Expediency is essential when it comes to disaster relief.
That's a fact that need not be debated.
But with the bills beginning to mount to the point that Bay County, Florida, is making plans to find additional revenue to pay for the cleanup, we at the News Herald feel it necessary to reiterate that point.
Even though this area has been declared a federal disaster area, that does not mean the money is in the bank or the checks in the mail. And therein lies the problem: How long will it take before federal money reaches the area to spur along the rebuilding process? When will the House and Senate pass disaster-relief legislation that the president signs?
We are a bit more optimistic after a meeting this week with Rep. Neal Dunn, who represents the district that includes Bay County and other hard-hit areas of Northwest Florida.
He told the News Editorial Board he expects a "clean bill" to come up for a vote as soon as this week. (A "clean bill" in this case is one addressing disaster relief only, instead of being attached to other legislation that may include a controversial or nonessential issue, which makes it more difficult to quickly garner support.) When it comes to providing disaster relief, as Dunn told us, the American people expect the government — be it federal, state or local — to get it right. Right now, we think all can agree the federal response has not met the expectations of our community.
And we are not the only community that needs disaster assistance. The California wildfires may be included in the disaster relief legislation, as well as those impacted by Hurricane Florence. If that speeds the legislation through the House, we're all for it.
But what is less clear is the Senate. Although Republicans have the majority, and our senators, governor and president are all Republicans, that doesn't mean GOP-backed legislation is a sure bet for passage in the Senate. That's both disappointing and disheartening.
And with Washington enmeshed in the government shutdown nonsense, it seems as if passage would take longer than usual — and the usual is slow to begin with — and that's something we cannot afford.
If we knew a simple, speedy path to passage, we would offer it here, but as we have editorialized before, this is not a normal administration, and while many have applauded that approach, in this case, it works against our needs. This nation should not tolerate having a slow response when disaster strikes. We can do better. We deserve better.
Therefore, we implore both houses of Congress to step up and help the American people — quickly.
Our communities have suffered enough. We need financial assistance — not promises of it — and we need it now.
REPRINTED FROM THE PANAMA CITY NEWS HERALD