Congress Passes $19.1 Billion Disaster Aid Bill, Sends to Trump

By Reuters
June 3, 2019USshare
Congress Passes $19.1 Billion Disaster Aid Bill, Sends to Trump
Flood damage is shown in this aerial photo in Percival, Iowa, U.S. in March 29, 2019. (Reuters/Tom Polansek/File Photo)

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Congress on Monday, June 3, approved legislation providing $19.1 billion in emergency funding for disaster recovery efforts throughout the United States, including Puerto Rico, sending it to President Donald Trump to sign into law.

Final passage came as the House of Representatives voted 354-58 for the measure, which lawmakers and Trump had been in negotiation for months. It was approved by the Senate late last month, and Trump has said he supports it.

House leaders tried three times in the last ten days to win unanimous approval of the bill while most lawmakers were away on recess. But conservative Republicans blocked these efforts, forcing House leaders to wait until the full chamber returned to work on Monday to pass the bill.

The measure would assist victims of numerous disasters over the last two years, from hurricanes in the Southeast to Midwestern flooding and California wildfires. It has funds to repair highways and other infrastructure, including some military bases, as well as aid to help farmers cover crop losses.

The bill also includes a $605 million nutrition program and $304 million in community development grants to help Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, recover from a devastating 2017 hurricane.

Trump had opposed sending any more aid to the Caribbean island but recently relented on this point.

The bill also faced delays amid failed talks on Trump’s $4 billion-plus request to care for thousands of migrants being held at the southern border. The sides narrowed their differences but couldn’t reach agreement in the rush to go on recess, but everyone agrees that another bill will be needed almost immediately to refill nearly empty agency accounts to care for migrants.

“We must work together quickly to pass a bill that addresses the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the border and provides law enforcement agencies with the funding they need,” said top Appropriations Committee Republican Kay Granger of Texas.

“The stakes are high. There are serious—life or death—repercussions if the Congress does not act.”

The legislation also extends a national flood insurance program until Sept. 30.

By Susan Cornwell

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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