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Congress waiting on damage estimate for Harvey

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Congress waiting on damage estimate for Harvey

Congressional appropriators are waiting for a final tally of the hurricane destruction in Texas and Louisiana before moving forward with an emergency assistance package that would cost tens of billions of dollars.

Torrential flooding has displaced thousands of residents and caused between $30 billion and $100 billion worth of damage, according to various estimates.

President Trump on Monday promised that Congress would appropriate additional federal aid to the region “very quickly” as the disaster is expected to deplete the resources of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in a matter of weeks.

Lawmakers in charge of the Senate and House spending committees, however, are waiting for a complete assessment of the damage before crafting legislation as the flood waters are still rising.

“My committee stands at the ready to provide any necessary additional funding for relief and recovery. We are awaiting requests from federal agencies who are on the ground, and will not hesitate to take quick action once an official request is sent,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) said in a statement.

A Senate Republican aide said lawmakers are in touch with federal authorities on the ground responding to the deluge.

“It’s too early to say what’s necessary. They’re still rescuing people from the waters and the flood waters are still rising,” said the source.

Senate GOP leaders are discussing attaching the emergency spending package to a stopgap funding measure that must pass by the end of September to avoid a government shutdown.

It may take weeks, however, to assess the full scale of the damage.

Congress didn’t pass than $50 billion in funding to repair the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, which inundated parts of New Jersey and New York in October of 2012, until late January of 2013. 

Congress acted swiftly in 2005, when then-President George W. Bush signed a bill for $10.5 billion in supplemental funding for the victims of Hurricane Katrina — which struck New Orleans — and another bill appropriating $51.8 billion within weeks of the disaster.

The storm hit the Gulf Coast in August of 2005, and Bush signed emergency relief legislation by early September.

Congress is due to return to Washington from the August recess on Sept. 5. 

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