When the White House sent Congress a request for $44 billion in supplemental disaster relief last week, it was the third such appeal the Trump administration has made since a series of natural disasters, including hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, hit the nation. The request included a $12 billion grant program for flood risk mitigation projects in addition to smaller sums for small business loans and relief for farmers who suffered crop losses. All told, the White House has requested close to $100 billion in disaster help this year.
But how much of it was designated to help Sonoma, Mendocino, Napa and surrounding counties rebuild from the recent firestorms? Zero.
Local Reps. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, have responded with justifiable outrage, calling it “a new low for this administration.”
“For the administration to not request even a single additional penny to help rebuild the communities devastated by the worst fires in California’s history is mind-boggling,” the two said in joint statement. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris also issued a joint statement, calling the request “appalling.”
Appalling indeed. That is especially true given that in Trump’s last public statement about the fires, issued on Oct. 10, he offered condolences and pledged that the federal government “will stand with the people of California and be there with you in this time of terrible tragedy and need.”
The governor, as well as Feinstein and Harris, Thompson, Huffman and other California leaders, followed up on that promise on Nov. 3, in a letter asking Trump to include $7.4 billion in disaster aid to help Northern California rebuild. As with relief provided to other areas, the funds requested were for direct aid to those who lost homes and businesses as well as money to help cities and counties replace lost infrastructure and clean up debris.
Regrettably, only one Republican, Rep. Ed Royce of Orange County, was willing to join in signing the letter. The state’s Republican delegation instead authored a letter of its own 11 days later calling on Trump to assure ongoing programs in the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Small Business Administration and elsewhere are “sufficiently funded,” but it included no request for supplemental disaster aid. The White House has said that instead of providing disaster funds it is going to help local residents by pushing for tax relief for fire victims.
Such tax help would be welcome. But it’s hardly sufficient or equitable.
It appears that local citizens and communities have had the misfortune of experiencing these firestorms just when the president and congressional Republicans were beginning their push for massive tax cuts, which would dramatically deplete the nation’s coffers and add to the federal deficit. Those cuts, which primarily benefit the wealthiest of Americans, need to be justified somehow, apparently even it if means refusing financial relief for those hit the hardest by fires out west.
Locals also have the misfortune of being from a blue state like California rather than one from Texas and Florida, which supported Trump — and now it appears he intends to return the favor.
We encourage all members of Congress to follow the advice of Thompson and Huffman and “throw this offensive request in the trash and work in a bipartisan manner to deliver adequate disaster relief to all Americans who’ve been impacted by the recent hurricanes and fires.”