WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- It’s exactly six months since Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle and surrounding communities with tremendous devastation.
Florida lawmakers - and a bipartisan coalition from neighboring states - are still pressing for Congress to move forward and approve a multi-billion dollar aid package for storm victims.
Republican Congressman Neal Dunn speaks with our DC Correspondent Alana Austin about the ongoing needs.
“Well today is in fact to the day six months – to the date – since Hurricane Michael in my district. And so far we still have not seen any supplemental disaster appropriations. So we have the normal FEMA money, the normal HUD money, but we have none of the supplemental that’s essential to cover the pick-up of the incredible amount of debris," explained Dunn.
Dunn discusses the resilience and generosity felt in the community in the aftermath, but blames Democratic leadership for the slow nature of recovery support.
“Well historically these have always been very bipartisan bills. Nobody ever halts them up and they pass very quickly. This is a very very personal partisan political attack by the Speaker and the Minority Leader on the White House," said Dunn.
Dunn confirms to DC Correspondent Alana Austin's that the aid package is on hold indefinitely, with no clear path forward: “I hate to say that. I hate to believe that. I’ll tell you this: I’m not going to give up. I will keep fighting for them, and help me, if you want to help me, write a letter to the Speaker’s office, Nancy Pelosi, Washington, DC you’ll get there.”
Dunn says there are three urgent areas of concerns: rebuilding the military assets in the community, cleaning up timber, and housing.
But meantime, Democratic leaders paint a very different picture for Gray DC bureau on why disaster funds are slow to get out of Capitol Hill.
A spokeswoman for Democratic Senator Dick Durbin (IL) shared a recent statement on the discussion about disaster relief funds, saying Republicans and the White House "modified the House-passed version to strip away funds that Puerto Rico desperately needs as they continue to recover from Hurricane Maria."
Durbin's office goes on to say: “It has been 18 months since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, yet our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico
continue to have limited access to clean water, food, and medicine. These are American children and families and they deserve a Congress and a President who will ensure that they have the resources necessary to rebuild their lives following devastating natural disasters.”
Early April, Senate Democrats announced that wanted to change the federal relief package to include more support for the Midwest and Puerto Rico.
A spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi also responded to the Gray DC bureau's outreach, pointing to the House approval of a supplemental disaster bill in January but saying it stalled in the Republican Senate.
According to the spokesman, House Democrats also introduced an updated bill this week "in attempt to break the logjam in the Senate."
The new bill – H.R. 2157 – includes an additional $3 billion to address urgent needs following flooding in the Midwest and tornadoes in the South that have occurred while the House-passed bill has languished in the Senate.