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Disaster Funding Stalemate

The House passed a disaster funding bill in January. This bill provided $14.17 billion for emergency spending on nutrition assistance, repairs, and other actions to help people in Puerto Rico and other States and territories recover from natural disasters. House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY) said. This legislation is a critical first step to meeting our fellow citizens’ urgent needs as they recover from recent disasters, and I urge the Senate to pass it without delay.”

The Senate has not done so. A new Senate disaster recovery bill was proposed by Senator David Perdue (R-GA) instead. It included $600 million for Puerto Rico nutrition assistance, but none of the additional funding provided in the House bill. While some Puerto Rico leaders wanted to see it passed, Senate Democrats feared that passage of this bill would mean Puerto Rico would not see the funding it needs for a full recovery.  Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), a popular politician among Florida’s Puerto Rican community, viewed the disagreement as a political fight and urged quick passage of the measure with the nutrition funding he fought to include.

Nutrition Assistance in Puerto Rico: What It Means to be a Territory

Differences of opinion on the bill showed up in Twitter battles.

President Trump also took part in the Twitter conversations on the subject, saying, “Democrats should stop fighting Sen. David Perdue’s disaster relief bill. They are blocking funding and relief for our great farmers and rural America!”

Some observers see President Trump as the center of the problem. The White House has already said that additional help with food stamps in Puerto Rico is unnecessary and excessive, and there have been claims that President Trump has said privately that he doesn’t want to give any more money to Puerto Rico. Senate Republicans have said that the president will not support a disaster aid bill that allocates significant additional funds to Puerto Rico.

Legislators have left for a two week recess without passing any disaster relief bill.

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