Budget deal includes billions of disaster aid for Florida, Puerto Rico

Money for citrus industry, schools ...
Published Feb. 7, 2018|Updated Feb. 7, 2018

WASHINGTON – Florida lawmakers, including Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, are celebrating disaster aid and other provisions for the state tucked into the two-year budget deal announced today.

Both are expected to vote for the overall deal, which faces a harder path in the House.

A rundown as provided by Nelson's office:

$2.36 billion to provide disaster assistance for Florida citrus growers and other farmers. Florida's citrus industry sustained more than $760 million in losses due to the storm. USDA estimates Florida's citrus industry will harvest only 46 million boxes of citrus this year, less than 25 percent of the nearly 204 million boxes harvested in Florida ten years ago.
$2.7 billion for schools impacted by recent disasters, including schools in Florida. More than 12,000 students, who evacuated from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of the storms, have now enrolled in schools around Florida. The sudden influx of new students is putting a strain on some Florida schools as they struggle to accommodate the additional students with limited budgets and resources.

$15 billion for Army Corps mitigation and resiliency projects, including the Herbert Hoover Dike. Herbert Hoover Dike protects thousands of Floridians who live around Lake Okeechobee from the threat of catastrophic flooding. The Army Corps of Engineers says it needs approximately $200 million per year, for the next four years, to finish work on the dike by 2022.

Closing the Medicare Part D "donut hole" for seniors in 2019. Under the ACA, the Medicare "donut hole" is expected to close by 2020. Closing this gap in coverage by 2019, instead of 2020, and shifting more of the cost to drug makers, instead of Medicare, will lower the cost of prescription drugs for Florida seniors and save taxpayers approximately $9 billion over ten years and help offset some of the additional spending being proposed in a budget deal the Senate is expected to take up later this week.

$2 billion directed to help Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands rebuild and improve their electric grids. Four months after Hurricane Maria, nearly 1/3 of the island remains without power.

$4.9 billion in Medicaid funds for Puerto Rico and USVI. According to the government of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico's Medicaid program costs approximately $1.6 billion per year to operate. $4.9 billion would fully fund Puerto Rico Medicaid's program for at least two years.

Decreasing Puerto Rico's Medicaid cost-share requirement for 2 years. The federal government matches only 55% of the cost for Puerto Rico to operate its Medicaid program. By temporarily decreasing this cost-share requirement, the federal government would be allowed to pay a greater share of the cost of Puerto Rico's Medicaid program while it works to rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Maria.


"The people of Florida and Puerto Rico are still struggling to recover from last year's devastating storms and the disaster funding in this bill will help provide them some much-needed relief." Nelson said. "The disaster funding in this bill will not only help provide Florida's schools and citrus growers the help they need, it will also help Puerto Rico rebuild its power grid and avoid an even greater healthcare crisis. "


"I am pleased our work on the Senate Appropriations Committee has resulted in this much-needed disaster relief for our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico. Virtually all of our spending priorities for Puerto Rico are included in this deal, including two years of funding for Medicaid and additional money for infrastructure, hospitals, community health centers and grid work repair. This would not have been possible without the support of my colleagues in the Senate and the tireless work of Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón in the House."