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Congressional aides: Obama asks $60.4B Sandy aid

By Andrew Taylor

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Dec. 8 2012 5:00 p.m. MST

The measure contains $11.5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's chief disaster relief fund and $17 billion for community development block grants, much of which would help homeowners repair or replace their homes. Another $11.7 billion would help repair New York City's subways and other mass transit damage and protect them from future storms. Some $9.7 billion would go toward the government's flood insurance program. Another $ 5.3 billion would go to the Army Corps of Engineers to mitigate flood future risks and rebuild damaged projects. There are dozens of smaller items, too, in an official justification spanning 73 pages.

"While more may be needed in the long term, this robust package is a major first step that we will work to pass as quickly as possible in Congress to help devastated communities, families and businesses," said Reps. Peter King, R-N.Y., and Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., in a joint statement.

The praise was not universal, however.

"We should not shortchange nor add strings to the support residents, businesses and communities in my district and across the region desperately need," said Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo, whose southern New Jersey district includes hard-hit Atlantic City. "I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure the federal aid package passed by Congress realistically matches the needs identified by the states on the ground."

A potential complication is that the congressional delegations of the nine states hardest hit by the storm are dominated by Democrats. While that may have helped boost the request from the White House, it will take GOP support to advance the costly measure through the Republican-controlled House and win enough Senate support to clear procedural hurdles.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the speaker had received the request and would review it.

The late October storm flooded parts of the East Coast when it roared ashore, creating a storm surge that left parts of New York City underwater and millions of people in several states without heat or electricity for weeks.

Superstorm Sandy is blamed for at least 125 deaths, including 60 in New York, 34 in New Jersey and 16 in Pennsylvania. At least seven people died in West Virginia, where the storm dropped heavy snow. Sandy damaged or destroyed more than 72,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey. In New York, 305,000 housing units were damaged or destroyed and more than 265,000 businesses affected.

On Tuesday, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Craig Fugate, said the government's disaster relief fund still has $4.8 billion, enough to pay for recovery efforts into early spring. So far, the government has spent about $2 billion in the 11 states struck by the storm.

Associated Press writer Michael Gormley in Albany, N.Y., contributed to this report.

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