U.S. House panel approves new disaster-relief aid for hurricane, wildfires

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The House Appropriations Committee approved $36.5 billion in relief aid for hurricanes in the southeast and wildfires in the northwest, a panel spokeswoman said late Tuesday.

The figure in the bill is $7 billion more than initially requested by the White House last week and sets aside $6 billion more for FEMA than was requested.

A rough breakdown of the bill sees $576.6 million put forth for wildfire relief efforts and $16 billion for the National Flood Insurance program. Furthermore, it includes a provision that allows low-income Puerto Ricans to receive emergency nutrition assistance, according to Jennifer Hing, spokeswoman for House Appropriations Committee committee chairman Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.).

A date has not been set for the bill to be put forward for a vote on the House floor.

Many areas in Florida and Texas are still reeling from the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, and Puerto Rico is in dire straits as a result of Hurricane Maria.

Northern California has also been ravaged by a series of recent wildfires, prompting thousands to evacuate and many major roadways to close.

The initial package requested by the White House called for $29 billion in aid and was expected to pass quickly due to the dire need of the funds.

“This is going to be extraordinarily expensive, and I think we need to get some money out there,” said Rep. Frelinghuysen last week.

Southeastern lawmakers will be pleased to see the increase in funds and will be eager to see it passed, as the National Flood Insurance program runs out of money to pay claims Oct. 23.

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