Obama requests $60.4 billion to help area recover from superstorm Sandy

Posted: December 09, 2012

WASHINGTON - President Obama requested $60.4 billion in new spending Friday to help homeowners, businesses, and government recover after Hurricane Sandy.

The plan, which includes at least $15 billion for new storm protection, will need congressional approval and could face a fight as Washington focuses on cutting the deficit.

The request for aid across the Northeast is less than what some lawmakers hoped for. Officials in New Jersey and New York, the two hardest-hit states, largely expressed their thanks but said more money may be needed in the future.

The funding "will enable our states to recover, repair, and rebuild better and stronger than before," Gov. Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

The package includes "essential mitigation" to protect the region, the two said. It includes $13 billion for projects to prevent future storm damage. Spending restrictions hampered recovery in after Hurricane Katrina, according to Democratic aides.

"We thank President Obama for his steadfast commitment of support," they said. They added that the request provides "maximum flexibility," for which officials in both states pushed.

The four senators from New Jersey and New York called the plan "a very good start" that covers "a large percentage" of their states' needs. The plan, though, could be "the first of several" supplemental spending bills needed, added the four Democrats, New Jersey's Robert Menendez and Frank J. Lautenberg, and New York's Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R., N.J.), whose district includes much of the Jersey Shore, said the proposal was not enough.

"Gov. Christie made a responsible request for federal aid based on careful, comprehensive analysis," LoBiondo said. "Having seen the devastation firsthand in my district during his visit to Brigantine, I'm disappointed President Obama has come to a different conclusion."

Damage estimates and requests for mitigation projects from New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut total around $82 billion. Some of that will be covered by insurance or existing relief funds.

Lawmakers hope to pass the bill by year's end, but most of Washington is focused on budget cutting and the fiscal cliff.

"This is going to be a tough fight," the senators said. "Some members have not been friendly to disaster relief."

Some Republicans have called for spending reductions to offset some of the new aid, but GOP leaders have not taken a public stand.

"We have the request and will review it," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R., Ohio). His caucus includes the most vocal opponents of increased spending.

The proposal covers a wide range of activity, including housing assistance, small business aid, repairs to parks, aid to farmers and food banks, public health efforts, and repairs for damaged government property and equipment.

Much of the flexibility will be provided by $15 billion in Community Development Block Grants, which come with broad discretion and can go to housing repairs and aid to individuals and businesses, among other uses.

The long list of other items includes $6.2 billion for public transportation repairs, $500 million to back $4.5 billion in small business loans, $207 million to fix Homeland Security facilities, and $348 million for national park repairs.

Obama also signed an executive order creating the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force to coordinate the rebuilding.


Contact Jonathan Tamari at jtamari@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @JonathanTamari. Read his blog "Capitol Inq" at www.philly.com/CapitolInq.

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