Tags: Sandy | aid | Obama | Congress

Obama to Ask Congress for $60 Billion for Sandy Aid

Friday, 07 Dec 2012 06:13 PM

 

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President Barack Obama will ask Congress for $60.4 billion in federal aid for New York, New Jersey and other states hit by Superstorm Sandy in late October, congressional aides said Friday.

Officials from the affected states praised the request and urged Congress to enact it as quickly as possible.

"Today's agreement on the administration's request to Congress would authorize more than $60 billion in funding that will enable our states to recover, repair, and rebuild better and stronger than before," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in a joint statement.

Cuomo, a Democrat, and Christie, a Republican, came to Washington on Thursday to press for as large a disaster aid package as possible. Friday's request was at the top end of what had been expected.

The aid will help states rebuild public infrastructure like roads and tunnels and help thousands of people displaced from their homes. Superstorm Sandy was the most costly natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and one of the worst storms ever in the Northeast.

The formal paperwork was expected to be sent to Congress later Friday.

The request also comes with little time left in the final days of a congressional session dominated by an impasse in negotiations between the White House and Republican lawmakers over how to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.

"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 New York Reps. Peter King, a Republican, and Nita Lowey, a Democrat, in a joint statement.

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.

The storm also caused an estimated $62 billion in damage and other losses.

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.

While lawmakers say more money is needed — New York, New Jersey and Connecticut together are seeking about $83 billion in aid — lawmakers praised the administration for listening to suggestions on ways to make sure projects aren't delayed by bureaucratic rules or a congressional ban on targeted spending.

"There is a great deal of flexibility that better allows us to help homeowners, small businesses, hospitals, beach communities, and localities rebuild, repair and protect themselves," said a joint statement from New York and New Jersey's senators — Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey.

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.

The aid request could face a turbulent path on Capitol Hill, especially from tea party House Republicans who are likely to press for budget cuts elsewhere to offset whatever disaster aid is approved. The looming fiscal cliff of expiring Bush-era tax cuts and automatic spending cuts to the Pentagon and domestic programs complicates prospects for action in the next few weeks.

Aides provided the information on the condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to disclose details of the request.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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