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Puerto Rico disaster relief
A collapsed bridge cuts off a community in Puerto Rico, photo taken on 9/27/17 (Photo: Shaquille Brewster / Twitter)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate is pushing ahead Monday on a $36.5 billion hurricane relief package that would give Puerto Rico a much-needed infusion of cash.

The measure also would replenish rapidly dwindling emergency disaster accounts and provide $16 billion to permit the financially troubled federal flood insurance program to pay an influx of Harvey-related claims. But it rejects requests from the powerful Texas and Florida congressional delegations for additional money to rebuild after hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

The measure was certain to sail through Monday’s procedural vote and a final vote was expected no later than Tuesday. That would send the measure to President Donald Trump for his signature.

There is urgency to move the measure swiftly — rather than add more money to it at this time — because the government’s flood insurance reserves are running out.

Still, members of the Texas and Florida delegations in Congress are unhappy because the measure failed to address extensive requests for additional hurricane rebuilding funds. Texas, inundated by Harvey in August, requested $19 billion, while Florida sought $27 billion.

“I’m pretty disappointed with what the House sent over,” Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn said Thursday. But later, after speaking to both Trump and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, Cornyn said he was promised that the White House would issue another disaster aid measure next month that would provide much-needed help for Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. A fourth, and perhaps final, measure is likely to anchor a year-end spending bill.

The measure also contains almost $5 billion to assist Puerto Rico’s central government and various municipalities that are suffering unsustainable cash shortfalls as Maria has choked off revenues and strained resources. Another $150 million would help Puerto Rico with the 10 percent match required for Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief.

More than one-fourth of the island’s residents don’t have potable running water and just 17 percent have electricity, according to FEMA. Just 392 miles of Puerto Rico’s 5,073 miles of roads are open. Conditions in the U.S. Virgin Islands are bad as well, with widespread power outages.

The measure currently before the Senate contains $577 million for wildfires out West that forced agencies to tap other reserves for firefighting accounts and FEMA money for the disastrous fires in northern California.

Republicans dragged their feet last year on modest requests by former President Barack Obama to combat the Zika virus and help Flint, Michigan, repair its lead-tainted water system. But they are moving quickly to take care of this year’s alarming series of disasters, quickly passing a $15.3 billion relief measure last month and signaling that another installment is coming next month.

Damage is still being assessed and final cost estimates for recovering and rebuilding from this year’s hurricane season are not in yet. Some House conservatives are becoming restive at the high price tag for the spate of disasters, which come as the deficit is growing.

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  • John

    Nonsense

  • guest45

    we have no business having to foot Puerto rico’s government or infrastructure, it is ok to help the people with food, water, shelter, and medical needs but you do not help people when you constantly come in and give them handouts, we need to build some self confidence and self reliance back into people, tough love for sure, I want to help these people become self sustaining.

    • mike gerics

      isn’t Puerto Rico…..like…..some part of America?

    • IUsedToBeCalledModerate

      You should add Florida & Texas to your list since we’re talking about fellow Americans along with Puerto Rico. Time those lazy Texans and Floridians learned to fend for themselves.

      • 58thStreetSurfer

        Unless you have spent time as a disaster relief worker, you have no clue as to what happens to people in a disaster zone. The stress, depression, PTSD that comes with disaster can do strange things to people’s minds.

      • IUsedToBeCalledModerate

        I have spent time as a disaster relief worker & you are absolutely correct in the effect that disasters have on those people long after the TV news crews have left. My comment above was intended as sarcasm towards Guest45’s posting about Puerto Rico and not meant to slight or diminish those in Florida & Texas still suffering the effects of the hurricanes.

      • Christopher Meyers

        Let me help you out here, Used. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated US territory, not a “state” as IS Texas and Florida. They pay no federal or state taxes and contribute nothing to medicare or social security as Texas and Florida DOES. They cannot vote in presidential elections and have their own constitution. The economy of Puerto Rico has been in the red for decades and on a continual slide downwards. They were in a serious debt crisis before the hurricanes hit and already in a 47% poverty rate.
        We have a duty to help them recover from the storms, we do not have a duty to bail them out of their pre-existing monumental financial failure.

      • IUsedToBeCalledModerate

        You are correct in that Puerto Ricans can not vote in presidential elections (but they do vote in the primaries) and that they do not pay federal income taxes (but they do pay import/export taxes, federal commodity taxes,and Social Security & Medicare taxes). You are also correct in that prior to the hurricane they were already a financial mess (and their infrastructure is way way outdated and falling apart).

        But they are also Americans. Americans (like those in Samoa, Guam, and others) that serve in our armed forces and contribute financially to the United States but are often neglected (bipartisan!) by the Federal government. The problems financially and infrastructure-wise are also partly due to years of indifference from the Federal government.

        So if Puerto Ricans getting assistance because of being Americans still doesn’t move the needle for you, how about we examine this as a political issue. Puerto Ricans do not require visas to come to the United States (because they are Americans). Thousands have already left the island (with no intention of coming back) with the majority settling in Florida. Florida is currently a “purple state”; it can go Republican or Democrat in any election. If a Republican controlled Presidency and Congress is unwilling to help, who do you think they will support when they pull the level in state elections?

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