The Trump Administration on Friday asked Congress to approve a third major disaster aid relief package for areas hit hard by hurricanes in 2017, which would bring total federal aid to nearly $100 billion, as for the first time, the White House proposed budget savings to offset some of that cost.
“This year’s Atlantic hurricane season has resulted in historic, widespread destruction that continues to affect the lives of millions of Americans,” said White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney in a letter to the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
In the same letter, Mulvaney that Congress has already approved over $53 billion in disaster relief this year, and that it’s time to find a way to pay for some of that.
“The administration believes it is prudent to offset new spending,” Mulvaney added, sending a list of plans that would save $14.8 billion by using budget funds from past years which were never spent, and by canceling other programs.
The extra $44 billion is far less than what has been requested by officials in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico; just this week, Puerto Rico’s Governor traveled to Washington, D.C. to personally request $94 billion in aid.
“We would just like to stress that this is a conservative estimate,” said Gov. Ricardo Rossello of the disaster aid request, as his island continues to struggle in the aftermath of devastation from Hurricane Maria.
Even before the latest White House disaster request was official, it was getting less than rave reviews in the Congress.
“We’ve been continually told to wait, wait, wait,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) about new disaster relief, as Lone Star State officials asked in October for $19 billion just for the state, and say infrastructure repairs could total $61 billion.
Meanwhile, officials from Florida last month asked Congress for $27 billion in relief aid.
Cornyn said Thursday night that his staff had reported this latest request from the White House was “wholly inadequate.”
The White House had a message for Texas on Friday.
“Texas has not put any state dollars into this process,” said Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“This request by the administration doesn’t come close to providing what is needed,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). “People are hurting and they desperately need our help, yet this request has no money to provide housing for evacuees and barely any money for Florida’s citrus growers. That’s unacceptable.”
As for the budget cuts proposed by the White House – $14.8 billion would happen now, with an additional savings of $44 billion projected between 2025 and 2027 by extending the budget caps associated with the budget sequester.
But holding down on spending between 2025 and 2027 certainly would not pay for hurricane aid being spent in 2017.
As for money that would be saved right now, here is the list of budget cancellations and changes that the Trump Administration would make to save $14.8 billion:
+ Emergency farm conservation activities from Hurricane Sandy – $204 million
+ Advanced Tech Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program – $4.33 billion
+ Obama stimulus loan program for innovative tech – $479.4 million
+ Obama stimulus program for National Emergency health Grants – $23 million
+ Excess money at the Army Corps of Engineers – $210 million
+ Army Corps, flood control after Hurricane Sandy – $519 million
+ Agricultural Research Service – $212 million
+ Rural Economic Development Grants – $196 million
+ Rural Business Program – $25 million
+ Rural Energy Savings program – $8 million
+ Unspent money at Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – $72 million
+ Watershed & Flood Prevention – $90 million
+ Farm conservation programs – $1.42 billion
+ Supplemental WIC funding – $800 million
+ Unspent education money in Student Financial Assistance $3.9 billion
+ Unspent funds at HHS – $560 million
+ Justice Department working capital fund – $410 million
+ State Department, Democracy Fund – $99 million
+ Federal transportation highway aid – $1 billion
+ EPA state and tribal assistance grants – $150 million
+ EPA Environmental Programs and Management – $100 million
Those offsets amount to $14.8 billion, far short of the $53 billion that’s already been approved, without even including this latest request for another $44 billion.