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Queens Chronicle

Congress passes Hurricane Sandy aid bill

Funds will go to reimburse city for cleanup costs and fund FEMA grants

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Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:07 am, Thu Feb 7, 2013.

The U.S. Senate passed the final installment of aid to Hurricane Sandy survivors on Monday and President Obama signed the bill into law Tuesday night.

The $50.5 billion in funds passed by a 62-36 margin with all Democrats — including both New York senators — and nine Republicans present voting yes.

The bill passed the House of Representatives last week and includes $10 billion to repair public transport infrastructure, $5.3 billion to replenish the Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief fund and $16 billion in Community Development Block Grant funding, which will be used by municipalities to rebuild homes and businesses damaged in the storm.

The money will also go to reimburse the city and state for costs endured during the recovery process, including Sanitation, Police, Fire and other agency expenditures and some will be used to reinforce infrastructure for future disasters.

The Senate passed a similar aid bill late last year, but it died in the House earlier this month when some Republicans criticized it for being loaded with spending items that were not related to Sandy.

After protests from Congress members from the Northeast, including some Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) split the bill into one that provided $9.7 billion for flood insurance reimbursement and $50.5 billion for other needs. The first bill was passed into law earlier this month.

Combined with the flood insurance reimbursements-approved earlier this month, the new measure puts the total at more than $60 million for Sandy aid, still below the $80 billion originally requested by Gov. Cuomo along with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy. The trio released a statement upon the Senate’s passage of the bill on Monday.

“Our genuine thanks and gratitude goes out to the U.S. Senate for its thoughtful consideration and passage of the Hurricane Sandy disaster relief package,” the statement read. “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. To all Americans, we are grateful for their willingness to come to our aid as we take on the monumental task of rebuilding and we pledge to do the same should our fellow citizens find themselves facing unexpected and harsh devastation.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) noted that other bills funding disaster relief were approved quicker and with less controversy.

“For decades, taxpayers from New York have sent their money when disasters occurred, with fires on the West Coast or floods in the Missouri and Mississippi valleys or hurricanes in Louisiana and Florida,” Schumer said. “We’ve sent our tax dollars, billions of them — and now, all of a sudden, some are suggesting we should change the rules when we are hit by the first major disaster to hit the New York City region in a very long time. That’s not fair. That’s not right.”

The Senate defeated an amendment from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) that would have offset the money with cuts to discretionary spending over the next nine years.

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