Senate advances $36.5B disaster relief package

Published 7:41 am Tuesday, October 24, 2017

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Monday gave a preliminary OK to a $36.5 billion hurricane relief package that would provide Puerto Rico with a much-needed infusion of cash and keep the federal flood insurance program from running out of money to pay claims.

The 79-16 procedural vote set the stage for a final vote, most likely on Tuesday.

The measure also provides $18.7 billion to replenish the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s rapidly dwindling emergency disaster accounts. On Monday, FEMA announced more than $500 million in aid to Puerto Rico, including $285 million to help restore power and water services to the devastated island. An additional $16 billion would permit the financially troubled federal flood insurance program to pay an influx of Harvey-related claims.

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But the bill rejects requests from the powerful Texas and Florida congressional delegations for additional money to rebuild after hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Florida Democrat Bill Nelson, whose state’s citrus industry endured significant losses during Irma, sought to add $3 billion in immediate agriculture assistance to the measure, but was denied by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who said money for crop losses would be in subsequent aid measures.