WASHINGTON – The White House is requesting Congress approve a $29 billion relief package to help Americans affected by recent natural disasters, including those in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico.
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Office Of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney is asking for $12.77 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund, which has been drained as the agency helps those in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who were hit by hurricanes in August and September. In the letter, Mr. Mulvaney says the disaster relief fund is spending $200 million a day on recovery.
"It is abundantly clear that the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are in need of more help -- in dollars, in resources, in manpower, and in federal support," Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R., N.J.) said in a statement upon receiving the request. "My committee has already begun to move on this emergency funding request, and will put legislation forward as soon as possible."
Lawmakers last month appropriated $15.25 billion in relief funds, two weeks after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and while Hurricane Irma was making landfall in Florida. But Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico, destroying much of the infrastructure and creating a long-term need in a country that is already facing money woes.
The request also contains $16 billion for debt cancellation for the National Flood Insurance Program, and $576.5 million for wildfire suppression. The national flood program, which is set to expire on Dec. 8, divides members of Congress along regional rather than party lines, based on how likely an area a lawmaker represents is prone to flood, and is already several million dollars in debt.
A relief bill must first pass the House of Representatives. Republican leadership in Congress gave no guidance of when they would take up the relief bill.
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House Speaker Paul Ryan signaled his support soon after Mr. Mulvaney sent the request to Congress.
"We have sent aid from FEMA's disaster relief accounts, but more is clearly needed, and this funding request will help meet that need," he said in a statement on Wednesday evening. "Congress will continue to work with the Trump administration to make sure our fellow citizens get additional resources so they can recover and rebuild."
Talking to reporters on Wednesday, Puerto Rico Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón, a Republican, said she had met with the White House and Mr. Ryan and this would be "one of the supplementals -- there are going to be more" to help the islands she represents.
Write to Natalie Andrews at Natalie.Andrews@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
October 04, 2017 19:03 ET (23:03 GMT)