WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger is defending his no vote against a disaster relief package despite previous strong support for federal funding to help the region recover from Hurricane Matthew.
Pittenger was among most of North Carolina’s Republican Congressional delegation that voted against the aid last week. The Republican-controlled House voted 353-69 to approve $36.5 billion in emergency relief for Puerto Rico and other areas hit by recent disasters. Senate approval is expected in coming weeks.
The aid package has $18.7 billion in funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund. That includes $4.9 billion to help fund recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, as well as $676.6 million for fighting wildfires and $16 billion in debt forgiveness for the National Flood Insurance Program to pay claims from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
But Pittenger, whose 9th District includes Scotland County, said the recent action begs for “fiscally responsible offsets.”
“America must help those in need, including the tragedy in Puerto Rico, but we must do so responsibly,” the Charlotte Republican said. “No effort has been made to trim expenses elsewhere to help pay for the necessary disaster relief.”
According to Pittenger, the legislation bails out the “failing” National Flood Insurance Program without instituting reforms to address the illogical practice of repeatedly rebuilding the same properties over and over.
The White House has also urged Congress to adopt reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program to ensure its “long-term financial viability.” Besides the latest aid package, Congress last month approved $15.25 billion to help with earlier storm damages, including Hurricane Harvey’s impact in Texas, and wildfires.
“Support for Puerto Rico? Absolutely,” Pittenger said. “This bill? Absolutely not without suitable accountability.”
Critics say Pittenger’s stance is in stark contrast to his work to secure more funding for victims of Hurricane Matthew, including neighboring Robeson County.
Pittenger announced last week that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide North Carolina with an additional $1,391,675.95 to assist with Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts. This grant will be provided to the N.C. Department of Transportation to reimburse for debris removal and infrastructure repair projects associated with Hurricane Matthew. To date, $1.28 billion in federal funding has been provided for Hurricane Matthew recovery in North Carolina.
North Carolina Democratic Party Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds said Pittenger was being hypocritical.
“To vote no on disaster relief while so many are still suffering in unconscionable,” Reynolds said. “When it came time for Rep. Pittenger to put his votes where his mouth is and actually support disaster relief, he voted no.”
Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023