House Passes Puerto Rico Earthquake Assistance Bill, President Threatens Veto

The House passed the “Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief and Puerto Rico Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020” (H.R. 5687) by a vote of 235-158 on February 7. The $4.7 billion recovery bill has multiple provisions designed to assist Puerto Rico recover from the recent earthquakes that devastated parts of the island. The White House released a statement threatening to veto the bill should it reach President Trump’s desk, raising concerns about the territory’s ability to handle the additional funding.

The bill includes more than $3 billion in Community Development Block Grant–Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding, as well as funds for roads, nutrition assistance, and education. Amendments increase the amount of nutrition benefits available and require information about all of the funds provided by the bill be made available for individuals with limited English proficiency.

The supplemental does not, however, include any measures to roll back the severe restrictions placed on more than $16 billion in recovery and mitigation assistance related to Hurricane Maria announced by HUD in January (see Memo, 1/27). Those restrictions require the territorial government of Puerto Rico to make substantial changes to local law and policy before it can access the funding, resulting in a slower, less equitable recovery. Members of the NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition – a group of over 850 local, state, and national organizations – sent a letter on February 6 to congressional leadership requesting action on the restrictions by amending the Emergency Supplemental bill.

The DHRC released a statement on the vote on H.R. 5687, thanking the House for quick action to assist earthquake victims in Puerto Rico, calling on the Senate to pass the bill, and condemning the president’s veto threat. “President Trump’s threat to veto the earthquake relief bill for Puerto Rico is just the latest attempt by the administration to put American lives at risk,” the letter states. “We thank Speaker Pelosi and Chairwoman Lowry for their leadership in advancing critical disaster recovery resources. We look forward to working with them to ensure that Puerto Rico has the funding it needs – free from unnecessary and harmful restrictions – to fully recover from these disasters.”

Read the bill at:

Read the DHRC statement at: