WASHINGTON – The House passed Wednesday $12.1 billion in emergency disaster aid to help recovery efforts from California’s wildfires, Hurricanes Florence and Michael, typhoons the Alaska earthquakes and Hawaii’s volcano eruption and earthquakes — and also would end the shutdown.
The emergency funding is distributed through nine federal departments and agencies, including $165 million to the Department of Education to jumpstart recovery efforts for schools affected by 2018 natural disasters.
The funding would be allocated through Sept. 30, 2019 — the end of the current fiscal year — and is intended to restart school operations, support administrative tasks, provide temporary assistance for schools receiving displaced students and deliver mental health services to students and staff.
“In addition to the tragic loss of life, families have lost everything, businesses have been upended, and communities have been ripped apart. This legislation attempts to meet these needs with $12.14 billion in emergency spending,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey in testimony to the House Rules Committee on Tuesday.
Along with funding for the Department of Education, $60 million would be distributed to the Department of Health and Human Services to support Head Start programs. These programs support early childhood education, health, and nutrition services to low-income children and their families.
The bill would temporarily end the partial government shutdown so that all nine agencies receiving funding in the 2019 Supplemental Appropriations Act can immediately use the disaster aid. But the Republican-controlled Senate will not consider it under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to avoid votes on any legislation to end the shutdown that doesn’t include border wall funding demanded by President Donald Trump.
“The reason why we are here is because of the politics in the previous Congress. We had a previous resolution that was going to pass in the Senate. We had a resolution that was going to pass here,” said House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass. “And then my colleagues attached a border wall bill. So here we are today to do last year’s business.”
Rep. Tom Cole, the top Republican on the House Rules Committee, said the House should have passed the original bill without language involving the government shutdown in order to prevent an “exercise in futility.”
“This bill, quite frankly, would have started us down the right direction. We had members on both sides,” said Cole.
The House Democrats’ push to pass funding bills since the beginning of the partial government shutdown has continued to pressure GOP legislators to end their support of Trump demand for border wall funding.
“The absolute first order of business for us is to open the United States government,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md.