Trump heads to Florida still empty-handed on disaster aid

Before holding a campaign rally Wednesday night in Panama City Beach, Florida, not far from where Hurricane Michael came ashore in October of 2018, President Donald Trump will survey recovery efforts in the area as well as at Tyndall Air Force Base, but his arrival comes as efforts to get billions in disaster relief flowing to people in Florida and Georgia remain stuck in the Congress.

"I think this has gone on a long time - too long," said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), who has led negotiations on a disaster bill in the Senate, and watched as the President's opposition to any extra aid for Puerto Rico has left the bill grounded.

"I think we need to resolve it," Shelby told reporters off the Senate floor.

President Trump never officially sent Congress a request for disaster relief to deal with the aftermath of Michael - according to figures from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund still has $18 billion as of April.

The President has repeatedly said Puerto Rico has been given too much money by the federal government - often using incorrect numbers on the exact figures.

Congress approved $41 billion in aid for the island; so far, about $13 billion has been delivered to Puerto Rico.

The latest installment of $8 billion in housing aid was approved earlier this year by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but the money has not been released to the government of Puerto Rico.

With the President blaming Democrats for the impasse, Senate Democrats have complained that negotiations with the President over the disaster aid measure have been like nailing jello to the wall - with the wall, and the goal posts often moving during talks.

The House is scheduled to vote Friday on a $17 billion disaster relief bill, which includes $400 million to rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base.

Lawmakers will also vote on an amendment increase that amount of money; that plan is being offered by Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL), whose district includes Tyndall Air Force Base.

As the President flew to Florida on Wednesday, it was still obvious that Tyndall was devastated by some of the most powerful portions of the hurricane.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that he hoped an aid package could get through the Congress before Memorial Day.

About the Author