The House has passed legislation that provides an additional $19 billion in federal aid to continue rebuilding and repairing Gulf Coast housing, levees and other infrastructure battered by last year's hurricanes. Other supplemental spending bills enacted since the storms have included $87 billion in relief funds.
The Gulf Coast aid is part of a $92-billion supplemental spending package that the House approved March 16, on a 348-71 vote. The largest share of the overall package is $68 billion allotted to the Dept. of Defense for the war in Iraq and military operations in Afghanistan.
Major construction items in the $19.2-billion Gulf Coast portion of the legislation include $1.46 billion to the Army Corps of Engineers, the amount President Bush requested, for flood-control work around New Orleans. Of the Corps’ allocation, $530 million is to install pumps and gates at three canals in the city; $350 million for the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal; $250 million to "storm-proof" pump stations; $170 million to "armor" levees; and $100 million to restore wetlands.
The bill also has the $4.2 billion Bush sought in Community Development Block Grants, with at least $1 billion of that designated to fix and rebuild affordable rental housing. But lawmakers deleted Bush's proposal to direct all of the block grants to Louisiana.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will receive $9.6 billion, $150 million more than the White House requested, for the agency's Disaster Relief Fund. It is to go for such things as removing debris, reimbursing localities for infrastructure repairs they have undertaken, and aid to individuals and families affected by the hurricanes.
House conservatives wanted to offset at least some of the supplemental funding with cuts, but their plan was defeated.
The next step for the spending package is action in the Senate. That chamber's Appropriations Committee has held hearings on the supplemental bill, but a vote by panel isn't expected before early April.