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Congress approves $36.5-billion disaster aid for Puerto Rico, wildfires and hurricane relief

Congress gave final passage Tuesday to $36.5 billion in disaster aid for Puerto Rico and several states impacted by a particularly destructive hurricane season.

The package includes $576.5 million to address the devastating wildfires in California and the West.

It is the second – but not likely final – allotment of emergency funds after a succession of deadly hurricanes battered Texas, Florida and other Southern states. It is the first allotment for Puerto Rico.

Approval arrives amid criticism of President Trump's uneven response to the island, which remains largely without electricity, and where food and potable water remain scarce more than a month after Hurricane Maria. Congress had approved $15 billion in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

The vote, 82-17, follows earlier passage in the House. Trump is expected to swiftly sign it into law.

Passage was not always guaranteed amid opposition from conservatives. The package includes $18.7 billion to replenish the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s main Disaster Relief Fund, $16 billion to shore up the National Flood Insurance Program and $1.2 billion for nutrition assistance and the wildfire funds. Conservatives balked at what they called a “bailout” for the flood insurance program, which faces a continual shortfall and has been targeted for reforms.

An wildfire approaches a Sonoma winery Oct. 9. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)
An wildfire approaches a Sonoma winery Oct. 9. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

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