A long-delayed $19.1 billion disaster aid bill has been sent to President Donald Trump for his expected signature, which would bring some much-needed relief to Eastern North Carolina military bases.

Lawmakers gave the disaster aid bill final congressional approval on Monday by 354-58 in the House's first significant action after returning from a 10-day recess. It was backed by all 222 voting Democrats and 132 Republicans, including the GOP's top leaders and many of its legislators from areas hit by hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and fires. Fifty-eight Republicans voted "no," including many of the party's most conservative members.

Camp Lejeune has hosted political visitors recently to tour the extensive damage following Hurricane Florence, including N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper and Congressmen John Geramendi and Doug Lamborn, chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, in April, and U.S. Senators Thom Tillis, Richard Burr, and John Boozman visited the base in May.

Thousands of homes aboard Camp Lejeune were damaged by the storm and repairs have been ongoing since Florence hit in September. Like in the towns and counties nearby, some Camp Lejeune homes received minor damage while others suffered complete losses of property and housing, The Daily News reported. In a February tour of Camp Lejeune, officials noted how the damaged buildings — 800 total — have made it difficult for Marines to do their daily duties. Some of those buildings had collapsed roofs, leaks, a lack of insulation, mold infestation or all of the above.

As of a May 30 update, 1,816 of the 2,901 homes at Camp Lejeune-New River that needed repairs have been completed, and 619 of the 727 base houses at Cherry Point have been completed, according to the Atlantic Marine Corps Communities website.

Col. Nick Davis, the chief of staff of Marine Corps Installations East, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, wrote in an email to The Daily News that ENC military bases are anticipating hundreds of millions of dollars in "much-needed relief." Camp Lejeune has been spending approximately $200 million monthly since March, funds reprogrammed from the Department of Defense, to implement hurricane recovery.

"This supplemental is the first time we are getting assistance outside the DoD," Davis wrote. The majority of that DoD programmed money has been spent on roof repairs, ground erosion control measures, electrical and building envelope improvements, utility projects, and repairing damaged building interiors. Thus far, outside industry has kept up with the speed of our contracting demands and we are on pace with most of our recovery projects in support of our tenant commands. Later this year, we expect to begin some of our prioritized military construction projects earmarked for FY20."

Marines have spoken out about how they've managed to make it work, but the damage is estimated to cost $3.6 billion total across Marine Corps bases along the east coast for repairs and renovations due to hurricanes Florence and Michael as well as military construction projects to replaced damaged buildings.

Trump hailed passage of the bill, tweeting, "Farmers, Puerto Rico and all will be very happy."

The measure was initially held up over a fight between Trump and Democrats over aid to Puerto Rico.

"Some in our government refused to assist our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico who are still recovering from a 2017 hurricane. I'm pleased we've moved past that," said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. "Because when disaster strikes, we shouldn't let a ZIP code dictate our response."

As the measure languished, disasters kept coming — with failed levees in Arkansas, Iowa and Missouri and tornadoes across Ohio just the most recent examples. The measure is supported by the bipartisan party leadership in both House and Senate.

The legislation is also being driven by Florida and Georgia lawmakers steaming with frustration over delays in delivering help to farmers, towns and military bases slammed by hurricanes last fall. Flooding in Iowa and Nebraska this spring added to the coalition behind the measure, which delivers much of its help to regions where Trump supporters dominate.

The bill started out as a modest $7.8 billion measure passed in the last days of House GOP control. A $14 billion version advanced in the Democrat-led chamber in January and ballooned to $19.1 billion by the time it emerged from the floor last month, fed by new funding for community rehabilitation projects, Army Corps of Engineers water and flood protection projects, and rebuilding funds for several military bases, including Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.