The Trump administration will ask Congress to provide $29 billion in disaster aid and national flood insurance for hurricane-recovery efforts, a Republican lawmaker said Tuesday.
Of that amount, $16 billion would be used for loan forgiveness under the National Flood Insurance Program and a little more than $12 billion would go for federal disaster relief operations, said the lawmaker, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The funding is in response to Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico, as well as Harvey and Irma, which struck the Gulf Coast.
The request also would include about $500 million to fight wildfires in the western U.S., another lawmaker said. House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Fox News earlier Tuesday that he expects the administration to make the request as early as Wednesday. The House may vote next week on an aid package, a third lawmaker said.
More than a dozen Republican House members, mainly from Florida and Texas — states hit by Irma and Harvey — were briefed on the White House plan at the Capitol Tuesday afternoon by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
President Donald Trump visited Puerto Rico on Tuesday to meet with government officials and local residents. He shook hands with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, whom he had criticized on Twitter over the weekend. The president also remarked that relief costs could strain the federal budget.
Some in Puerto Rico’s government are estimating reconstruction costs will be as high as $60 billion.
“The power grid has been down, infrastructure, roads, telecom, water supply, hospitals, so getting major hurricanes back-to-back within two weeks has caused severe damage,” said Gerardo Portela Franco, who leads an agency established to act as the commonwealth’s fiscal agent in bankruptcy and made the $60 billion initial cost estimate.
Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Oversight Board, created by Congress to monitor the commonwealth’s budget, asked lawmakers Tuesday to act quickly to help with recovery costs that it said could rise even higher, pointing to a Moody’s Analytics estimate that the island sustained $95 billion in hurricane-related damage.
Trump, at a briefing with local officials in an airport hangar, complained — perhaps as a joke — about the expense of the federal response to the storm.
“I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack — because we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico and that’s fine, we’ve saved a lot of lives,” Trump said.