In the midst of the ongoing partisan battle over action in Congress on a new package of relief aid for Americans hit hard by hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornadoes and other disasters, there is strong bipartisan agreement on one thing - that the Trump Administration has been slow-walking billions of dollars in disaster relief already approved by the Congress.
And members of both parties are getting increasingly aggravated.
"Congress is tired of the administration’s delays," said Rep. David Price (D-NC).
"There's no time to waste," said Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), as he joined nine Republican Senators in Florida, Georgia, Texas, and the Carolinas in sending a letter Friday night asking for the Administration to release already money approved by Congress in 2017 and 2018.
The complaints about bureaucratic delays by the Trump Administration have been building for months, and involve $16 billion in what's known as disaster mitigation funds.
Texas is in line to get $4.3 billion in funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Puerto Rico is set to receive $8.2 billion. North Carolina is waiting for $1.1 billion. Florida would get $550 million in disaster mitigation money.
Lawmakers were recently assured by HUD Secretary Ben Carson that the money would be released on May 1.
But it didn't happen - as lawmakers pointed the finger at the White House, and the Office of Management and Budget for the delay.
As flooding continues at home, am introducing House bill w/@TXRandy14 to force HUD to release within 60 days disaster relief funding approved by Congress last Feb for Hurricane Harvey recovery.— Rep. Kevin Brady (@RepKevinBrady) May 10, 2019
Sec. Carson pledged $$ released by May 1. We appreciate.
We need the help ASAP. pic.twitter.com/4gIH6w3SW2
Disaster recovery $ for Puerto Rico and other areas are being held up again—HUD missed its own May 1st deadline to publish a notice for communities to apply for $16 billion worth of disaster relief mitigation funds, because the White House wants to review the notice.— Nidhi Prakash (@nidhiprakash) May 3, 2019
I joined Senate colleagues in a letter to @SecretaryCarson requesting the rules that will allow states affected by 2018 disasters to receive Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery assistance.— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) May 10, 2019
There’s no time to waste. Our communities need help now. Read letter here: pic.twitter.com/itURCmPkkQ
Inbox: Cornyn, Manchin, Cruz, Tillis and Harris introduce the Bipartisan Disaster Recovery Funding Act, which is designed to force OMB to release $16 billion in disaster relief funding. HUD has missed the self-imposed deadline (May 1) to release the money.— Emily Cochrane (@ESCochrane) May 9, 2019
"This is nothing more than bureaucracy at its worst," said Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) earlier this year, as he's tried for months to unlock $250 million in flood relief aid for his Louisiana district.
"Every deadline they give us, every date they give us turns out to be erroneous," Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC) told reporters back in his home district about delays in getting aid approved by Congress after Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and Hurricane Florence in 2018. "I'm just tired of it."
While debate in the House on Friday on $19.1 billion in new disaster aid was somewhat partisan - spurred by the President's demand that GOP lawmakers oppose the bill - there was one point of bipartisan agreement on an amendment to force the Trump Administration to release disaster money already been approved by Congress.
"In February of 2018, this body appropriated more than $4 billion to Texas," said Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX). "But nearly a year and a half after those appropriations were made, those funds have not arrived.”
While most of the votes on the disaster bill were mainly along partisan lines, this one from Fletcher was not - as the House voted 393-20 to demand that the White House release the rules governing the aid money, which will then allow those billions to paid out.
"Four billion dollars are important dollars, and to have that delay really hinders those who are suffering now," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), as this money was approved after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and Louisiana in 2017.
Nearly a year and a half ago, Congress appropriated funds to help mitigate damage from storms like the one we are having in Houston right now. Where is the money? Still in Washington. Tied up in bureaucratic review. We are waiting for HUD and OMB to publish the rules for its use. pic.twitter.com/OwGugY4rTQ— Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (@RepFletcher) May 10, 2019
For months, Democrats have accused the Trump Administration of slow-walking aid to Puerto Rico - but it's clear the complaints are about more than just the island's recovery from Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Congress has approved $41 billion in aid for Puerto Rico; about $12 billion has actually been sent to the island. Another $8.2 billion can be released once the feds publish the rules governing the use of those funds.
But deadlines have come and gone for the publication of those details, and the money remains on hold, in Washington, D.C.
“We need the help ASAP,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX).
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