The House this week will vote on a $36.5 billion in emergency funding to aid states ravaged by hurricanes and wildfires.
The bill could be considered Thursday under special rules speeding up debate and requiring three-fourths majority for passage.
The bill includes $18.7 billion to bolster the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Relief Fund, an additional $576.5 million to help Western states, particularly California, recover from wildfires, and $16 billion for debt relief for the National Flood Insurance Program. That program "now needs additional funds to make necessary insurance claims payments to individuals," according to appropriators.
The bill includes money for Disaster Nutrition Assistance Program for low-income residents in Puerto Rico to access "the same emergency nutrition assistance that other hurricane-affected states already receive."
"This legislation will continue immediate relief efforts, and help jump-start the rebuilding process," Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., said. "The bill also will provide recovery funds for this season's devastating wildfires in the West.
"These funds are vital right now, in the near term, to get the aid where it is needed most. However, the recovery in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Texas and Florida will be ongoing, and more assistance will be required in the near future. My Committee will be vigilant in overseeing these funds and will continually monitor this crisis, and stands ready to provide the necessary funding to get these communities back on their feet."
The bill increases and replaces a $29 billion request made by the Trump Administration earlier this month. Much of the additional money — about $4,5 billion — is intended specifically for Puerto Rico, which was devastated by two hurricanes. The island, a U.S territory, remains mostly without water and electricity weeks after the last storm.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, told the Washington Examiner the current package aims to replenish FEMA funding that has been depleted after a string of damaging storms.
"That pipeline is getting empty quick so we really need to move now to get it passed," Brady told the Examiner.
Brady said in approximately one month, a larger aid package will be sent to Congress that will pay for recovery in Puerto Rico and the U.S Virgin Islands as well as Texas and Florida, which suffered significant damage from Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.
"There will be a bigger more long-term recovery package in a month or so now, so moving pretty quickly," Brady said.
Democrats appear satisfied with the funding level and their support will allow the House to quickly pass the bill under special rules on Thursday.
"This package provides critical public and individual disaster assistance, flood insurance aid, liquidity for Puerto Rico's government, and help for communities devastated by wildfires," House Appropriations Committee ranking member Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said.
Puerto Rico's congressional representative said the funding is sorely needed.
"We still have a dire situation on the island," Rep. Jennifer González, Puerto Rico's non-voting, at-large delegate, said Wednesday following a closed-door GOP meeting. "It's not easy when you are used to living an American way of life and someone tells you you are not going to have power to six or eight months," she said.
González said the island is dealing with "a humanitarian crisis," from back-to-back hurricanes Irma and Maria that slammed the island on Sept. 6 and again on Sept. 20, respectively.
"We are still counting fatalities as of today," González said, adding the island has recorded 45 deaths so far.