US Democrats vote to re-appropriate funding in disaster aid bill

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images Image caption House Democrats said the measure would end partisan gridlock

The House of Representatives has voted to pass a $29bn (£21bn) bill to tackle housing discrimination and rebuild poor communities.

The Democrats-sponsored bill, dubbed the Build Back Better Act, was approved 289-137.

Its author, former vice-president Joe Biden, praised the bill’s passage, saying it would put money in communities “battered by disasters”.

Republicans criticised the bill as a pointless electioneering stunt, saying the bulk of the money would go to benefit poor areas.

The ” Build Back Better Act ” would award more than $8bn in disaster funding to all 50 states and the 10 territories, including Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

But only $430m of the funding would go to poor communities that have been worst hit by disasters, the BBC’s Carol Day reports from Washington.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana had the most affordable homes in the US

Under the legislation, the funding would be distributed on a statewide basis, dependent on the extent of damage and the number of people affected.

Critics of the bill have argued that it would be unjust for the poor to get as much aid as the wealthy.

White House spokesman Sarah Sanders said this morning that President Donald Trump’s opposition to the bill remained unchanged, and that only $6.9bn would go to the poorest communities.

An analysis of the proposal by the Wall Street Journal and ThinkProgress found that 20 of the 50 states will benefit more from the money than the poorest 20 per cent of the population.

The Democratic proposal would also set up a federal clearinghouse to compile data on housing discrimination and allow cities and counties to request public data from federal agencies.

The Republicans have not yet produced a competing proposal.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images Image caption Mr Biden promised that recovery after the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma would be fully funded

The Build Back Better Act was voted down by the Republican-controlled Senate in February.

In a surprise move, all 193 Republicans in the House supported the measure, compared with 242 who voted against it.

“We’re coming together on an initiative that will help Democrats and Republicans work together,” said Mr Biden at a news conference on Wednesday.

“No matter where you’re from, this bill can be a game-changer and give communities in hurricane-ravaged areas an opportunity to rebuild from an economic recovery” – and return to residents “the quality of life they deserve”, he added.

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