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Statement of Administration Policy: H.R. 3759 - Making Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Assistance Because of the Los Angeles Earthquake and for Other Purposes, FY 1994

February 09, 1994

STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY

(Senate)
(Sponsors: Natcher (D), (Kentucky) Byrd (D), (West Virginia)

The Administration commends the Senate Appropriations Committee for its expeditious handling of the bill to provide emergency appropriations for relief efforts to those affected by the southern California earthquake. Its efforts will ensure that there is no interruption in providing immediate housing, food, and medical assistance to hundreds of thousands of victims of this natural disaster. These funds will also be used to restore essential traffic systems to millions of citizens in the Los Angeles area.

The Administration supports Senate passage of H.R. 3759, as reported by the Committee.

It is the Administration's strong view that the Federal Government should treat the victims of the Los Angeles earthquake in the same compassionate and expeditious manner as victims of other recent disasters. Therefore, the Administration would oppose any controversial amendment whose passage could result in delaying enactment of this legislation.

In particular, the Administration strongly opposes the Kerrey amendments. Under the bipartisan budget agreement of 1990, Congress and the President agreed that emergency supplemental appropriations did not require offsets. The victims of this disaster should not be treated differently from other disasters, nor should they be held hostage to the inevitable delay that will result from the passage of these amendments.

The Administration would strongly oppose an amendment which would strike funding that is essential to support the ongoing humanitarian, peacekeeping and peace enforcing operations for Somalia, Bosnia, Southwest Asia and Haiti. Ongoing military contingency operations are not budgeted in advance. Consequently, the Department of Defense has been borrowing from core maintenance and support resources to fund these operations. Restoring these funds is essential to maintaining the readiness of our forces.

The Administration is deeply disappointed that the Committee did not approve requested funding for payments to the United Nations for Peacekeeping activities. The United States is obligated by treaty to make these payments and is committed to working with the Congress to include funding for this purpose.

The Administration strongly opposes the rescission of funds for the New Independent States (NIS) of the former Soviet Union approved by the committee. Continued support for market and democratic reform in the NIS is in the U.S. national security interest and the Administration will work with the conferees to restore this funding and approve other proposed rescissions.

The Administration's plan to continue the Landsat program without Department of Defense participation after FY 1994 is seriously threatened by the rescission of the Department's FY 1994 funding for Landsat of $140 million. The Landsat program has valuable government-wide and commercial applications. In order to continue the program, the Administration requests that all Landsat funds be restored. The Administration Will work with the conferees to reconsider the $240 million of DoD rescission proposals that were not approved by the Committee.

The Administration is disappointed that the Committee did not approve supplemental FY 1994 funding for the Council on Environmental Quality. These funds are needed to continue the Council, rather than to phase it out as was originally proposed in the FY 1994 budget. For the Council to be effective in its role to oversee the implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act, additional funding of $425,000 is needed.

Emergency Funding for the Southern California Earthquake

As a result of the Southern California earthquake, 61 people died, 6,500 were injured, about 16,000 homes and apartments were rendered uninhabitable, and over 45,000 residential structures were damaged. As physical inspections of these damaged housing are completed, increased numbers are being declared uninhabitable.

FEMA has already accepted almost 300,000 applications for disaster assistance. Agency staff are working 24 hours a day to process these applications. FEMA has accepted more applications in southern California than the total applications accepted for either the Midwest floods or Hurricane Andrew.

Approximately 100 public schools were severely damaged and over 500 classrooms were rendered unusable. Many schools reopened with emergency facilities and repairs provided with FEMA assistance, but three schools will remain closed indefinitely. Damage to public buildings was severe. At least five hospitals were damaged, including the University of Southern California hospital which has identified over $400 million in damage. Eleven USC buildings were destroyed and another ten damaged.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has already distributed over 12,000 Section 8 emergency housing certificates, the total available through the Secretary's existing emergency funds. This compares with 7,000 vouchers issued in the first year after Hurricane Andrew.

The Small Business Administration has issued a larger than expected number of disaster assistance applications. Since January 26th, the number of applications has almost tripled, increasing from 88,000 to 241,000.

Over 38 miles of roadways were closed in either one or both directions in the Los Angeles area. This includes 4.7 miles of the Santa Monica freeway, the most heavily travelled highway in the nation. Interstate 5, which runs north and south and serves the whole Pacific coast, was seriously damaged as well. In addition, over 200 bridge structures are known to be damaged.

Severe aftershocks continue to cause damage in the region. The Administration urges the Senate to take swift action on this emergency appropriations request.

William J. Clinton, Statement of Administration Policy: H.R. 3759 - Making Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Assistance Because of the Los Angeles Earthquake and for Other Purposes, FY 1994 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/329851