03.27.19

Vice Chairman Leahy Introduces Compromise Path Forward On Emergency Disaster Supplemental Appropriations Bill

Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Wednesday introduced a compromise path forward on the Emergency Disaster Supplemental that adequately addresses the needs of communities affected by recent natural disasters, including the American citizens of Puerto Rico and other territories.

For more than two months, Senate Republicans - at the direction of President Trump - have refused to take up a comprehensive disaster relief package passed by House Democrats, H.R. 268.  The Republicans’ refusal to act forced Puerto Rico to begin to phase out nutrition assistance on the island last week.

The Republican substitute to H.R. 268 does not adequately address the needs of Puerto Rico and other territories, eliminating critical assistance that was included in the House bill.

In an effort to reach a path forward, Leahy last month proposed a compromise to Senate Republicans.  While it did not fully restore the cuts to the House bill, it focused on the most critical proposals and the immediate needs.  Unfortunately, at the President’s insistence, none of these proposals were included in the Republican substitute.

Taking to the Senate Floor Wednesday, Leahy said: “Unfortunately, it appears that the President will not accept even this reasonable offer.  Instead, he will endanger the entire disaster package because he wants to pick winner and losers.  He wants to decide who gets assistance in the wake of disasters based on his own arbitrary standards, and political grudges.  This is unacceptable.”

The Leahy compromise amendment includes:

  • $431 million in additional Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to help Puerto Rico and other states cover the FEMA cost-share on relief projects (the President has refused to waive the FEMA cost-share for poverty-stricken Puerto Rico);
  • A mandate to HUD to release billions in CDBG, much of which is for Puerto Rico, from the last disaster bill within 90 days (the Administration has been unnecessarily holding this money from being released);
  • $250 million for state revolving funds that would help Puerto Rico and others rebuild damaged water systems and ensure they are resilient for future storms (similar to aid offered in the wake of other disasters); and
  • Medicaid funding for the Northern Mariana Islands, and a cost match waiver for the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and American Samoa, whose Medicaid programs face serious shortages due to increased need.

If adopted, the Senate and the House could move quickly to final passage, and avoid the need for a time-consuming conference. 

Leahy’s full statement is available HERE: https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/minority/statement-of-vice-chairman-leahy-on-the-disaster-supplemental-appropriations-bill-

The text of Leahy’s amendment is available HERE: https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/download/leahy-amdt-205

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