Senate Finally Approves $50.5 Billion in Sandy Relief
The Senate has approved a $50.5 billion measure to benefit Superstorm Sandy victims. Even though the storm hit three months ago, relief funding has been delayed by conservative senators' concerns about raising the already-scary national debt.
As we told you earlier this month, some residents in areas affected by the storm are still without regular heat and electricity. Given the cold front this past week, we're sure they haven't been comfortable, so the funding comes as a huge relief.
After months of waiting, victims won't have to wait much longer -- Obama promised, "I will sign this bill into law as soon as it hits my desk," in a statement yesterday evening.
So where is this huge stack of cash headed?
Here's the breakdown, according to NBC: the Housing and Urban Development Department gets $16 billion, $3.9 billion of which is headed straight to Sandy relief efforts. The remaining $12.1 billion will be divvied up between Sandy victims and those hit by other U.S. disasters between 2011 and 2013. FEMA gets an $11 billion portion for their disaster relief fund, while public transit systems in New York and New Jersey get $10 billion.
The remaining $13.5 billion is getting broken up between a whole list of federal agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Small Business Administration, and the Coast Guard. Some of these agencies will focus their spending on countering the devastation wrought by Sandy, while others are expected to use the funds on various studies that will hopefully help us be more disaster-ready in the future.
With New York's storm-related expenses estimated at $42 billion and New Jersey's at $37 billion, it seems like studying storms ought to fall lower on the priority list. However, FEMA just reevaluated their flood maps, placing thousands of additional New York homes in the danger zone, so preparing for the inevitable next storm just became a bit more urgent.
Once the president signs the bill, affected communities hope aid will come swiftly. Governors Cuomo, Christie, and Malloy released a joint statement on the Senate vote, stating, "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."
You're welcome, guys. No problem. We totally played an important role in the Senate vote. (Seriously though, if you're interested in going to anybody's aid, there are still tons of volunteer opportunities available.)
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.