CHN: House Passes Inadequate Disaster Aid Bill

The need for additional funding for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and other communities recovering from disasters remain great. On December 21, the House passed  (251-169) an $81 billion disaster aid package, nearly doubling the $44 billion the Trump administration requested in November. Many House and Senate Democrats and advocates opposed the bill because they said it did not provide enough relief for the U.S. territories, did not include additional funds for Medicaid assistance, and did not extend the Earned Income Tax Credit for Puerto Rico, among other reasons. A week before the House passage, for example, Puerto Rico’s governor asked Congress for $63.4 billion in aid for the territory alone, noting that $18.6 billion of those funds were “needed immediately.” Some advocates are pushing for disaster aid to be included in the stopgap spending legislation that Congress needs to pass prior to January 19 to provide quicker aid.

Recent news stories have documented as many as 1,000 additional deaths in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria as compared with death reports over the same period a year before. Most of these deaths have not so far been attributed to the storm, but these unusual deaths from infections and other conditions seem related to the lack of power and other problems at health facilities that continue long after the hurricane. CHN joined Families USA and more than 100 other organizations in December to urge Congress to address the ongoing healthcare crisis in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For more information on disaster aid packages, see the December 11 Human Needs Report.