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House Democrats Offer Relief Package

House Democratic leaders today will unveil their version of a relief package for victims of Hurricane Katrina, calling on Republicans to put off any additional tax cuts to meet the needs of survivors.

Democrats have yet to place a dollar figure on their proposal, but are seeking additional federal funding for housing, health care, education and unemployment benefits. The proposal is the first of a two-part package House Democrats will unveil.

The second piece, to be advanced next week, will lay out a plan to cover the longer-term costs of rebuilding the Gulf Coast and providing employment for those displaced by the disaster.

Brendan Daly, spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said Democrats are trying to get out front early in laying out their goals for the recovery. He said Democrats are trying to “show leadership and show we are listening to the concerns of the American people.”

“We’re saying that this needs to be done, whether by Republicans or Democrats,” he said. “We’re saying that this is what we would do.”

Highlights of the package include: flexible emergency rental housing assistance and the opening of federal facilities for evacuees; additional health coverage through Medicaid and allowing the affected to keep their employer-based health care; additional funding for school districts educating victims and a deferral of student loans; an increase in unemployment insurance benefits and disaster unemployment assistance; and additional assistance for low-income families and special populations, including individuals with disabilities.

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