February 14, 2019

Protecting Disaster Relief Funds Act Introduced by Warren, Markey, Blumenthal, Menendez, Harris, Gillibrand, Sanders

Bill Would Prevent President Trump from Using Funds Appropriated for Disaster Relief to Build a Border Wall

Bill Text (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today introduced the Protecting Disaster Relief Funds Act in the Senate to prevent President Trump from using funds appropriated for disaster relief to fund the construction of a border wall. This is the companion bill to legislation that Representative Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) introduced in the House of Representatives.

The Protecting Disaster Relief Funds Act explicitly prohibits the President from diverting funds granted to the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or the Army Corps of Engineers in recent supplemental disaster relief appropriations to building a physical barrier on the Southwestern border of the United States.

"The Trump Administration's response to the 2017 natural disasters, which devastated communities across the United States from California to Texas to Puerto Rico, was inhumane and continues to harm communities by delaying critical funding to help the recovery," said Senator Warren. "Now President Trump is threatening to use disaster relief funds to pay for a useless campaign promise - absolutely not."

"The federal government's disaster response in Puerto Rico was shameful to begin with, and the attempts by the Trump administration to redirect the limited recovery funding Congress provided to the island is downright disgraceful," said Senator Markey.  "There is absolutely no reason to use this money for an ineffective and hateful monument on the southern border. And the fact that we may have to legislate this restriction into law speaks to how desperate President Trump is to deliver on a campaign promise that he insisted is to be paid for by Mexico anyway."

"Congress funded disaster relief to support the victims of natural disasters recovering from deadly fires, hurricanes and flooding-not to support President Trump's medieval border wall," said Senator Blumenthal. "People in Puerto Rico, California, and Texas died, and others lost everything they had. These communities are still working to heal and rebuild-stealing their relief funds from them would only add insult to injury. Any attempt by this Administration to divert funds for a border wall would be despicable and perhaps illegal. Congress must pass this bill and send a clear message to President Trump to keep his hands off disaster victims' money."

"After a botched and incompetent disaster response in Puerto Rico, the aid that Puerto Ricans still need cannot be used for political games," said Senator Menendez. "Considering diverting appropriated funds for disaster relief would be unconscionable, and immoral. Once and for all, as U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans deserve equal treatment and respect when it comes to federal assistance."

"The president simply cannot go around Congress to fund his ridiculous vanity project. I'm proud to introduce this bill today to ensure that funds intended for victims of natural disasters do not go towards a wall that Congress won't fund and people on the border don't even want," said Senator Harris. "This bill will stand up for Congress' power of the purse and help California families affected by recent natural disasters begin the process of recovery."

"I am disturbed that President Trump reportedly wants to steal emergency relief funding from Puerto Rico and other American communities that have suffered through natural disasters, and use those funds to pay for his wall," said Senator Gillibrand. "This is a betrayal of communities that are already struggling to get back on their feet, and Congress must not allow the President to carry out this reckless plan. I am proud to introduce this bill to protect these communities and ensure that President Trump cannot use disaster relief funds to pay for his wall, and I urge all of my colleagues to support this bill."

"In this country we have a separation of powers between Congress and the president," said Senator Sanders. "In my view it would be clearly unlawful for the president to shift funds appropriated by Congress for disaster relief in order to fund a wall."

President Trump reportedly instructed his administration, in September 2018, to avoid disbursing disaster-recovery funds to Puerto Rico. The Trump administration shutdown in December 2018 and January 2019 unnecessarily delayed the disbursement of funds to Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida, Georgia, California, and Missouri for over a month.  Last week, the President came out against increasing nutritional assistance funding for Puerto Rico. And in recent days, the President has indicated that he plans to divert Puerto Rico disaster funding to build his border wall. 

Senator Warren proposed a Marshall Plan to rebuild Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and authored legislation to provide debt relief for disaster-stricken territories. She has fought relentlessly for comprehensive disaster relief and adequate funding to sustainably rebuild devastated infrastructure since the hurricanes hit in September 2017.

For more information about Senator Warren's work fighting for robust recovery efforts for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands since Hurricanes Irma and Maria, visit www.warren.senate.gov/puertorico.