Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) delays disaster aid


May 24, 2019

After months of delay, members of the Coalition on Human Needs were relieved and grateful that the Senate overwhelmingly approved disaster relief for 16 states and U.S. territories.  This long-overdue vote follows repeated votes by the House of Representatives in favor of disaster aid, and yesterday there were reports that President Trump would sign the bill.

Because the Senate acted late, final passage required unanimous consent in the House to get the bill to the President without waiting past the Memorial Day recess week.  Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) saw fit to withhold consent, and now those afflicted by hurricanes, typhoons and floods to wildfires, tornadoes, hail damage and drought will have to wait yet another week. That includes many farmers and small communities whose economic livelihoods to this day are threatened by torrential rainfall and flooding.  People in the state of Texas have been waiting a long time for HUD to release funds to help recovery from earlier hurricanes, and the bill Rep. Roy is holding up will require HUD to act.

How much does a week matter?  If you’re hungry, that’s a long time.  Puerto Rico will receive $600 million for its Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP).  Close to 1.4 million people in Puerto Rico – one-third of the island’s residents – have seen their food assistance cut substantially since March because Puerto Rico has not had enough funds to meet the post-hurricane need.  Any further delay is cruelly irresponsible.  In a territory where 58 percent of the children are poor, working mother Keishla Santiago Santana, with two young sons, lost $200 a month in assistance; maximum benefits for a family of four were cut 37 percent. The fact that Puerto Rico is in the midst of a food aid crisis is a painful reminder of the folly of flat-funded block-granting; had the NAP program worked in Puerto Rico the same as the SNAP program works in states, funds would have been available to meet the emergency needs caused by catastrophic conditions.

The disaster aid also includes health care funds or reduced costs for the Pacific Island territories – the Northern Marianas, Guam and American Samoa, all hit by natural disasters. The disaster package provides $36 million for the Northern Marianas Islands and helps Guam and American Samoa by forgiving a match requirement needed to draw down their Medicaid funds.

The bill does not include funds to address the needs of migrant children crossing the border.  We recognize that their humanitarian needs require more funding, and urge Congress to provide those funds separately, with careful oversight to prevent increased detention or family separation.

As Americans, it is our duty to support those whose lives and livelihood are threatened by acts of nature, and it is our moral obligation to meet the needs of all people, not just the politically powerful.

The Senate bill passed 85-8, with only Senators Blackburn, Braun, Crapo, Lee, McSally, Paul, Romney, and Risch opposing.  The time for obstruction was over months ago.  Mr. Roy has single-handedly prolonged hardship.