Barack Obama requests $60bn from US Congress to deal with aftermath of Superstorm Sandy

Saturday 08 December 2012 08.23
Dennis Kane (l) stands above the charred remains of his destroyed home in the hard hit Breezy Point neighbourhood of Queens in New York City
Dennis Kane (l) stands above the charred remains of his destroyed home in the hard hit Breezy Point neighbourhood of Queens in New York City

US President Barack Obama has requested more than $60bn from the US Congress for response, recovery and repairs in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

Sandy, which is on track to be the second or third most costly storm in US history, has been blamed for more than 120 deaths.

The presidential request will have to pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democratic-led Senate before funds are made available.

Officials from storm-battered New York, New Jersey and Connecticut had said they needed at least $82bn combined to make emergency repairs and upgrade infrastructure.

New York and New Jersey lawmakers said they expect President Obama will seek more aid as the extent of Sandy's damage becomes clearer. The two states were hit the hardest by the storm, which made landfall in New Jersey on 29 October.

"This supplemental is a very good start, and while $60 billion doesn't cover all of New York and New Jersey's needs, it covers a large percentage," said Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

"This is the first good news New York has had in a while," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Of the total, $15bn would come in the form of Community Development Block Grants, a mechanism that gives local jurisdiction significant flexibility to provide aid and rebuild quickly.

In addition, nearly $13bn would go to an array of projects aimed at better protecting the New York-New Jersey coastal region and preventing damage from future storms.

Another $6.2bn would be reserved for public transportation infrastructure.

Officials said they could ask for more aid later on. There is precedent for multiple funding requests to cope with a disaster.

Less than two weeks after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast in 2005, Congress had passed two appropriations totalling $62.3bn. Within a year, two more packages were passed worth a combined $48bn, which also covered damage from Hurricanes Rita and Wilma.

Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Craig Fugate told politicians this week that the FEMA disaster relief fund was down to less than $5bn and would run out by early spring at the current pace of disbursements.

We need a full recovery package to be voted on in this session of Congress," said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a statement. "Any delay will impede our recovery."

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