WASHINGTON — An $81 billion disaster aid measure proposed by House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., would funnel billions into a range of transportation infrastructure accounts, and does not include a Trump administration proposal to rescind highway program contract authority, according to information published in the Journal of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).
The House measure is the latest in a series of emergency funding bills for disaster relief in the wake of a recent string of powerful hurricanes and devastating wildfires. President Donald J. Trump had proposed $44 billion in new disaster aid, along with a number of budget cuts including a $1 billion highway program rescission.
The new House proposal is nearly double what the president requested, though it remains below what Puerto Rico alone said it needs to recover from the devastation left by two hurricanes.
“This legislation is the next step in helping our fellow Americans recover from multiple, back-to-back, devastating disasters, including some of the largest major hurricanes, wildfires, and agriculture losses this country has ever seen,” Frelinghuysen said in announcing the legislation.
“We have a commitment to our fellow citizens that are in the midst of major rebuilding efforts in all areas, including Texas, Florida, California, Louisiana, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” he added. “They deserve our continued support, and we must provide the necessary resources for them to recover from these emergencies. This funding is critical to victims devastated by these disasters.”
The House moved to keep the disaster relief out of a new “continuing resolution” that will fund government agencies through January 19. Instead, lawmakers scheduled a separate vote on the disaster measure.
The Senate left Washington for the holiday recess without voting on the measure, leaving it for consideration upon its return in January.
The new House bill would inject $1.374 billion into the Federal Highway Administration's emergency relief account, which helps states and territories with road and bridge repairs following natural disasters and other unexpected events.
An Appropriations Committee description of the legislation said that amount would “address all current damages to federal highways caused by designated disasters.”
The bill would also put $269 million into the Federal Transit Administration's emergency relief account “for transit systems affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria with major disaster declarations.”
It would provide about $114.6 million to the Federal Aviation Administration for hurricane-related expenses and repairs. The Maritime Administration would receive $10 million “for necessary expenses, including for dredging,” for damages to its facilities from Hurricane Harvey.
The new bill would provide $12.1 billion to the Army Corps of Engineers, of which $608 million is designated “for necessary expenses to dredge navigation projects” damaged by natural disasters in both coastal and inland harbors and channels. Separately, another $370 million would be directed to help the Corps dredge damaged channels along the Mississippi River and its tributaries.
More than $10 billion would be available to the Corps for various construction flood and storm damage mitigation projects, and to cover emergency repairs to projects damaged by disasters.
Besides the categories listed above, the bill would also appropriate $600 million in economic development grants and $26.1 billion in community development block grants, both of which could include targeted infrastructure improvements.?