Tags: superstorm | sandy | delays

Lawmakers Slam Delays of Sandy Funds One Year After Disaster

Tuesday, 29 Oct 2013 01:25 PM

By Melanie Batley

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Image: Lawmakers Slam Delays of Sandy Funds One Year After Disaster
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One year after Congress approved a $60.4 billion emergency aid package for the victims of Superstorm Sandy, new figures show that very little of it has been spent.

At the time, the money was appropriated on the belief that people's lives depended on getting the aid as soon as possible, in the aftermath of a storm that left more than 100 people dead and caused billions of dollars damage along the Northeast coast.

Sandy made landfall Oct. 29, 2012, in New Jersey.

But according to The Washington Times, the most recent financial report from the federal Sandy task force shows that only around $13.5 billion has been paid out.

"Concerns over the pace of recovery continued to grow, and one year later many residents of states affected by Hurricane Sandy continue to wait for help," Sen. Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican and ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wrote in a letter to the Shaun Donovan, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, responsible for overseeing the federal Sandy Task force.

HUD is responsible for distributing a huge portion of the Sandy money, roughly $15.2 billion, according to the Times. As of Aug. 31, just $2.1 billion had been obligated and just $135 million had been spent, just 1 percent of the designated funds.

"One year later, it's clear these communities continue to be challenged by the sheer scale of this devastating storm requiring further investment to make certain these needs are met," Donavan said in an HUD news release.

White House press secretary Jay Carney also tried to reinforce the message that the administration was still committed to helping Sandy victims.

"I think that we have demonstrated that commitment throughout the past year, and it’s an ongoing commitment, and that includes the provision of aid as well as numerous other projects underway as part of the administration's work with the affected states," he said, according to the Times.

Lawmakers in New York and New Jersey are criticizing the time it is taking to get aid to those affected. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said the main reason it took so long for money to begin flowing is because Congress failed to pass a funding bill until the end of January.

"Let's start off with the fact that it took 92 days for the Congress to act on aid for Sandy victims. That's unprecedented," the Republican said on CBS' "This Morning," according to The Hill. "It's 10 days for Katrina and 17 days for Gustav," he said pointing to earlier hurricanes.

"You remember me being pretty exercised about it at the time because I knew what that would do to add time at the end."

He was supported by Republican Rep. Peter King of New York, who told MSNBC, "Congress bears a large amount of the blame. It was absolutely disgraceful that we had to wait over three months to get the aid every other region in the country got within 10 days or two weeks."

King had particularly harsh words for Coburn, who opposed aid at the time, but has now been in New York fundraising.

"Tom Coburn was critical then and he continues to be critical now. He's still talking about pork and all that nonsense.

"Stay out of New York. Raise your money in Oklahoma. Don't come to New York and take the money from the people you wanted to screw."

New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer also noted Congress' delay, but said the first year after Sandy was focused on recovery and the second will be based on rebuilding.

"We tried to learn from Katrina's mistakes, and I think you are going to find in this second year that homeowners will be made whole," he said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe.

Related stories:

Recovery Slow for Thousands One Year After Superstorm Sandy

A Year After Superstorm Sandy, Federal Aid Trickles In

Congress Passes $50.5B Superstorm Sandy Aid Bill


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