A group of 28 Democratic senators sent Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney a letter on November 3 with recommendations for the administration’s request for a third supplemental spending bill for disaster-impacted areas. The recommendations are meant to address the needs of all affected communities and cover funding requests related to nearly 20 topics, including housing, community development, education, and the specific needs for Puerto Rico.
Some of the requests include:
- Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. The Administration should provide a means for increased liquidity for Puerto Rico’s government by providing grants or no-interest loans that can be cancelled or forgiven if Puerto Rico does not have an operating surplus in the three-year period beginning November 1, 2021. The letter requests specific legislative language concerning rebuilding the island’s electric grid with resiliency. The senators also suggest waiving state and local match and cost-share requirements for both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The administration should also lift the cap on the block grant Puerto Rico receives in lieu of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and provide additional funding for Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program. In addition, legislation should allow Puerto Rico to be eligible to receive disaster nutrition assistance.
- CDBG-DR. The supplemental should provide Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds to help communities with long-term recovery and mitigation and should include funding for technical assistance and capacity building.
- Housing. The supplemental needs to include sufficient funding to restore or replace damaged federally-assisted housing and ensure that HUD-assisted households have housing during the recovery process. The administration should direct HUD to allow PHAs in affected areas to transfer funds between public housing capital, public housing operating, and Section 8 voucher accounts. This flexibility would allow PHAs to make rapid repairs and assist HUD-assisted households. Additional rental assistance should also be provided. The letter does not mention instructing FEMA to enter into an interagency agreement with HUD to create and operate a Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP).
- Authorize Wildfire Suppression. The Administration should support a legislative proposal amending the Budget Control Act to increase the annual funding available for all disasters within the Disaster Cap Adjustment and authorize wildfire suppression as an eligible activity.
- FEMA. Funding for FEMA through the end of FY18 should include known and projected costs for recent disasters. Recipients of FEMA Fire Management Assistance Grants should be eligible for hazard mitigation funding that will strengthen communities susceptible to fire. FEMA should also receive funding to help establish a nationwide mitigation program to strengthen vulnerable infrastructure.
- EPA. The Environmental Protection Agency’s State Revolving Fund should receive funding to ensure water and sewer infrastructure is repaired. Public health and community and natural resources can be protected by ensuring toxic chemicals and hazardous waste do not infect drinking water.
- Labor and Job Training. Funding should support occupational health and safety, require at least 50% of the employees of federal contractors and recipients performing relief and reconstruction work be residents of areas affected by the disasters, expand access to disaster unemployment assistance and job training, and reinstate affirmative action requirements in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
- Education. Supplemental funds need to provide resources for public schools in affected areas, as well as schools servicing a higher number of homeless children.
- Legal Services. The Legal Services Corporation should be funded to help provide assistance to low income survivors address issues such as destroyed documents, scams, evictions, and family issues.