President Donald Trump signed a $19.1 billion emergency relief package into law Thursday, opening the federal spigot for Georgians kneecapped by Hurricane Michael and other recent storms.
Trump signed the bipartisan bill, which the House cleared Monday, after attending an event commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy.
“Just signed Disaster Aid Bill to help Americans who have been hit by recent catastrophic storms,” Trump tweeted. “So important for our GREAT American farmers and ranchers. Help for GA, FL, IA, NE, NC, and CA.”
The president’s signature caps off a bitter, record-setting political standoff that froze aid money for recent natural disasters – including last year’s California wildfires, tornadoes in the Southeast and Midwestern flooding – for more than seven months.
Fighting over assistance to Puerto Rico, which has struggled to recover from 2017’s Hurricane Maria, dominated the negotiations. The president eventually relented to Democrats and approved about $300 million more for the island than he initially wanted.
“Puerto Rico should love President Trump. Without me, they would have been shut out!” Trump tweeted.
It will still take weeks, if not months, for any federal money to end up in Georgians' pockets. Funding must first flow through federal agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency, many of which must create new formulas and regulations to divvy up the money.
“I want to encourage (agencies) - as we move in to the funds being appropriated - to give us as much flexibility as possible,” said Gov. Brian Kemp. “We want a fast process to put this money forward and help our farmers.”
The new law carves out more than $3 billion for farmers hit by Hurricane Michael and other natural disaster, as well as new money for local blueberry growers whose crops were destroyed by a deep freeze in 2017 and the victims of recent tornadoes in west Georgia and Alabama.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, a former Georgia governor, will be in charge of parceling out billions. He said his departments looks “forward to implementing this disaster aid package in a fair way and working with state leadership to identify where the true losses and needs are to best serve our fellow Americans in need of a helping hand.”
Trump’s signature prompted cheers from across Georgia.
“Finally, Americans who were ravaged by historic floods, wildfires, and hurricanes across 12 states have certainty for the immediate future," said Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue.
Kemp, both Perdues and a bevy of other elected officials are planning to converge in South Georgia on Friday to celebrate the bill’s enactment and discuss next steps during a roundtable event.
Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article.
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