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$81 billion for victims of hurricanes and California wildfires is being held up in the Senate

By in Press Enterprise on December 27, 2017

By Jeff Horseman

Four days before Christmas, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an $81 billion disaster relief bill to help California wildfire victims and those affected by recent hurricanes.

But the idea of Congress playing Santa Claus to those victimized by 2017 natural disasters died in the Senate, where the bill stalled and won’t be acted on until January at the earliest.

This time, it’s not just Republicans or Democrats holding up wildfire relief. It’s both.

Some conservatives think the bill — the largest single outlay for disaster relief in U.S. history — spends too much, while some Democrats say the bill doesn’t do enough, especially for Puerto Rico.

This year’s hurricane season spawned Irma, Harvey and Maria, which ravaged parts of Florida and Texas as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Massive wildfires broke out in Northern California in October and Southern California in December, killing more than 40 people and damaging or destroying thousands of homes. The cost for the October wildfires alone stands at $9.4 billion, according to the state insurance commissioner.

If signed into law, the $81 billion earmarked in H.R. 4667 — the White House asked for $44 billion — would bring the amount Congress has spent on disaster relief in 2017 to more than $130 billion.

Introduced by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., the bill includes $27.5 billion for Federal Emergency Management Agency relief efforts. Billions more are ticketed for community development block grants, infrastructure repairs and small business loans, among other programs.

The bill also includes language from a separate bill sponsored by Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Beach, that provides tax relief to those who lost property during the wildfires.

Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Beach.

“The need for relief and assistance is immediate,” Walters said in a news release. “I am pleased that my bill … is included in the Emergency […]    

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