Trump’s call for dis­as­ter aid bil­lions suc­ceeds

The Star Late Edition - - BUSINE SSREPORT - Andrew Tay­lor

THE HOUSE is on track to back­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s re­quest for bil­lions more in dis­as­ter aid, $16 bil­lion (R216bn) to pay flood in­sur­ance claims and emer­gency fund­ing to help the cash-strapped gov­ern­ment of Puerto Rico stay afloat.

Yes­ter­day’s hur­ri­cane aid pack­age to­tals $36.5bn and sticks close to a White House re­quest, ig­nor­ing – for now – huge de­mands from the pow­er­ful Florida and Texas del­e­ga­tions, who to­gether pressed for $40bn more.

A steady se­ries of dis­as­ters – mas­sive flood­ing in Texas, hur­ri­cane dam­age in Florida and a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in hur­ri­cane-dev­as­tated Puerto Rico – could be putting 2017 on track to ri­val Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina and other 2005 storms as the most costly set of dis­as­ters ever. Ka­t­rina re­quired about $110bn in emer­gency ap­pro­pri­a­tions.

The bill com­bines $18.7bn for the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (Fema) with $16bn to per­mit the fi­nan­cially trou­bled fed­eral flood in­sur­ance pro­gramme pay an in­flux of hur­ri­cane Har­vey-re­lated claims.

Up to $5bn of the Fema money could be used to help lo­cal gov­ern­ments – es­pe­cially Puerto Rico’s cen­tral gov­ern­ment and the is­land’s lo­cal gov­ern­ments – re­main func­tional as they en­dure un­sus­tain­able cash short­falls in the af­ter­math of Maria, which has choked off rev­enues and strained re­sources. Suf­fer­ing House Speaker Paul Ryan was sched­uled to travel to Puerto Rico to­day. He has promised that the US ter­ri­tory will get what it needs, but most of the is­land re­mains with­out power and many of its more iso­lated res­i­dents still lack drink­ing wa­ter.

“It’s not easy when you’re used to liv­ing an Amer­i­can way of life, and then some­body tell you you’re go­ing to be with­out power for six or eight months,” said res­i­dent com­mis­sioner Jen­nif­fer Gon­za­lez-Colon, who rep­re­sents Puerto Rico as a non-vot­ing mem­ber of Congress. “It’s not easy when you con­tinue to suf­fer – see the suf­fer­ing of the peo­ple with­out food, with­out wa­ter, and ac­tu­ally liv­ing in a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis.”

Repub­li­cans con­trol­ling Congress, who had pro­tracted de­bates last year on mod­est re­quests by for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Obama to com­bat the Zika virus and help Flint, Michi­gan re­pair its lead­tainted wa­ter sys­tem, are mov­ing quickly to take care of this year’s alarm­ing se­ries of dis­as­ters, quickly pass­ing a $15.3bn mea­sure last month and sig­nalling that an­other in­stal­ment is com­ing next month.

Sev­eral law­mak­ers from hur­ri­cane-hit states said a third in­terim aid re­quest was ex­peted shortly – with a fi­nal, huge hur­ri­cane re­cov­ery and re­build­ing pack­age likely to be acted upon by the end of the year.

“An­other tranche is com­ing in maybe two, three weeks,” said rep­re­sen­ta­tive Pete Olsen from Texas. Democrats em­braced the pack­age, which was be­fore law­mak­ers yes­ter­day. It in­cludes an es­ti­mated $1bn added by the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee to ad­dress Cal­i­for­nia’s on­go­ing wild­fire dis­as­ters, a pri­or­ity for Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Demo­crat. – AP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.