Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 delivers disaster aid and tax credits to US territories
The second government shutdown of the year ended when President Trump signed off on the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, early Friday morning. Although brief, the shutdown was stalled due to Senator Paul Rand of Kentucky’s (R) opposition to the bill’s proposed increase in government funding. The stopgap bill outlined budgeting for both military and domestic programs over two years, which allotted $165 billion and $131 billion, respectively. The budget bill increases government spending, and will allow for an increased deficit through 2019.
Included in the bill are almost $90 billion dollars in relief assistance for areas that sustained damages caused by natural disasters in 2017. A portion of the disaster relief funding will be directed to US territories ravaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R) thanked Senator Marco Rubio (R) of Florida for his help in securing the, “vitally-needed disaster relief funding for Puerto Rico,” in a press release on Wednesday, February 11.Funds will be distributed between the archipelago and the US Virgin Islands, which allocated $2 billion to rebuild infrastructure and electrical grids. A key component of the budget act will help to alleviate the burden of Puerto Rico’s Medicaid cost-share requirement and distributes another $4.9 billion in Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Additional support for Puerto Rico comes in $11 billion from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to assist the islands in rebuilding its housing sector and businesses. In total almost $16 billion was apportioned as disaster aid relief for Puerto Rico.
Other stipulations of the budget act, extended tax credits for 48 businesses, which included the American Samoa Economic Development Credit. This tax provision was not included in the previous budget bill from 2017, and would have “devastated” the American Samoa economy, according to a Department of Labor Report if not reinstated. Essentially, the extension of the tax credit helps to support and maintain the development of industry on the island and operates as an incentive for investment in the local economy from corporations. Specifically, canneries such as StarKist, a main provider of tuna in the US, would be offered a tax break to continue operating in American Samoa.
In addition to disaster aid funding and tax breaks the budget bill ensures government funding for community health centers, hospitals, and an extension of family-to-family health information centers across the US territories—including American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana islands, as stated in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.
In spite of friction between parties and within parties causing the government to shutdown twice, the Budget Act of 2018 displays the efforts of the current administration to provide the US territories with provisions that address their specific needs.