This week, House Republicans proposed $81 billion in disaster relief through H.R. 4667 for areas hit by hurricanes and wildfires, the largest standalone aid bill in recent years. Initially believed to be attached to a Continuing Resolution (CR), the stopgap funding measure was kept separate from H.R. 4667, the disaster supplemental bill, after a failure among Republicans to reach a consensus on a package deal.
Last week House leadership was concerned state delegations from Texas and Florida would withhold their support for a CR that did not include disaster relief but this appeared to be a bluff as the threat of a government shutdown loomed large. H.R. 4667’s prospects for passage, originally seen less likely as standalone legislation, brightened after reports that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will allow Democrats from states recovering from hurricanes and wildfire to support the bill. Even if the bill passes the House with Democratic support, the Senate will not take up the disaster supplemental until Congress returns for the new year. In his Thursday remarks, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called the bill “an unacceptable disaster supplemental” that fails to meet the needs of California, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Prior to sending H.R. 4667 to the House Floor, the House Rules Committee approved an amendment proposed by Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) which provides tax relief for families and individuals who were victims of California wildfires. The amendment expands the requirements for writing off property damage and softens the penalty for accessing retirement funds to cover emergency expenses.
In addition to tax relief for wildfire victims the disaster aid package will provide over $81 billion in relief as its currently written. The new aid package will split funding across multiple agencies, providing $26.7 billion to FEMA, $26.1 billion to the Community Development Block Grant program, and $12 billion to the Army Corps of Engineers for rebuilding. With this latest package, Congress will have provided $130 billion emergency funding for hurricane and wildfire relief.