Friday, June 07, 2019

What's in the $19.1 billion disaster aid package: a lot

Congress passed and President Trump signed the long-delayed $19 billion disaster aid bill this week. "Communities in California, Florida and Texas -- which have been ravaged by wildfires, hurricanes and floods -- will likely be among the biggest beneficiaries . . . but the bill is likely to touch nearly every corner of the U.S. and territories," Liz Farmer reports for Governing, a magazine for state and local officials. The departments of Agriculture and Housing and Urban Development will administer the aid. Here's a broad summary of the package:
  • About $1.4 billion to help Puerto Rico, which is in bankruptcy, rebuild nearly two years after hurricanes Irma and Maria. Trump's reticence to allocate more funding for Puerto Rico was a major cause of delay for the bill.
  • Almost $2.5 billion for community development block grants to help communities rebuild housing, businesses and roads in the hardest-hit areas.
  • $1.65 billion to reimburse states and territories for repairing damage to federally managed roads and bridges.
  • $3 billion to assist farmers who lost livestock and crops to a natural disaster or who weren't able to plant this year because of flooding. Farmers who had insurance will receive higher payments.  The package also covers losses of already harvested crops that were in storage; no other program covers such losses. Farmers had stored an unusually high amount of crops, especially soybeans, because of Trump's trade war.
  • Almost $350 million to improve water quality, replace damaged monitoring equipment, and inspect and clean up hazardous-waste facilities.
  • $600 million for economic-development grants to foster long-term recovery in areas hit hard by major disasters in 2018 and 2019.
  • $100 million for mental-health treatment, crisis counseling, helplines and related services for people affected by recent natural disasters.
  • $25 million for improved fire and weather forecasting equipment. 

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