Senate passes Sandy aid bill

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Steve Mosco

Three months after the Northeast bore the brunt of Superstorm Sandy’s destructive force, the U.S. Senate finally approved a $50.5 billion relief package Monday night 91 days after the hurricane hit.

The bill now heads to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.

With opposition from conservatives over adding billions of dollars to the nation’s debt still looming over the process, the Senate passed the bill, 62-36, after more than a month of political squabbling.

The hurricane ravaged the East Coast on Oct. 29, causing billions of dollars in damage and more than 130 deaths. The storm’s aftermath stirred a political tempest, which stalled relief aid after U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) canceled the initial House vote in early January.

But after the Senate bill passed Tuesday night, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Chris Christie of New Jersey and Dannel Malloy of Connecticut quickly expressed gratitude toward the Senate for the bill’s passage.

“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 three governors said in a joint statement. “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.”

The aid package, which passed the House last week, includes funding to repair transit systems in New York and New Jersey and for housing and other needs in the affected regions. Additional funds would go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for disaster relief, while other funds are ticketed for restoration of highways damaged or destroyed in the storm.

House officials approved a $9.7 million relief bill Jan. 3 to enable FEMA to pay out claims to those victims who have federal flood insurance.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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