Federal Disaster Relief Package Delayed in Congress

Senate lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on a disaster aid package before they left for the two-week recess on April 15. A disaster appropriations supplemental is critical to address recovery needs for major natural disasters in 2018 and 2019, including Hurricanes Florence and Michael, the California wildfires, the volcano in Hawaii, the tornado storm in Alabama, and floods in the Midwest. Disaster relief funding negotiations in the Senate have been stalled over disagreements between Democrats and Republicans over aid to Puerto Rico. The President is opposed to providing additional disaster relief funds to Puerto Rico, and Republican leaders in the Senate do not want to consider a bill that the President is likely to veto.

On April 9, House Appropriators introduced a new disaster appropriations supplemental, which is similar to the disaster supplemental that the House passed in January, but includes an additional $3 billion in funds for midwestern states recovering from major flooding this spring. The new legislation provides $2.21 billion for HUD’s Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CBDG-DR) program—primarily for disasters occurring in 2018 and 2019—and it also sets aside $150 million for unmet housing and infrastructure needs for 2017 disasters. This 2017 set-aside is understood to be intended as additional funding for Puerto Rico. Now that Congress has returned from recess, legislators are urged to pass this disaster supplemental with urgency in order to provide certainty of funding to grantees that are preparing their long-term recovery efforts following catastrophic natural disasters.

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