advocate and tremendous leader, as they begin a long process of rebuilding” stated Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris.

“Watching Jennifer with her passion, making sure that Puerto Rico is included in that discussion of my very first day back to Congress a week and a half ago, I got to sit down with her and she made that case directly to me as well. This is why we will take more steps this week to make sure help is in place and the Trump administration has the resources they need from Congress to take care of the damages from these storms” said Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

“The passion which Jennifer shows is because she has seen things directly. When you think of what is happening in America, the hurricanes, the floods, the deaths, Las Vegas, it is a very trying time. Puerto Rico sustained two major hurricanes, and we will work this week to make sure we get the resources to them, but this will not be the end of it. This will take time to rebuild, but I know that with Jennifer’s leadership the efforts to rebuild Puerto Rico will be kept on track”, added House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

The supplementary measure, adds funds to the current federal budget for:

– $13.77 Billion to replenish the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund. “The White House had asked Congress to approve $12.77 billion, in the House we added a billion dollars more to that item,” said González Colon;

– $4.9 Billion for loans to governments and public dependencies of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands under the Disaster Assistance Direct Loan Program, to provide operational liquidity for both Caribbean governments until the end of this year;

– $1.2 Billion for the Emergency SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Program – normally Puerto Rico “Food Stamp” beneficiaries do not have access to this program because it operates a separate block grant program, but in face of the emergency caused by these hurricanes the administration granted this benefit. SNAP is a federally funded program to help low-income persons acquire healthy food, as the nation’s first line of defense against hunger and a tool to ensure food security. Statistics show the program helps people to rise from situations such as unemployment, and also has a multiplier effect due to the funds it injects into on the economy;

– Authorization to the Department of Defense so that they can maintain their level of support as long as needed;

–  $16 billion in debt cancellation to restore the balance of the Federal Flood Insurance Program

– Nearly $ 500 million in funds to respond to the wildfires in the Western U.S. and California.