March 28, 2019

H.R. 268, Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2019


Background: The House passed H.R. 268 on January 16 during the partial government shutdown. After two failed cloture votes in the Senate on side-by-side substitute amendments – Shelby amendment 5 and Schumer amendment 6 – the Senate turned its attention to other matters. 

Floor Situation: The Senate renewed consideration of H.R. 268 on March 26 when cloture was invoked on the motion to proceed by a vote of 90-10. The Senate adopted the motion to proceed by voice vote on March 28 and Majority Leader McConnell filled the amendment tree.

Executive Summary: H.R. 268 is the shell vehicle for a revised disaster supplemental appropriations bill. Substitute amendment 201, offered by Senator Shelby, would provide approximately $13.5 billion in emergency-designated aid for states and territories affected by recent natural disasters, including $600 million in nutrition assistance to Puerto Rico and $5 million for American Samoa. Beginning in 2020, it would exempt certain appropriations from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund from counting against the discretionary spending caps. It would also extend all programs authorized under the Violence Against Women Act through September 30, 2019.

Text of the Shelby substitute and a summary can be found on the Senate Appropriations Committee website.


The White House issued approximately 60 major disaster declarations in 2018 attributable to wildfires and mudslides in California; Hurricanes Florence and Michael in the southeast; Typhoons Yutu, and Mangkhut, and Hurricane Lane in the Pacific; Hawaii’s Kilauea volcanic eruption; and other natural disasters. Additional declarations followed in 2019, as strong storms caused flooding in the Midwest and tornado damage in the South.

Federal agencies provide a range of assistance after natural disasters including operational, logistical, and technical support; financial assistance through grants, loans, and loan guarantees; and the provision of federally owned equipment and facilities. FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund is the primary source of federal resources for response and recovery activities. According to FEMA’s most recent report, the DRF has approximately $31 billion in unobligated budget authority. These funds do not expire — they remain available until expended.

Other disaster relief programs operate through the Department of Agriculture, the Small Business Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other federal agencies.

As the Senate considers a response to recent natural disaster-related losses, three separate disaster relief bills frame the debate: the House-passed H.R. 268, S. 572 introduced by Senator Perdue, and a substitute amendment to H.R. 268 (amendment 201) offered by Senator Shelby. Of these, the Shelby amendment is the only one to accommodate regions affected by the 2019 floods and tornadoes.


Shelby amendment 201 would provide nearly $13.5 billion in 2019 budget authority for regions affected by natural disasters in 2018 and 2019. This sum includes $600 million in nutritional aid for Puerto Rico and $5 million for American Samoa. Spending by appropriations subcommittee:


Beginning in 2020, the amendment would exempt certain appropriations out of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund — up to the amount deposited into the trust fund in the prior year — from the discretionary spending caps. It would also extend all programs authorized under the Violence Against Women Act through September 30, 2019.

Additional highlights:


$1.46 billion in disaster relief to repair military facilities after the damage caused by Hurricanes Michael and Florence.

$847 million for military construction, including $700 million for the Air Force, $115 million for the Navy and Marine Corps, and $42 million for the Army National Guard.

An additional $600 million in emergency funding is appropriated for the Department of Defense: $200 million for the Marine Corps and $400 million for the Air Force.


$600 million in nutrition assistance for Puerto Rico related to the island’s ongoing recovery from Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

$5 million for the Department of Agriculture secretary to conduct a study of the additional benefits of disaster nutrition assistance provided to Puerto Rico in a 2017 disaster supplemental. The study will include a survey of participants.


$162 million, plus $3 million for administration and oversight, for programs that aid K-12 schools and institutions of higher education affected by natural disasters in reopening or returning to normal operations. Also aids school districts and institutions of higher education students are attending after they were displaced by a natural disaster.


$1.65 billion for the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program and $11 million for the Federal Transit Administration’s Emergency Relief Program.       

$1.06 billion for the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery grants for 2018 disasters, to fund disaster relief, infrastructure restoration, mitigation, and related activities.

Health and Human Services

$80 million for community health centers for renovation, construction, equipment purchase, operational support, and other costs following disaster or emergency.

$20 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to evaluate and manage environmental hazards resulting from covered disasters.

$100 million to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for access to behavioral health and substance abuse treatment and prevention services for people effected by covered disasters.

Veterans Health Administration

$3 million to repair damage to medical facilities following Hurricanes Florence and Michael and Typhoons Mangkhut and Yutu.  


The president has not released a Statement of Administration Policy.


According to the cost estimate provided by the Congressional Budget Office, the Shelby substitute amendment would appropriate nearly $13.5 billion in budget authority for disaster recovery efforts. Amounts provided are all designated as emergency spending and would not count against the discretionary spending caps. 


The amendment tree is full.