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House passes disaster relief bill

A flag flies outside the U.S. Capitol Building. (STOCK PHOTO)

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan compromise disaster relief package on Monday.

The House had earlier passed a Democratic relief plan opposed by the White House. U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, helped craft a bipartisan compromise. The Senate Amendment to H.R. 2157, the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act, is a bill that Republicans, Democrats and the White House would all finally accept. The Senate passed that bill before the Memorial Day recess. The House passed it on Monday.

Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, voted for the package.

“For eight long months, farmers in the Wiregrass and throughout the Southeast have waited for disaster relief aid after Hurricane Michael devastated the region last October,” Roby said in a statement. “I am very proud that Congress has at last delivered this long-overdue assistance, and I am eager to see President (Donald) Trump sign this bill into law to finally help the many Americans who have suffered extreme devastation in the wake of natural disasters across the country.”

The disaster relief funding bill was passed Monday, following months of negotiations and delays, due to disagreements about funding for Puerto Rico hurricane recovery efforts and the president’s request for additional funds for border operations.

“This disaster relief bill is long overdue,” said Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell, D-Selma. “This funding will go a long way toward helping Alabamians who lost their homes due to tornadoes in Lee County and farmers who saw devastating crop losses as a result of Hurricane Michael. I am glad that my Republican colleagues finally put partisan politics aside to help Americans affected by natural disasters.”

“The passage of disaster relief for Americans from California to Puerto Rico is so needed,” said Eric LeCompte, the executive director of Jubilee USA, a religious development organization. “We’ve worked for months for the passage of disaster relief, and now it’s a reality.”

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The legislation includes more than $900 million for Puerto Rico recovery including $600 million in emergency disaster food assistance for vulnerable communities. The disaster package expedites the release of $8.9 billion already approved by Congress for Puerto Rico disaster relief.

The $19.1 billion disaster aid package includes over $3 billion for agricultural programs; payments for crop and livestock losses due to hurricanes, typhoons, volcanic activities, tornados, floods, snowstorms or wildfires during 2018 and 2019; $480 million for the Emergency Forest Restoration Program, which provides assistance to owners of private forests to restore disaster-damaged forests; $558 million for the Emergency Conservation Program, which provides emergency funding and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters; and $150 million for Rural Community Facilities Program, which provides grants for facilities to provide health care, education, public safety and public services to rural communities.

The Senate Amendment to H.R. 2157 passed the House by a vote of 354 to 58. It now awaits the president’s signature. Trump is expected to sign the package.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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