The just-announced Senate budget deal includes roughly $90 billion in disaster assistance to help places like Florida and Puerto Rico recover from last year’s storms. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) has been calling on Senate leaders to pass a disaster assistance package for months now. Below is a list of the projects that Nelson had urged Senate leaders to include in the bill.
Here’s a comment from Nelson:
“The people of Florida and Puerto Rico are still struggling to recover from last year’s devastating storms and the disaster funding in this bill will help provide them some much-needed relief.” Nelson said. “The disaster funding in this bill will not only help provide Florida’s schools and citrus growers the help they need, it will also help Puerto Rico rebuild its power grid and avoid an even greater healthcare crisis. ”
And here’s a list of projects Nelson pushed to have included in the bill:
- $2.36 billion to provide disaster assistance for Florida citrus growers and other farmers. Florida’s citrus industry sustained more than $760 million in losses due to the storm. USDA estimates Florida’s citrus industry will harvest only 46 million boxes of citrus this year, less than 25 percent of the nearly 204 million boxes harvested in Florida ten years ago.
- $2.7 billion for schools impacted by recent disasters, including schools in Florida.More than 12,000 students, who evacuated from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of the storms, have now enrolled in schools around Florida. The sudden influx of new students is putting a strain on some Florida schools as they struggle to accommodate the additional students with limited budgets and resources.
- $15 billion for Army Corps mitigation and resiliency projects, including the Herbert Hoover Dike. Herbert Hoover Dike protects thousands of Floridians who live around Lake Okeechobee from the threat of catastrophic flooding. The Army Corps of Engineers says it needs approximately $200 million per year, for the next four years, to finish work on the dike by 2022.
- Closing the Medicare Part D “donut hole” for seniors in 2019. Under the ACA, the Medicare “donut hole” is expected to close by 2020. Closing this gap in coverage by 2019, instead of 2020, and shifting more of the cost to drug makers, instead of Medicare, will lower the cost of prescription drugs for Florida seniors and save taxpayers approximately $9 billion over ten years and help offset some of the additional spending being proposed in a budget deal the Senate is expected to take up later this week.
- $2 billion directed to help Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands rebuild and improve their electric grids. Four months after Hurricane Maria, nearly 1/3 of the island remains without power.
- $4.9 billion in Medicaid funds for Puerto Rico and USVI. According to the government of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program costs approximately $1.6 billion per year to operate. $4.9 billion would fully fund Puerto Rico Medicaid’s program for at least two years.
- Decreasing Puerto Rico’s Medicaid cost-share requirement for 2 years. The federal government matches only 55% of the cost for Puerto Rico to operate its Medicaid program. By temporarily decreasing this cost-share requirement, the federal government would be allowed to pay a greater share of the cost of Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program while it works to rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Maria.