House approves emergency fire, Puerto Rico relief
October 13, 2017
The House today passed a supplemental appropriations bill to provide assistance for wildfire relief in the western states and hurricane relief to Puerto Rico.
The vote was 353-69, with all Democrats who voted supporting the bill.
The bill also includes a $1.27 billion grant to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to establish a Disaster Nutrition Assistance Program (DNAP) "to enable low-income residents in Puerto Rico to receive the same emergency nutrition assistance that other hurricane-affected states already receive," the House Appropriations Committee said in a news release.
The legislation for Puerto Rico is apparently necessary because Puerto Rico gets a block grant to operate its own food stamp program rather than participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which has authorizing legislation to implement a disaster program.
Under SNAP disaster programs, rules are eased for food purchases by SNAP participants and disaster victims with incomes slightly above the usual thresholds are allowed to participate.
The aid package was passed as The Guardian reported that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is providing 200,000 meals a day to meet the needs of more than 2 million people. That is a daily shortfall of between 1.8m and 5.8m meals.
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"We are 1.8 million meals short," said one senior FEMA official told The Guardian. "That is why we need the urgency. And it's not going away. We're doing this much today, but it has to be sustained over several months."
President Donald Trump complained in a tweet Sunday that his administration is not getting the proper credit for the Puerto Rico response.
Today Trump tweeted,"We cannot keep FEMA, the military and the first responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever."
Rep. Chellie PIngree, D-Maine, who voted for the aid package, said, "President Trump still doesn't get it. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens who deserve all the resources they need to recover and rebuild—they don't need him to pour salt in their wounds," Pingree said. "Our country's responsibility is to provide aid to Puerto Rico as long as it's needed to save lives and get the island back in working order."
The bill now goes to the Senate.
"The House has taken an important step in providing relief to millions of United States citizens from recent disasters," said Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
"But this is just a step. From the wildfires burning in California to the storms that crashed against Puerto Rico, 12 major disasters have been declared on U.S. soil since August. The path to recovering from destruction of this magnitude is not measured in days. It is measured in years, and it is measured in the full and unwavering support of the United States gGovernment for all of the impacted communities."
Leahy added, "The Trump administration has committed to putting forward a third comprehensive disaster package in the coming weeks. As vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I intend to hold the administration to that commitment, regardless of what the president tweets."
–The Hagstrom Report