October 12, 2017
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen made the following statement on the House floor today in support of a bill making emergency appropriations to support response to and recovery from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and the wildfires in the Western U.S.:
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present House Resolution 569, a bill making additional supplemental appropriations for disaster relief requirements for the current fiscal year to help respond to recent, devastating natural disasters.
Over the past two months, millions of Americans have had their lives forever altered by destructive hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, and by raging and deadly wildfires in the West.
We support all those victimized, particularly those who lost lives or loved ones, and we will continue to be with them every step of the way – with the federal support they will need as they recover and rebuild.
Our thanks go out to the first responders, volunteers, and states, who have saved countless lives, protected communities, and demonstrated the best of humanity, and to FEMA, the Department of Defense, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Coast Guard, and other federal agencies for getting the first installment of federal relief to those in need.
However, with such massive, unprecedented damage, more help is clearly needed to continue these response and recovery efforts, and to rebuild communities – with dollars, with resources, with manpower, and with our support.
This emergency funding legislation, the second installment, addresses urgent, short-term, immediate priorities: replenishing FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund; supporting ongoing federal wildfire suppression efforts; providing debt relief for the Federal Flood Insurance Program; and other assistance that will help our fellow Americans in their time of greatest need.
To summarize the $36.5 billion in emergency funding provided in this bill:
In total, $18.7 billion is provided for the Disaster Relief Fund. This includes $13.77 billion for the most immediate response needs – life-saving missions; emergency protection; the repair and restoration of public infrastructure, like communications, power, transportation, and shelter; and financial assistance to individuals and families affected as they rebuild their lives.
This package also includes up to $4.9 billion for Community Disaster Loans, which will ensure local governments are able to continue basic municipal services, such as police and fire protection and public education, throughout this trying time.
In addition to these Disaster Relief Fund needs, the bill provides a one-time payment of $1.27 billion to allow our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico to receive the same access to emergency Disaster Nutrition Program benefits that all other states receive. The bill also ensures that the National Flood Insurance Program is able to meet its existing claim obligations as Americans cope with tremendous flood damage to their homes and communities.
For wildfire suppression, the bill contains $576.5 million. As we have seen, the situation out West has grown more desperate, and we must ensure that these heroic firefighters can continue to save lives and protect property.
As we know, the needs in each disaster area are ever-changing. Consequently, our Appropriations Committee and all our members continue to monitor the progress of recovery efforts, as well as anticipate emerging needs.
This will be a long process, and this second package of federal support will certainly not be all that is needed over the long term.
Congress will work with the White House and state and local governments to ensure that, if more assistance is needed, it will be available. We will be there for you.
Today, we must act quickly to ensure that the federal government is able to fulfill its duty to the millions of Americans in need.
I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.
Thank you, and I reserve the balance of my time.