CHN: Congress Finally Passes, Trump Finally Signs Disaster Aid Bill

On Thursday, June 6, President Trump signed a long-awaited and long-delayed $19.1 billion disaster relief bill. The package will provide billions of dollars to areas struggling to recover from wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, and other natural disasters.

Notably, the funds include $1 billion in aid for Puerto Rico, including $600 million for the island’s Nutrition Assistance Program and $300 million in Community Development Block Grant funding. The Puerto Rican assistance had become a point of contention between both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and Trump, who repeatedly has overstated the amount of money Puerto Rico has received and has mischaracterized how it has been spent. The funds also include Medicaid assistance for American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Marianas.

The legislation includes $2.4 billion for Community Development Block Grant funds to address disasters that have occurred since 2017, $3 billion for the Agriculture Department to cover producers’ losses from those disasters, and $720 million for the Forest Service to repay money spent fighting last year’s forest fires.

According to the Washington Post, the bill is among the broadest pieces of disaster legislation to have been considered by Congress, both in the scope of aid and the number of disasters addressed. The newspaper noted that those disasters include Hurricanes Maria, Florence, and Michael; Typhoon Mangkhut, Super Typhoon Yutu and Tropical Storm Gita; plus wildfires in California, volcanic eruptions in Hawaii, and an earthquake in Alaska.

CHN noted in a statement that 1.3 million Puerto Ricans saw their nutrition assistance benefits significantly cut and people across the United States were hurt by Trump’s hostility toward the U.S. territory, and the impasse caused by Trump’s intransigence delayed aid to many other places as well.

“Communities battered by natural disasters should not have to wait three years or more for help in rebuilding,” CHN Executive Director Deborah Weinstein said. “People struggling to put their lives back together should not see their food assistance slashed. They should not have to wonder whether there will continue to be enough Medicaid funding to cover their medical treatment. A slow government response should not add to the damage farmers sustained.”

Weinstein added that CHN members and allies spent months sending letters to Congress and making visits to congressional offices to make sure that disaster aid was passed for all who were affected, states and territories alike. “Those months of insistence made a difference,” she said.

disaster aid
Puerto Rico