Obama set to sign Superstorm Sandy aid bill

 In this Jan. 3, 2013 photo, a beach front home that was severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy rests in the sand in Bay Head, N.J.  (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

In this Jan. 3, 2013 photo, a beach front home that was severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy rests in the sand in Bay Head, N.J.
(AP Photo/Mel Evans)

President Barack Obama said he’ll sign a $50.5 billion emergency relief measure for Superstorm Sandy victims as soon as it lands on his desk.

Three months after Sandy ravaged coastal areas in much of the Northeast, Obama chided lawmakers for taking their time to approve the funding even as he commended them for providing the long-awaited aid.

“So while I had hoped Congress would provide this aid sooner, I applaud the lawmakers from both parties who helped shepherd this important package though,” Obama said in a statement late Monday.

Despite opposition from conservatives concerned about adding billions of dollars to the nation’s debt, the Senate cleared the bill, 62-36, after House Republicans had stripped it earlier this month of spending unrelated to disasters.

“This is a huge relief,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

Northeast lawmakers said the money is urgently needed to start rebuilding homes, businesses, public transportation facilities and other infrastructure damaged by the Oct. 29 storm, one of the worst to strike the Northeast. Sandy is blamed for more than 130 deaths in the U.S. and tens of billions of dollars in property damages, particularly in New York and New Jersey.

The measure is aimed primarily at helping residents and businesses as well as state and local governments rebuild from the storm. The biggest chunk of money is $16 billion for Housing and Urban Development Department community block grants. Of that, about $12.1 billion will be shared among Sandy victims as well as those from other federally declared disasters in 2011-13. The remaining $3.9 billion is solely for Sandy-related projects.

More than $11 billion will go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency‘s disaster relief aid fund for Sandy and other disasters. Another $10 billion is devoted to repairing New York and New Jersey transit systems.

Earlier in January, Congress approved and Obama signed a $9.7 billion bill to replenish the National Flood Insurance Program, which has received well over 100,000 claims related to Sandy. Added to the new, $50.5 billion package, the total is roughly in line with the $60.4 billion Obama requested in December.

The aid package was greased for passage before the last Congress adjourned and the new one came in on Jan. 3. But Speaker John Boehner refused to bring it to the floor after two-thirds of House Republicans voted against a “fiscal cliff” deficit-reduction deal raising taxes on couples making more than $450,000 a year while deferring some $24 billion in spending cuts in defense and domestic programs.

The ruckus after the Senate had passed an earlier $60.4 billion Sandy relief package by a nearly 2-to-1 margin on Dec. 28 exposed deep political divisions within Republican ranks. “There’s only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner,” Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie fumed at the time.

Top House Republicans responded by bringing new Sandy aid legislation to the floor under ground rules designed to win over as many Republicans as possible while retaining support from Democrats eager to approve as much in disaster aid as possible.

GOP leaders cut spending in the Senate bill unrelated to disasters. One was to transfer $1 billion from training programs for Iraqi policemen to bolstering security at U.S. diplomatic missions. The shift in money followed a Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Also deleted was $188 million for an Amtrak expansion project that included new, long-planned tunnels from New Jersey to Penn Station in Manhattan.

As with past natural disasters, the Sandy aid bill is not offset with spending cuts, meaning the aid adds to the deficit. The lone exception is an offset provision requiring that $3.4 billion for Army Corps of Engineers projects to protect against future storms be covered by an equal amount of unspecified spending cuts in other programs before next October.

The Senate on Monday rejected, 35-62, an attempt by conservatives to amend the final package with an offset provision to cut federal programs across the board by one-half of 1 percent through 2021.

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Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.
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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.  All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Copyright 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

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One Response to "Obama set to sign Superstorm Sandy aid bill"

  1. blutodog  January 31, 2013 at 10:22 am

    The media is not reporting the evolving 2nd wave of disaster happening along the northeast coast post-Sandy. Everyone thinks the 50 bil. relief bill for the storm is a great thing, but it has a slimy corrupt dark side as is usual with anything the Feds seem to get involved in with this much $$. At the same moment that millions along the coast in NJ, NY and Conn. are waiting anxiously to be compensated by FEMA for damages, FEMA has dropped an enormous shit bomb on all the coastal communities in the form of new Flood maps. These maps determine Nat’l Flood Ins. rates going forward and in those maps was buried what amounts to a forced evacuation of most of the coast. Forced for the poor and middle class that is. This is because the new maps and regulations that come with them are requiring that possibly millions of homeowners in the new designated Velocity flood zones must raise their homes and businesses or not be qualified for flood Ins. Since the majority of these folks have a mortgage the banks have also made it a requirement that you have a flood policy or be foreclosed on. Once adopted these regulations not ONLY require you lift your home up to the new flood elevations, but that you place it on pilings, not just a block or concrete footing! The cost for this is astronomical and not even practical in the case of many homes. For the wealthy and cash flush this isn’t a problem because these folks can pay off any mortgage or don’t have one in the 1st place so they can self insure, no problem for them, right? However the great majority of home and business owners can’t afford to do it and they must either take the Gov’t offered grant of $30,000 to accomplish this or possibly lose their homes. Here’s the rub, first off were talking about literally the herculean task of lifting and fixing possibly entire barrier Island communities or entire islands like Long Beach Island, NJ that is 18 miles long and every sq. inch is in the new flood zones! There simply are not enough contractors or equipment to do this in any kind of timely manner and secondly it costs twice as much to lift, and renovate , reconnect all the services a house requires and move everything out of the house to do it. Then, the case of the pilings. Nobody has any idea what that will cost and once again in many case it’s almost an impossibility because of the way these houses are situated on narrow lots. The short term effect is enormous anger that is building along the coast as property owners are starting to realize that instead of being rescued by the Feds and the State they are now being thrown under the wheels of the greed machine and it’s Corporatist pals in Gov’t. That this is evolving to be another real estate disaster of possibly monumental proportions and it’s already taking place as I write. %00 pople turned out at a local school near where I live last evening to attend a FEMA sponsored meeting, to explain the new regs and maps and it almost turned into a full blown riot and local police had to go up on the stage and warn people to calm down or else. This fiasco is going almost un reported in the MSM and even in the alternative online media. Another more immediate effect is nobody knows what anything is worth down here now and nobody can sell and and buyers are staying away until the massive uncertainty in the markets this has caused shakes out one way or another.

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