On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria intensified into a major Category 4 hurricane before making landfall in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The hurricane brought unprecedented rainfall and devastation to the area, damaged hundreds of thousands of homes, and forced tens of thousands of people into shelters. I recently traveled with a bipartisan delegation to Puerto Rico to see the damage firsthand, to personally speak to local residents regarding how the storm has affected their communities, and to meet with Governor Rosselló to discuss the path toward recovery. The devastation was overwhelming, but it confirmed that this is first and foremost a humanitarian disaster. My colleagues and I in the House are fully committed to providing both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with the necessary resources to rebuild, which is why we acted quickly to pass two comprehensive pieces of legislation that will provide immediate relief to those who have been devastated by this disaster.
As you may know, on September 25, 2017, Representative Kevin Brady introduced H.R. 3823, the Disaster Tax Relief and Airway Extension Act of 2017. In addition to extending several expiring aviation programs through March 31, 2018, the bill modifies several tax provisions and rules for individuals and businesses in areas affected by Hurricanes Maria, Harvey, and Irma. In particular, it modifies provisions regarding early withdrawals from retirement plans, employment-related tax credits, and income requirements for the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit. The bill also requires that private flood insurance offered outside of the National Flood Insurance Program satisfies the requirement for homeowners to maintain flood insurance coverage on properties that have federally-backed mortgages and are located in a flood zone. On September 28, 2017, the House passed H.R. 3823, in overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion, by a vote of 264 to 155. That same day, the Senate passed an amended version of this bill by voice vote, and the House agreed to the Senate amendment without objection. The President signed H.R. 3823 into law on September 29, 2017.
Originally referred to as the “Bankruptcy Judgeship Act of 2017,” when introduced by Representative John Conyers on May 1, 2017, H.R. 2266 would ultimately serve as the legislative vehicle for additional disaster relief funding. In direct response to the damage wrought by Hurricane Maria, on October 12, in overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion, the House passed an amended version of H.R. 2266 by a vote of 353 to 69, now known as the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act. H.R. 2266 would provide $36.5 billion in emergency funding for hurricane and wildfire relief and recovery. Specifically, this includes $18.7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund, $16 billion in cancellation of National Flood Insurance Program debt, and $576.5 million for wildfire suppression efforts in the Western U.S. Further, the bill would provide $1.3 billion in disaster nutrition assistance. On October 24, 2017, the Senate passed H.R. 2266, also in bipartisan fashion, by a vote of 82 to 17. I hope that President Trump will sign this bill into law in the coming days.
Our fellow Americans need our help, and this legislation will provide the hurricane survivors with the resources they so desperately need. Despite swift and effective congressional action, the painful reality is that the road to recovery for the residents of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will be long and difficult. Congress will remain fully committed to working with the administration to make certain the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands receive the aid needed to fully recover and rebuild.
Hurricane Maria Assistance Information
The U.S. Department of State encourages all constituents impacted by Hurricane Maria to:
Follow their Hurricane Maria information page online for updates, information, and instructions on available assistance. U.S. citizens in the affected areas should also look at the website of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Inform the Department of State about U.S. citizens affected by the hurricane and who require emergency assistance via one of these methods:
Email MariaEmergencyUSC@state.gov and provide as much information as possible (at a minimum, please provide their full name, gender, and last known location within country, if known), or
Call 1-888-407-4747 (from the U.S. & Canada), +1-202-501-4444 (from overseas) in case of emergency.
The Department of State also urges U.S. citizens in the impacted areas who are safe to contact their loved ones directly and/or update their social media status. If you are in the affected area and need immediate emergency services, please contact local authorities.
FEMA continues to provide up-to-date information on their response to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on their website, which can be found by visiting: https://www.fema.gov/.
The following web sites are helpful resources for those who wish to donate time, goods, or financial resources to help those impacted by Hurricane Maria: