On Friday, December 28, 2012, the U.S. Senate has approved, by a vote of 61 to 33, an amended version of H.R. 1, Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Assistance. The Supplemental responds to Hurricane Sandy, as well as other natural disasters that have occurred over the past year. H.R. 1 now returns to the House for its consideration.
It is unclear that the House will act on the measure before Congress adjourns for the year.
In a measure of the pressure the House is under, the NY Times reported that “Govs. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut, both Democrats, joined with Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican, to send a letter to every representative urging them to pass the relief package.”
“The question to each and every member of the House is, If this storm had struck your constituency and devastated it the way Sandy has ours, would you say that the House has done enough?” they wrote.
$17 Billion for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG): This flexible block grant program will allow the state and localities to get aid where it is needed most. Possible uses include, but are not limited to, grants to small businesses, helping homeowners rebuild flooded properties at a higher elevation, and utility ratepayer relief.
$5.35 Billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: This funding is critical to rebuild New Jersey’s weakened coastal defenses. This will allow Jersey Shore residents and businesses to know we will be better protected from storms than ever before.
$12 Billion to Restore Transportation Systems: This funding will allow NJ Transit to repair extensive damage from the storm and could allow the agency to build a facility on higher ground to prevent future flooding damage. Port Authority will also be able to permanently repair the PATH station and harden some electrical equipment to prevent future damage. In addition, NJDOT will be able to elevate some roads that were washed away by Sandy.
Important Policy Reforms to Streamline Recovery Efforts: Following Hurricane Katrina, states struggled with cumbersome disaster recovery laws. Reforms would improve the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Public Assistance programs to allow rebuilding to be stronger than what was in place before the storm, provide third party dispute resolution process for major projects, and allow for coverage of child care costs related to disaster recovery through FEMA individual assistance.
“On behalf of the thousands of courageous Superstorm Sandy survivors who continue to work toward rebuilding and recovery, I express my deepest gratitude to my colleagues who voted in favor of this Sandy Relief Package. This is a great step forward, but our work is not yet done. I call upon members of the House to pass this critical legislation quickly when they return on Sunday. This is not a partisan matter, nor is it limited to just the Northeast. Passage of Sandy Relief is of great national concern. It’s vital to our economic vitality and American integrity.