CHN: Senate Announces a Step Towards Meeting Emergency Needs

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Robert Byrd (D-WV) announced last week that his Committee would take up another supplemental spending bill on July 22.  The bill is expected to include funding for disaster recovery efforts – fires in California, flooding in the Midwest, and possibly more aid to states hit by Hurricane Katrina.  In addition, the Committee is likely to include funds for home energy assistance, infrastructure repair, and school and science programs it did not succeed in inserting into the previously passed supplemental appropriations bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has agreed that a new supplemental spending bill to address economic recovery and disaster relief is needed, and expects it to come to the Senate floor in September.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has also called for a new economic recovery package, also expecting September floor action.

Estimates of the size of the package have ranged widely – from about $10 billion to $50 billion.  Advocates are continuing to promote recovery funding that includes additional food stamp, WIC, and emergency food funding, aid to states to prevent Medicaid and other cutbacks, home energy aid (LIHEAP), restored funding for child support enforcement so families do not lose a billion dollars a year in collections owed to them, as well as school repair, making up a Head Start shortfall, and services for out of school/out of work youth.  Further, although unemployment insurance was extended for 13 weeks in earlier action, advocates back another 13 weeks for high unemployment states.  (For a fuller description of the economic recovery package supported by the Coalition on Human Needs and the Emergency Campaign for America’s Priorities (ECAP), click here.

Prospects for more action on economic recovery are uncertain.  The President has continued to urge a wait-and-see approach, looking to evaluate the results of the recent tax rebates.  However, the need for disaster relief plus the increasing fears over economic instability may bring a large and bipartisan majority in Congress to an economic recovery bill.  As with the recent override of the President’s veto of the Medicare bill (see article elsewhere in this issue), Members of Congress approaching election day may not wish to be seen as ignoring looming local and national problems.

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