U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY) announced on Thursday the release of emergency spending legislation to provide $3.35 billion in assistance to Puerto Rico following a series of recent earthquakes.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) tweeted that the House of Representatives will consider the legislation when it returns to Washington from its district work period next week.
If enacted, the funds will be available for transportation infrastructure, and for education and other community needs. Specifically, $1.25 billion is set aside in the legislative proposal for repairs to road systems which have been damaged by the earthquakes. One million dollars is available for education costs.
The bill also provides for $2 billion in Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds. This money will go towards immediate repairs and relief in communities affected by the earthquakes, but will also be used for long-term recovery.
Funds previously allocated for disaster recovery following Hurricane Maria in 2017 have begun to be released to the Island in recent days.
Chairwoman Lowey explained, however, that “[T]here are still urgent unmet needs on the island that necessitate additional relief. These needs have been compounded by recent earthquakes, which have forced thousands of families from their homes, flattened schools, and severely damaged roads and other infrastructure.”
The bill prioritizes getting schools reopened safely, but funding is also made available for small businesses, housing repair, and economic growth plans in communities hard hit by the recent earthquakes.
In addition to funds
The supplemental bill also makes some legal changes. For example, Puerto Rico will be allowed to combine disaster relief funds from the hurricanes and the earthquakes, rather than having to cope with additional red tape to keep funds from different sources separate.
The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, will also be required to work with other government agencies to complete a plan to fund electrical grid repairs for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands within 30 days. HUD will then be expected to issue a Federal Register notice within 60 days. Disaster aid funds cannot be disbursed until such notice is issued.