Monday, August 3, 2015

NJ Sens: $50 billion not enough for Sandy relief

UPDATE: The four U.S. Senators from New Jersey and New York said $50 billion in new funds for relief from superstorm Sandy won't go far enough, if that is what the White House requests.

NJ Sens: $50 billion not enough for Sandy relief


The four U.S. Senators from New Jersey and New York said $50 billion in new funds for relief from superstorm Sandy won't go far enough, if that is what the White House requests.

“While $50 billion is a significant amount of money, it unfortunately does not meet all of New York and New Jersey’s substantial needs. While we know there will be additional supplementals, the Administration needs to come as close as possible to meeting our states’ needs in the first request,” said a joint release from Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Bob Mendendez, of New Jersey, and Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand, of New York.

They were responding to earlier reports from the New York Times and Associated Press that said President Obama will seek a relief package of between $45 and $55 billion for the region affected by Sandy. One Democratic aide said $50 billion is not an accurate amount, but local officials have not yet heard a definite amount.

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R., N.J.) said "the Congressman hopes the president considers the devastation in New Jersey and other states and carefully reviews the thorough request Gov. Christie made for assistance. On specifics, we will wait to comment until we see an actual proposal from the White House."

Governors in New Jersey and New York have estimated that they are facing nearly $80 billion in clean up costs, and other states will be seeking aid as well, bringing the total requests well above $50 billion. Some of the damage estimates, though, will be covered by existing disaster relief funds and insurance claims.

President Obama will recommend a roughly $50 billion aid package to help states rebuilding after superstorm Sandy, according to a New York Times report -- a significant amount of new spending as he and Congress work to cut the federal deficit, but roughly half what some from New Jersey said could be needed.

The Times, citing administration and Congressional officials, reported Wednesday morning that the aid package will likely be between $45 billion and $55 billion. The exact amount is not set, but the range gives a sense of the size of an aid bill.

New Jersey officials contacted this morning could not immediately confirm the figure, though they have said previously that they expected to see an estimate from the White House this week. Housing and Urban Development secretary Shaun Donovan confirmed that timetable this morning at a Senate hearing on Sandy, but would not comment on the specific aid amount.

He stressed, though, that while damage estimates from New Jersey and New York add up to nearly $80 billion, and other states are also seeking aid, not all of that amount has to be covered by a new spending bill. Some of the damage will be covered with funds that FEMA and other agencies already have, and some will be covered by insurance companies.

The remaining amount is what the federal government will have to cover, Donovan said at a hearing on Sandy.

"I’m not sure where those reports are coming from. We are still working on what our requests will be, we do not have a specific number," Donovan said in response to a question from Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.).

Additional amounts could be added in later years. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said the supplemental spending bill will cover what is needed for the next fiscal year, but recovery could last much longer.

New Jersey Gov. Christie has already put in a damage estimate of $37 billion for aid to his state, though some of that will be covered by insurance. New York is seeking $42 billion in relief funds. Christie is expected in Washington Thursday to lobby for aid.

The requests for support comes as most of the nation focuses on reducing the national deficit and cutting spending. Further relief bills, though, could be possible in the future.

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About this blog

Jonathan Tamari is the Inquirer’s Washington correspondent. He writes about the lawmakers, politics and policy that affect Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Tamari previously covered the Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL. Before that he worked in Trenton, reporting on the characters and color of New Jersey state government. He lives in Washington.

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