More Federal Disaster-Relief Spending Bills Expected
Senator says newly enacted $15.3-billion package may only last "weeks"
The recently enacted $15.3-billion emergency funding measure is likely to be just the first of several post-hurricane relief spending bills to help Texas, Florida and other states recover from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said in a Sept. 10 interview on the CBS News program Face the Nation that the $15-billion measure President Trump signed two days earlier came "just in the nick of time." But Nelson added, "That's going to run out in a few weeks."
He said Congress will take up a follow-on emergency appropriations measure in mid-October.
That won't be the final funding action. Tom Bossart, Trump's Homeland Security Adviser, told reporters in a briefing on Sept. 11 that the administration will “ask for a third, and perhaps fourth supplemental appropriation for the purpose of rebuilding.”
Trump on Sept. 1 had requested $7.9 billion for disaster aid. As Irma moved westward, Congress moved quickly. The Senate passed the measure on Sept. 7, by an 80-17 vote. The House passed it the next day, 316-90,
The legislation also raises the government's debt limit and has stopgap appropriations to keep federal agencies operating through Dec. 8.
In addition, the bill extends the federal flood insurance program through Dec. 8. [See bill summary here.]
Agencies' funding was due to lapse on Sept. 30, when fiscal year 2017 ends. The flood insurance program's authorization also was due to expire on Sept. 30.
The bill's disaster-relief aid includes $7.4 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund and the same amount for Dept. of Housing and Urban Development Dept. community development block grants. Infrastructure work is one of the eligible uses for the grants.
The measure also has $450 million for Small Business Administration disaster loans.
In a separate, but related, action, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation on Aug. 29 said it it is providing $25 million to Texas for emergency road and bridge repairs in the wake of Harvey. The funds come from the Federal Highway Administration's emergency-relief program.
U.S. DOT said the funding release came “within an hour” of a request from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott [R]
Further, U.S. DOT Secretary Elaine Chao said that her department “will make available more than $100 million in financial support to meet the infrastructure needs of Texas and other affected states.”
In addition, staffers from FHWA’s Texas-Louisiana division will join the Texas DOT’s inspectors, as they check highway and bridge conditions. U.S. DOT also said FHWA can shift personnel from other divisions to Texas if needed.
Story revised and updated on Sept. 12 with comments about future emergency spending bills.