Congress adds Midwest to $13.5B relief package


WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Congress will include the victims of flooding across the Midwest in a multibillion-dollar disaster relief package.

“Hang tough, keep fighting and know that help is on the way,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, urged those affected by the historic flooding in his state and elsewhere along the Missouri River.

The $13.5 billion federal disaster relief package was created to help the victims of last year’s hurricanes and wildfires, but has been stuck in Congress as lawmakers argued about budgets and border walls.

“It will help the folks that need assistance,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said. “I’m extremely thankful.”

She and Grassley championed the effort to get the flood zones included in the deal. The recent flooding left homes, businesses and farms in rural communities underwater.

“Millions of bushels of flood-soaked grains have spilled into murky floodwaters,” Grassley said on the Senate floor.

He calculated nearly a quarter of a million dollars in crop damage in Iowa alone. Across the region, that figure climbed higher than a billion, dealing a hard blow to an already strained farm economy.

“This was grain that farmers were counting on to pay the bills, to put this year’s crop into the ground,” Grassley said.

The plan (PDF) sets aside $3 billion to help farmers recover, along with millions in grants to help rural communities fix roads and levees destroyed by powerful waters.

The Senate could pass the package as early as Thursday, after which it would to the U.S. House of Representatives for a vote and then on to the president’s desk.

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