$19B disaster aid package passing House contains flood relief

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By BRENT MARTIN

St. Joseph Post

A $19 billion disaster aid package passing the House and moving to the Senate includes relief for flood-stricken communities and farms in the Midwest.

Congressman Sam Graves says the package contains $500 million to repair roads and bridges damaged by flooding as well as $310 million to repair the broken levee system.

“The hardest part is just trying to figure out what it’s going to take to fix some of those holes in the levees, because there’s still water in them and it’s very hard to make that determination,” Graves tells St. Joseph Post. “It’s hard to tell how deep the holes are and how much fill it’s going to take, but I think we have a pretty good idea, at least as far as an estimate goes.”

Another provision would offset the loss of stored grain due to the flood, a first in a disaster aid package. In all, the package contains $3 billion to offset agricultural losses due to this year’s flooding.

Graves says if the Senate can approve the package and the president signs it, repair of the broken Missouri River levee system could begin this year.

“I think it may be this summer before we’re able to do a whole lot of that work. There will be preliminary work going on, but actually getting bulldozers out there, I think it’s going to be this summer when the river goes down,” Graves says.

A dispute over money allocated for Puerto Rican hurricane relief might yet derail the aid package. Some Republican senators and President Trump object to the amount of money going for damages sustained by Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Grave broke with fellow Republicans in voting in favor of the package. He says, overall, he’s pleased with it.

“Things can always move faster, that’s for sure,” Graves says. “But it being out of the House, that’s obviously a big step in the right direction and a good move. I’m okay with the package. I’m pleased with it.”