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Hurricane aid finally passes Congress as part of government funding bill

Lee Herald Favicon 16Disaster aid that Florida leaders have been calling on Congress to pass for months has finally gone through.

An $89.3 billion funding measure which provides disaster aid for Florida from Hurricane Irma, as well as Texas and Puerto Rico from Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, and California from an active wildfire season, was signed for as part of a budget deal to keep the federal government running on Friday morning.

“This is a big win for all those who are still struggling to recover from last summer’s devastating storms,” U.S. Senator Bill Nelson(D-Fla.) said. “For some, the funding in this bill is a light at the end of the tunnel and a major step forward in helping them return to the way life used to be before these storms.”

A funding bill had been passed by the House before Christmas, but it was spun off from the temporary government funding measure that kept the government operating through Thursday night at midnight. A disaster funding bill was last passed through Congress in October.

The disaster funding was part of a two-year spending deal announced earlier this week, that will also keep the government operating for another six weeks. The Senate passed the bill 71-28 around 1:30 a.m. Friday morning, while the House passed it four hours later.

President Donald Trump said on Twitter he signed the bill Friday morning, ending a government shutdown that lasted about nine hours.

 

“Just signed Bill,” Trump tweeted. “Our Military will now be stronger than ever before. We love and need our Military and gave them everything – and more. First time this has happened in a long time. Also means JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!”

The $400 billion measure covers a series of issues, that left some, including Senator Marco Rubio(R-Fla.) holding their nose as they voted for it, saying in a statement that he was concerned about the rising debt that comes from it.

Still, the senator hailed compromise for getting the deal done.

“This disaster relief package is a testament to the sorts of things that we can achieve here in the Senate when we can put aside our differences on the issues and work together,” Rubio tweeted.

Among the aid headed towards Florida in the $89 billion disaster funding include $3.6 billion for the state’s beleaguered citrus industry, which suffered significant losses from Hurricane Irma, as well as $2.5 billion for the Department of Education. Florida agreed to take in any students displaced from Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria. It also funds FEMA, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Small Business Administration.


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