President Donald Trump asked Congress Friday night for $7.8 billion to help those left in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey, which pelted parts of Texas with near-Biblical amounts of rain.
Trump’s request was significantly larger than what many experts had expected, as some Congressional sources believed the administration would ask for at least $5.5 billion. The bulk of the funds would go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but the request also etched out $450 million for the Small Business Administration.
“The president visited Texas on August 29, 2017 to reassure the people of Texas that the Federal Government would help them rebuild from the catastrophic flooding and damage to affected communities,” Budget Director Mick Mulvaney wrote in the letter to Majority House Leader Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Trump is heading to Texas again Saturday to survey damage from Harvey.
The request is a “down-payment” on Trump’s commitment to help people in the wake of Harvey, he added. Some forecasters believe the storm, which began as a Category 4 hurricane before pounding parts of southeastern Texas, is one of the largest in American history.
Harvey could cost the entire U.S. economy nearly $190 billion, an amount dwarfing the combined costs associated with cleanup from Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina, according to a report from AccuWeather. Harvey has affected Houston and its massive energy sector, which many energy analysts worry could cause enormous ripple effects throughout the economy.
The bulk of AccuWeather’s calculations comes from Houston’s enormous impact on the overall economy – the country’s fourth largest city houses some of the country’s largest oil refineries, among other important energy projects.
Harvey is responsible for shuttering three Gulf Coast refining centers and could knock off a fourth within the next week, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. The storm also put offline Saudi Arabian Oil Co.’s Motiva facility and the Exxon Mobil Baytown facility, both of which represent 30 percent of the U.S. refining capacity, according to IHS Markit.
Local officials believe the storm is responsible for nearly 46 deaths, a number that could grow once water recedes. More than 42,000 people were housed overnight at Red Cross shelters in Texas, a spokeswoman for Red Cross told CNN Friday. She said the charity would be in emergency funding mode until Thanksgiving.
Ryan wrote on Twitter shortly after receiving the letter that the House “will act quickly” on the request. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also told reporters that the Senate was prepared to move quickly after Congressional members return from their August recess.
“Working closely with the President and the House of Representatives, the Senate stands ready to act quickly to provide this much-needed assistance to those impacted communities, and support first responders and volunteers,” McConnell said.
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