White House seeks $44 bln in hurricane aid from US Congress

Reuters , Friday 17 Nov 2017

The White House on Friday said it had asked Congress for $44 billion in supplemental disaster assistance to help those affected by the recent hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The request was far short of what some government officials have said is needed, with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello asking for $94.4 billion to rebuild the U.S. territory's infrastructure. Texas was seeking $61 billion and Florida had asked for $27 billion.

"This request does not come close to what local officials say is needed," Democratic U.S. Representative Nita Lowey of New York, whose state has strong ties to Puerto Rico, said in a statement.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan that the $44 billion "does not represent the final request" for assistance for the victims, especially in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, where needs were still being assessed.

He said it takes 60 days to produce initial recovery cost estimates after a major hurricane and can take up to 90 days to prepare reliable estimates.

"At this time, the administration is requesting an additional fiscal year 2018 funding in the amount of $44 billion and the necessary authorities to address ongoing recovery efforts," Mulvaney said in the letter.

Ryan said in a statement that the House of Representatives would review the request and "work with the administration and members from affected states to help the victims get the resources they need to recover and rebuild."

Republican Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi, which was also affected by a recent storm, called the supplemental request "one more step toward helping states and communities recover from the destruction."

However, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber, dismissed the latest request as s "wholly inadequate" for his state, the Dallas Morning News reported.

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