Leahy and Sanders Redouble Push for Senate-Passed Irene Relief

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16 - Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today hoped for quick House approval next week of a Senate-passed bill to provide $6.9 billion in additional federal disaster relief funds for Vermont and other states.

The measure includes $5.1 billion in funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund. Of that, $500 million would be available immediately. The rest would go to other departments and agencies that have seen their coffers dwindle in a year when there have been more natural disasters than usual. The Department of Agriculture would receive $266 million for emergency programs. Additional resources are allotted to the Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Commerce, and the Army Corps of Engineers. 

Leahy said, "This is a timely boost for the urgent need to help disaster-stricken communities in many states.  Our small state is stretched to the limit, and winter is fast approaching.  This vote brings us much closer to the goal of helping Vermonters get back on their feet." Leahy is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which last week approved additional funding for FEMA.

Sanders called Senate passage of the bill "a good start" and hoped that the House will move aggressively to complete action on the measure to address the needs of Vermont and other states devastated by Hurricane Irene. "Now that the Senate has done its work, it is time for the Republicans in the House to recognize their responsibilities. Instead of tax breaks for millionaires and expanding military spending, I hope the House provides the emergency assistance that people in Vermont and other states need and deserve."

Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.) is leading a bipartisan effort to pass disaster assistance in the House.