Appropriations Vice Chairman Leahy REAX To Third Emergency Supplemental Request --

[WASHINGTON (FRIDAY, Nov. 17, 2017) --  Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Friday issued the following statement on the Trump Administration’s emergency supplemental request, totaling $44 billion, to address recent natural disasters.  Earlier this month, Leahy and Senator Schumer led a letter outlining what Senate Democrats believe should be contained in the supplemental request.]

The Trump Administration’s request does not come close to meeting the needs of victims of recent natural disasters in Texas, Florida, California, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Earlier this month, Senator Schumer and I led Senate Democrats in calling on President Trump to put forward a comprehensive package to provide relief from the recent onslaught of natural disasters.  This is not that package.  This is wholly inadequate and downright insulting, especially for the people of Puerto Rico who, eight to ten weeks after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, are struggling to get the lights back on and are looking to Congress for help.    

As Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee I have received requests for more than $180 billion in federal assistance from communities impacted by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.  This request doesn’t come even close to meeting those needs.  This was a chance for the Trump Administration to show that they care about ALL Americans and that the federal government stands behind disaster-struck communities.  They failed.  It does not provide sufficient funds to rebuild homes, roads, bridges, schools, or Puerto Rico’s electrical grid.  What’s more, the Administration wants to pay for this package by making cuts to other important programs that states, including Texas, Florida and others affected by the hurricanes, rely on.  This is not how we have treated disasters in the past, and Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands deserve no less than our full commitment to help them rebuild. 

I am particularly concerned that the Administration’s proposal fails to meet the unique needs of the people of Puerto Rico.  The new $12 billion dollar mitigation fund proposed by this Administration will never flow to Puerto Rico because it favors states that can provide matching funds.      

If we do not now stand behind the people of Puerto Rico, how can we expect them to have faith in us in the future?  Much like in the delayed response to Katrina and the people of New Orleans, we are seeing the people of Puerto Rico lose faith that we will help them rebuild.  Thousands are abandoning their homes and communities for the mainland.  This will have cascading consequences for generations to come, exacerbating what was already a fragile economy on the island and risking the wreckage of its vibrant culture.  We need to send a signal that we are with them, and we need to send it now.   

For 73 days, the people of Puerto Rico, United States citizens, have endured the largest power outage in U.S. history, with nearly 50 percent of the island still in the dark.  For 73 days these Americans have been trying to rebuild their homes, their schools and their communities on the promise that we will stand with them.  The President’s plan is unacceptable.  Mr. President, this is not a “10 out of 10” response. 

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CONTACT: Jay Tilton – 202-224-2667