A new spending bill signed into law by President Obama on Friday includes up to $300 million in disaster relief for homeowners across several states, including South Carolina.
The money will be divvied up by the Department of Housing and Urban Development between the Palmetto State, Texas and 16 other states that are eligible to receive special Community Development Block Grants. South Carolina has estimated it will need about $140 million to cover emergency repairs on about 2,600 properties that were not adequately covered by flood insurance, although final estimates will not be known until after a Jan. 4 deadline for residents to seek disaster relief.
A state Department of Commerce spokeswoman said the federal agency will determine the amount of South Carolina’s share based on data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Small Business Administration.
There has previously been debate between farming groups and Gov. Nikki Haley’s administration on whether the state should seek additional aid for farmers who lacked adequate crop or flood insurance before October’s record rainfall. South Carolina’s Department of Agriculture, led by Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers, has argued many farms could shut down without additional assistance. The Governor’s Office has said it opposes bailing out underinsured farms.
The bill signed Wednesday includes up to $130 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture grants to be split between eligible states. Weathers told South Carolina Radio Network his office wants to request around $60 million of that, but added its still far short of the estimated $375 million in estimated crop losses from the storms. “It’s potential help for South Carolina farmers,” he said. “It is not the amount that we pointed out is needed to cover the uninsured portion of the loss.”
A spokeswoman for the Governor’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.
South Carolina’s Republican-led delegation mostly opposed the bill, citing its increase of the federal deficit and its failure to address Syrian refugees.
“This was the best opportunity Congress had to reach some sort of consensus on the matter, and this deal flat fails to do so,” U.S. Sen. Tim Scott stated after the vote. “I truly believe that by failing to put meaningful controls on the refugee program and ensure fail-safe background checks on Syrians, we are putting our national security at risk.”
Scott voted against the omnibus spending bill, as did Congressmen Jeff Duncan, Trey Gowdy, Mick Mulvaney and Mark Sanford. Congressmen Joe Wilson and Tom Rice supported the bill, as did U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham. The state’s only Democratic lawmaker in Congress, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, also supported the bill.
“This bill is far from perfect but it does take important steps to begin the long process of rebuilding our military,” Graham said in his own release. “We have been asking more of our military, yet we have been asking them to do more with less. Our Armed Forces have suffered greatly from the impact of sequestration. That dynamic must change and this bill begins addressing the very real problems facing our military.”
The House supported the $1.8 trillion package in a 316-113 vote, while the Senate passed it 65-33.