Three months after Hurricane Sandy slammed into the Mid-Atlantic coast, a $50.5-billion package to help New Jersey, New York and other states in the region rebuild from the powerful storm has cleared Congress and been enacted.
President Obama, who had pledged to "sign this bill into law as soon as it hits my desk," signed the measure the evening of Jan 29. The final congressional vote came the previous day, when the Senate approved the bill by a 62-36 tally. The House had passed the measure on Jan. 15.
The newly enacted bill's construction-related funds include $10.9 billion for the Federal Transit Administration and $5.4 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers civil works program.
Also included in the legislation are $2 billion for the Federal Highway Administration, for emergency repairs to roads and bridges; and $600 million for the Environmental Protection Agency for wastewater treatment and drinking-water facilities.
The National Park Service will receive $348 million and the Dept. of Veterans Affairs will get $207 million for repairs to a New York City hospital.
Other construction aid could come from the newl law’s $11.5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund and $16 billion for Housing and Urban Development Dept. community-development aid. A variety of nonconstruction and construction activities are eligible for those two types of funds. The exact allocations will depend on decisions by the states in the region.
Before approving the Sandy package, the Senate rejected a proposal from Mike Lee (R-Utah) to offset the measure’s cost by cutting other discretionary spending by 0.5% over nine years.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) said in a joint statement: "Despite the difficult path in getting to this moment, the Senate membership clearly recognized early on the urgency and necessity of approving the full aid package and its importance in rebuilding our battered infrastructure and getting our millions of affected residents back on their feet as quickly as possible."
The just-enacted measure's $50.5 billion is in addition to $9.7 billion for the federal flood insurance program that was contained in a separate bill enacted on Jan. 6.
Story updated Jan. 30 a.m. to include bill signing.