Saipan— For a third time House Republicans have blocked passage of a $19 billion aid package for communities hit by natural disasters in 2018 and 2019. Using parliamentary procedure to prevent agreement, Republican John Rose of Tennessee was responsible for Thursday’s action. Last Friday, Texas Republican Chip Roy effectively vetoed the aid bill. On Tuesday, it was Kentucky Republican Thomas Massie.
“At a time when the Marianas Medicaid program is out of money, the number of people on food stamps is likely to increase as the economy sputters, and government revenues continue to sink, this disaster aid bill is desperately needed,” CNMI Rep. Gregorio Kilili Sablan said.
“I put $36 million in the bill for Marianas Medicaid, $25.2 million for the food stamp program, and provided access for another $50 million of Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery funds to rebuild infrastructure and revitalize the economy.
“For months it was President Trump’s objections to help for Puerto Rico that stood in the way. Now, even the President is willing to sign the aid bill. But Republicans in the House keep objecting.”
On April 17 this year President Trump declared a major disaster in the State of Tennessee because of severe storms, flooding, landslides, and mudslides. Among the counties hit by disaster and that would be helped by the aid bill are counties that Congressman Rose represents.
The estimated $50 million CDBG-DR money for the Marianas will be added to over $100 million that has already been allocated from last year’s congressional action. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which administers the funds, is sending a team to the islands in June to explain to Commonwealth officials the grant requirements. Without an adequate plan of expenditure from the Commonwealth government funds will not be released. The Commonwealth will also have to have a system of financial management and procurement policies that meet HUD’s approval.
Another large set-aside for the Marianas in the disaster bill is $56 million for solid waste management. The funds are without fiscal year limitation.
Democrats are expected to pass the aid package with a recorded vote of all members of the House next week, sending the measure to the President for signature.