Roby, Alabama Farmers Federation praise passage of disaster relief bill with aid for the Wiregrass
The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday gave final passage to a $19.1 billion disaster package that is especially considered crucial for the Wiregrass in the wake of Hurricane Michael.
The measure previously passed the Senate, with Sens. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Doug Jones (D-AL) voting in the affirmative. Shelby was the lead negotiator on the legislation, securing a deal after months of grueling negotiations between several factions.
Only Reps. Mo Brooks (AL-05) and Gary Palmer (AL-06) voted against the disaster relief package in Alabama’s House delegation.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign the legislation, and after final passage on Monday, the Alabama Farmers Federation and Rep. Martha Roby (AL-02) celebrated the long-awaited, much-needed aid for rural south Alabama.
“Alabama farmers were hit hard by hurricanes, and families also have been devastated by tornadoes,” Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell said in a statement. “Passage of disaster relief is long overdue. We thank Sen. Richard Shelby, Rep. Martha Roby and other members of Alabama’s congressional delegation for keeping these concerns at the forefront and President Trump for agreeing to sign this legislation.”
Roby has been an outspoken advocate for the disaster assistance, with her district bearing the brunt of Hurricane Michael damage in the Yellowhammer State.
“For eight long months, farmers in the Wiregrass and throughout the Southeast have waited for disaster relief aid after Hurricane Michael devastated the region last October,” she said. “I am very proud that Congress has at last delivered this long-overdue assistance, and I am eager to see President Trump sign this bill into law to finally help the many Americans who have suffered extreme devastation in the wake of natural disasters across the country.”
The disaster relief bill provides aid for states affected by disasters in 2018 and 2019, as well as ongoing relief for disasters that occurred in 2017, including: agriculture disaster relief for farmers; development grants for small, rural communities; assistance for veterans’ health facilities and military construction projects; emergency funds for timber, watershed and wastewater infrastructure needs; and resources to restore highways, aviation facilities and other transit projects.
Shelby, who serves as the powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, expressed disappointment in the time required to pass disaster relief, with hardliners in each party blocking a deal for a long period of time.
“A lot of people were waiting too long,” Shelby said. “I think we could do better. I don’t think it was our best show.”
Trump had wanted border security funding included in this legislative package, which was a sticking point for Democrats, who control the House.
The final deal, agreed to by the president and overseen by Shelby, resulted in an agreement that the border funding would be taken up in separate, non-disaster relief legislation.
Rep. Mike Rogers (AL-03), ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, voted in favor of the disaster relief package but expressed the urgent need for border security funding.
“This legislation will provide much needed relief for communities that have been hurt by natural disasters, from hurricanes, to wildfires, to tornadoes, like the ones that hit Alabama hard earlier this year,” he said in a statement.
Rogers continued, “While I supported this bill to help disaster victims, I am deeply disappointed that it did not include any of the administration’s requested $4.5 billion in emergency funding to address the humanitarian crisis at our southwest border.”
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn