WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration is finalizing a $29 billion disaster aid package that combines $16 billion to shore up the government-backed flood insurance program with almost $13 billion in new relief for hurricane victims, according to a senior administration official and top congressional aides.
The huge request is expected to be officially sent to Congress on Wednesday, but its outlines were characterized by officials demanding anonymity because the $29 billion measure is not yet public.
The request would address two pressing needs. The first is to pump money into the government-run flood insurance program, which is rapidly running out of cash to pay an influx of claims from victims of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. At the same time, the Federal Emergency Management Agency continues to spend money for disaster relief operations at a high rate and requires more money.
The government-guaranteed flood insurance program is maxing out on a $30 billion line of credit from Treasury; the upcoming proposal would wipe $16 billion of that debt off the books to permit the program to pay claims from hurricane victims.
Another $13 billion is being requested for FEMA, and federal fire-fighting accounts would receive $577 million as well to replenish them after a disastrous season of Western wildfires.
"This is going to be extraordinarily expensive and I think we need to get some money out there," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J.
Later this year, the White House is expected to require tens of billions of dollars more in long-term funds that would rebuild infrastructure, help people without insurance restore their homes, and - perhaps - help Puerto Rico reconstitute its shattered electrical grid.
Congress last month approved a $15.3 billion aid package that nearly doubled President Donald Trump's request. Senate Republicans added $7.4 billion in community development block grant rebuilding funds to Trump's request for immediate cleanup, repair, and housing costs.