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Congress releases $81 billion disaster relief spending bill

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On December 18, U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) introduced legislation that would provide $81 billion in funding to help communities impacted by Hurricane’s Harvey, Maria, and Irma, as well as western communities fighting catastrophic wildfires.

The new legislation, titled the Further Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act of 2017 (H.R. 4667), would provide a third infusion of revenue to communities still recovering from devastating natural disasters. The new legislation comes following the passage of two emergency appropriations bills Congress approved earlier in the year including: $15.3 billion in the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018 and Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, 2017 (P.L. 115-56), and another $20.5 billion infusion of aid funding included in the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, 2017 (P.L. 115-72).  

Congress’ latest disaster aid legislation comes following a request made by the Director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Mick Mulvaney who sent a letter to Congress on November 17, 2017 seeking an additional $44 billion in funding to help impacted communities.

If the new disaster aid legislation is passed by Congress, emergency spending on disasters would reach a combined total of $137.75 billion this year.

The new legislation includes:

  • $27.6 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • $26.1 billion for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) for disaster recovery
  • $12.1 billion for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers
  • $3.8 billion for agriculture recovery
  • $2.9 billion to assist schools in affected areas
  • $1.5 billion to the Department of Defense to repair military facilities
  • $1.4 billion for damages to federal highways
  • $600 million for economic development grants

In addition to the direct funding the legislation provides, it would also allow property owners who have suffered loss due to wildfires to deduct damages on their federal income taxes, as well as suspend tax penalties for property owners who pull money from their retirement accounts to pay for repairs.

Congress has yet to announce when new disaster aid legislation will be considered on the floor of the House and Senate. However, the bill could be passed prior to the two chambers adjourning for their holiday recess.

NACo applauds Congress for introducing robust disaster aid legislation to help our impacted communities across the country.  NACo will continue working with the White House and Congress to ensure the needs of our nation’s disaster-impacted communities are met. 

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