Puerto Rico aid: FEMA approves $140M; House panel OKs $36B

A Marine Corps infantry officer talks to residents in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, on October 2 about a damaged road caused by flooding from Hurricane Maria. Photo by Cpl. Juan Soto-Delgado/USMC/UPI

Oct. 11 (UPI) — The Federal Emergency Management Administration and a House commission both approved sizable financial assistance for relief efforts to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

FEMA approved $140 million in aid on Wednesday. The agency said $44 million will help individuals and $96 million will go toward emergency work on the island.

On Tuesday night, the House Appropriations Committee approved a bill for $36.5 billion, which would go into a more general disaster fund.

The legislation, which adheres to the White House’s updated funding request from $29 billion, includes $18.7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund and $16 billion for debt relief for the National Flood Insurance Program.

Also, $576 million is allocated for wildfire efforts, including in Northern California.

The funding includes a provision for the Disaster Nutrition Assistance Program to enable low-income residents in Puerto Rico to receive the same emergency nutrition assistance as other hurricane-affected states.

Three weeks after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, only 11 percent of the island has electricity as of Wednesday, according to a website set up by the Puerto Rican government.

NPR reported Wednesday that it could take six months to repair the power grid — at a possible cost of $5 billion.

In late August, Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, and then Hurricane Irma hit Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in October.

“These funds are urgently needed to get resources to families and communities that are still suffering,” Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen said. “This legislation will continue immediate relief efforts, and help jump-start the rebuilding process. The bill also will provide recovery funds for this season’s devastating wildfires in the West.”

The funding package doesn’t include any spending offsets.

“This is an incredibly frustrating place,” Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C, the leader of the conservative Republican Study Committee, told The Hill.

Walker said he was unsure if he would vote for the package, which could be considered Thursday by the full Senate under special rules requiring three-fourths majority for quicker passage by curbing debate.

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