Finally: Disaster Assistance Bill Signed into Law, Offering Help to Many States and Territories


June 6, 2019

Editor’s note: Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director of the Coalition on Human Needs, issued the following statement Thursday, June 6th in response to the passage of  the most recent disaster relief bill:

“Finally: people in disaster-struck communities across America should see more help soon.  Members of the Coalition on Human Needs stand with them in welcoming this aid.  We congratulate the House of Representatives and Senate for overwhelming votes to enact $19.1 billion to help states and territories recover from hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, tropical storms, flooding, earthquake, volcanic eruption, and wildfires.

“Communities battered by natural disasters should not have to wait three years or more for help in rebuilding.  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.

“Despite the work of Congressional champions, the disaster legislation was delayed again and again by President Trump’s opposition to aid to Puerto Rico.  In January of this year, the Administration put out a public Statement of Administration Policy opposing an earlier disaster bill because it included $600 million to prevent cuts in Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program, characterized in the statement as “excessive and unnecessary funding.”  By late March, after harsh cuts in food aid were imposed for lack of funding, the President relented and said he would support additional nutrition funds, but still opposed other aid to the island.  Finally, seeing that Puerto Rico’s defenders would not yield, and facing increasingly urgent calls for help in many states, the President signed the bill.  He tweeted ‘Puerto Rico should love President Trump. Without me, they would have been shut out!’

“Between March and now, more than 1.3 million Puerto Ricans lost nutrition assistance, with a family of four losing hundreds of dollars each month, because of the President’s intransigence.  They may not be feeling the love.

“The disaster bill will help millions of people in Alaska, American Samoa, California, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, the Northern Marianas, and Texas.  Members of the Coalition on Human Needs joined many others from all over our nation to send letters to Congress and visit their offices, united in calling for disaster aid for all those afflicted, states and territories alike. Those months of insistence made a difference.

“We are grateful for the unflagging willingness of champions including Speaker Pelosi, House Appropriations Chair Lowey, and Senate Appropriations Chair Shelby and Ranking Member Leahy to insist that the needs of the most vulnerable were not ignored.”

Budget and Appropriations
Disaster relief
Puerto Rico