Georgia leaders praised President Donald Trump on Thursday for signing a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will provide aid to those in the state affected by last October’s Hurricane Michael, along with states impacted by other natural disasters.
The long-delayed disaster aid bill overcame months of infighting, a misunderstanding and a feud between Trump and congressional Democrats.
“I thank President Trump for his unwavering commitment to Georgia farmers and those impacted by Hurricane Michael,” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said in a news release Thursday. “The process to get to this point has taken far too long, but thanks to the tireless efforts of the Georgia congressional delegation and the president’s support, our farm families can breathe a bit easier today. It’s now time to focus on rebuilding livelihoods devastated by Hurricane Michael and ensuring these hardworking Georgians have a bright, prosperous future.”
Lawmakers had given the measure final congressional approval Monday by 354-58 in the House’s first significant action after returning from a 10-day recess. It was backed by all 222 voting Democrats and 132 Republicans, including the GOP’s top leaders and many of its legislators from areas hit by hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and fires. Fifty-eight Republicans voted “no,” including many of the party’s most conservative members.
Trump hailed the House passage of the bill earlier in the week, tweeting, “Farmers, Puerto Rico and all will be very happy.” The president also suggested, incorrectly, that the bill would then see action in the Senate. That chamber had already passed the bill by a sweeping 85-8 vote on its way out of Washington on May 23, a margin that reflected a consensus that the bill is long overdue.
Kemp will accompany U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue; U.S. Sen. David Perdue; Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton; Sanford Bishop, D-Albany; and Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black to Doerun in south Georgia to hold a roundtable discussion at 11 a.m. Friday with agriculture leaders and local community members regarding next steps for disaster relief.
The $19.1 billion disaster relief package includes $3 billion to provide critical agriculture disaster relief for farmers recovering in the wake of Hurricane Michael, along with additional funds for communities in Georgia and other states, according to the offices of U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Perdue, who both released statements on behalf of the senators that applauded the president for signing the legislation.
“I am so grateful that the disaster relief that Georgia farmers and millions of Americans have been waiting on for so long is finally coming,” said Isakson, who joined the president at an official ceremony at the American Cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer, France, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
“I’ve spent most of this year pressing for action, and I thank President Trump and everyone who worked to see this through,” Isakson added. “I am hopeful that this aid will be expedited to reach those who need it quickly so that Georgians can get the relief they need to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.”
Perdue said that with his signature, Trump had “fulfilled his promise to help Georgia farmers and communities rebuild after Hurricane Michael’s devastation.”
“Finally, Americans who were ravaged by historic floods, wildfires and hurricanes across 12 states have certainty for the immediate future,” Perdue said his statement. “While it should not have taken eight months to pass this disaster relief package, this will serve as a learning experience for both sides of the aisle. Disaster relief should never be a partisan issue. The American people need to know that we will have their backs in times of need.”
AID DELAYSTrump tweeted a photo of himself holding the signed bill in what appeared to be his office aboard Air Force One. The tweet came shortly after Trump landed in Ireland following a ceremony in France commemorating the D-Day invasion.
The bill languished for months amid disputes over Trump’s demand for border funding, as well as additional aid for Puerto Rico, which Trump opposed.
Trump nonetheless tweeted the U.S. territory “should love President Trump,” claiming that, “Without me, they would have been shut out!”
The measure had also faced delays amid failed talks on Trump’s $4 billion-plus request to care for thousands of mostly Central American migrants being held at the southern border. The sides narrowed their differences but couldn’t reach agreement in the rush to go on recess, but everyone agrees that another bill will be needed almost immediately to refill nearly empty agency accounts to care for migrants.
“We must work together quickly to pass a bill that addresses the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the border and provides law enforcement agencies with the funding they need,” said top Appropriations Committee Republican Kay Granger of Texas. “The stakes are high. There are serious — life or death — repercussions if the Congress does not act.”
The measure is largely the same as a version that passed the House last month. Republicans opposed it for leaving out the border funding.
Among the reasons was a demand by House liberals to block the Homeland Security Department from getting information from federal social welfare authorities to help track immigrants residing in the U.S. illegally who take migrant refugee children into their homes.
As the measure languished, disasters kept coming — with failed levees in Arkansas, Iowa and Missouri and tornadoes across Ohio just the most recent examples.
The bill started out as a modest $7.8 billion measure passed in the last days of House GOP control. A $14 billion version advanced in the Democrat-led chamber in January and ballooned to $19.1 billion by the time it emerged from the floor last month, fed by new funding for community rehabilitation projects, Army Corps of Engineers water and flood protection projects and rebuilding funds for several military bases, including Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.