The Obama administration has asked Congress to approve $60.4 billion in emergency funds to help East Coast states recover and rebuild from Hurricane Sandy’s heavy blows and to take longer-range steps to guard against massive damage from future storms.
The supplemental funding request, which the White House sent to Capitol Hill on the evening of Dec. 7, includes
$47 billion for relatively immediate relief, repairs and rebuilding and $13 billion to help the states and their localities put in place permanent mitigation.
The proposal does not specify what long-term mitigation projects or plans should be pursued, though it mentions some possible actions, such as "elevating, relocating or hardening structures." It also says, "Mitigation projects should be guided by regional response plans that are informed by an assessment of current vulnerabilities to extreme weather events and that effectively mitigate future risks."
Officials from New York and New Jersey, which bore the brunt of Sandy, praised the proposed package. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said the funds “will enable our states to recover, repair and rebuild better and stronger than before.”
The two states’ U.S. senators issued a statement calling the plan “a very good start,” adding that “while $60 billion doesn’t cover all of [New York's] and New Jersey’s needs, it covers a large percentage.” The four senators, all Democrats, further said, “This will be the first of several supplementals that will be necessary as our states’ needs become more clear.”
Their immediate challenge, however, is to push the $60-billion measure through Congress as the year-end fiscal cliff draws near, hiking taxes, cutting budgets and putting federal spending under unusually strict scrutiny.
In a letter transmitting the request to Senate and House leaders, Jeffrey Zients, the Office of Management and Budget's deputy director for management, said the administration is asking the affected states and localities to pay “as appropriate” 10% of the repair and recovery costs.
Zients also said the funding should be considered emergency spending and thus should not require offsetting cuts to other federal programs.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), who will have a large say in the fate of the proposal, noted in a statement, “It is critically important Congress fulfills its responsibility to those individuals, families, businesses and communities recovering from Hurricane Sandy.”