Senators Call for Addressing Deficiencies in House Disaster Spending Bill

A group of eight senators sent a letter on January 17 to Senate leadership urging them to “address the deficiencies” in the House-passed disaster supplemental bill, H.R. 4667. The letter urges leadership to ensure the Senate bill includes adequate Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico, provides tax relief for survivors in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, addresses delays in loan disbursements to Puerto Rico and other issues with Community Disaster Loans, and provides more Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recover (CDBG-DR) resources to speed disaster housing recovery.

The letter’s authors, Democratic Senators Robert Menendez (NJ), Bill Nelson (FL), Cory Booker (NJ), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Tammy Duckworth (IL), Christopher Murphy (CT), and Edward Markey (MA), wrote that “H.R. 4667 should do more to promote relief efforts in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.” In addition to addressing “Medicaid disparities suffered by Puerto Rico,” the letter states that House bill’s requirement that the Fiscal Oversight Board review and approve any disaster recovery project valued at over $10 million for Pue to Rico “imposes unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles bound to delay the provision of critical relief to the American citizens living in Puerto Rico.” The senators note that the Fiscal Oversight Board was put into place to oversee the island’s debt restructuring process and that Congress never intended to empower the board to dictate the provision and allocation of disaster relief funding. The senators also called for waiving any required federal cost-share for the island.

The letter further states that Community Disaster Loans provided to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands should not be subject to the oversight and discretion of the secretaries of the Treasury and Homeland Security, that American companies in Puerto Rico should not be subject to a more rigorous tax regime than companies on the mainland, and that the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and other tax relief be provided to American citizens living in Puerto Rico.

The senators call for increased funding for the CDBG-DR program. “H.R. 4667 fails to provide adequate funding for the CDBG-DR program,” the senators state. “Failure to provide adequate funding [for] CDBG-DR will force states and territories to compete for limited resources and further delay the already slow housing recovery.” 

Read the Senators’ letter here.