On Wednesday night the House of Representatives passed a disaster supplemental spending package that would provide $12.14 billion of emergency relief for victims of hurricanes and wildfires. The measure passed 237-187 on the House Floor.
The final version of the House’s bill included $480 million for an Emergency Forest Restoration Program, approximately $125 million for financial and technical assistance for states and local sponsors to protect and restore watersheds, $150 million in funds to provide health care, education, and other public services for rural communities, and $15.5 million to the Bureau of Reclamation for fire remediation and firefighting activities. In addition, the disaster supplemental spending package provided $720 million to the U.S. Forest Service to repay the cost of fire borrowing in order to fund wildfire activities in Fiscal 2018 and $103 million for programs related to Forest Inventory Analysis, State and Private Forestry, the National Forest System, and Capital Improvement and Maintenance.
The House also approved three amendments to the package right before passage that would benefit rural California. An amendment produced by Representative Mike Thompson (D-Napa) would clarify current law to ensure wine grape growers will be eligible for emergency relief if it is discovered that wildfire smoke damaged the grapes after they are harvested from the vine. The House approved a separate amendment supported by Representative Thompson that would increase funding for the Community Development Fund by $50 million and the added funds would be earmarked for the unmet infrastructure needs for grantees that were allocated funds for disasters that occurred in 2017. Representative Thompson specified on the House Floor that he hopes the funds will be used in regions of Northern California that are still recovering from California’s deadly wildfire season of 2017. Lastly the House approved a bipartisan amendment backed by Representative Jimmy Panetta (D-Monterey) and Bill Westerman (R-Arkansas). This effort would increase funding for the State and Private Forestry accounts at the U.S. Forest Service to help state and private forest managers recover from 2018 wildfires and prepare for the next fire season.
The House passed the measure mostly along party lines. Many Republicans voted against the disaster supplemental spending package because Democrats attached a stopgap spending measure that would reopen the government and end the partial shutdown without providing any funding for President Trump’s border wall project. Among the members who opposed the bill were Doug LaMalfa (R-Butte), Tom McClintock (R-Placer), Paul Cook (R-San Bernardino), Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), Ken Calvert (R-Riverside), Duncan Hunter (R-San Diego), and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield). The measure will face similar opposition from Senate Republicans and is not expected to be considered in the Upper House.