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Letter to Robert Byrd and Thad Cochran, Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Re: Disaster Relief For Flood Damaged Areas

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Durbin And Obama Join Senators In Requesting Disaster Relief For Flood Damaged Areas

U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Barack Obama (D-IL) joined a bipartisan coalition of senators in requesting relief for communities across the country that experienced natural disasters this summer, including those affected by flooding in Illinois and the Midwest. These senators requested additional resources for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Agriculture, the Small Business Administration and other federal agencies so they can help communities rebuild and recover.

"Over the summer months, a number of major natural disasters have devastated much of the country, leaving many Americans in need of substantial assistance," the Senators wrote. "As always, following each of these tragic events, we have seen the generosity and resilience of the American people and the heroic efforts of first-responders, and state, and local governments. However, alone their remarkable efforts are not enough. As communities across the country cleanup, rebuild and recover, we believe that a federal disaster relief package is urgently needed."

Joining Obama and Durbin in signing this letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee include: Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Christopher Bond (R-MO), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Russell Feingold (D-WI), Dick Lugar (R-IN), and John Cornyn (R-TX).

Text of the letter appears below:

September 18, 2008

The Honorable Robert C. Byrd
Chairman
United States Senate
Committee on Appropriations
135 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Thad Cochran
Ranking Member
United States Senate
Committee on Appropriations
123 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Byrd and Ranking Member Cochran:

Over the summer months, a number of major natural disasters have devastated much of the country, leaving many Americans in need of substantial assistance. As always, following each of these tragic events, we have seen the generosity and resilience of the American people and the heroic efforts of first-responders, and state, and local governments. However, alone their remarkable efforts are not enough. As communities across the country cleanup, rebuild and recover, we believe that a federal disaster relief package is urgently needed.

There are a number of accounts that we believe it will be especially important to include in this initial package, and we would recommend that they are provided with at least the following amounts:

$12 billion for Community Development Block Grants

$250 million for Social Services Block Grants

$200 million for the Department of Agriculture's Emergency Conservation Program

$350 million for the Department of Agriculture's Emergency Watershed Program

In addition, there are a significant number of other very important accounts which need considerable increases in funding above the levels set in the disaster assistance component of the proposal released by Chairman Byrd on July 30, 2008. We will be in contact with the appropriate subcommittees to discuss the necessary level of funding for those accounts in the next few days.

We also request that bill language be included in the measure directing that the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development allocate to each state not less than 50% of the Community Development Block Grant funds provided within 45 days of enactment, based on the best damage estimates available from each state, and that the guidelines and waivers for the use of those funds, commonly provided in a notice of funding availability, be released not more than 45 days after enactment so these needed resources can be put to use as soon as possible.

Finally, we believe that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the Small Business Administration (SBA) can best provide the Committee with the funding levels that they will need to meet their obligations to assist the disaster impacted areas.

Thank you for your ongoing assistance in this important matter. We look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure that these much needed funds arrive in our communities as quickly and efficiently as possible.


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