Federal officials plan on Wednesday to release the first installment of a nearly $51 billion emergency aid package to help millions of victims of Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast.
That installment will total $5.4 billion, with New York City receiving $1.77 billion; New York State, $1.71 billion; New Jersey, $1.82 billion; and Connecticut, Maryland and Rhode Island splitting the rest, Senator Charles E. Schumer said.
A formal announcement is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday on Staten Island, with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg expected to be joined by Shaun Donovan, the Obama administration’s housing secretary, among others.
“With this initial allocation, the work it took to pass the Sandy aid bill is starting to pay off,” Mr. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said. “We know there is desperate need and anxious waiting in the places hit by the storm. We will be making sure that this money gets to homeowners, small businesses and communities as quickly as possible.”
The disbursement will come a week after Congress gave final approval to the aid package, following a heated and prolonged battle. Indeed, Mr. Donovan said in an interview that the allocation, which usually takes up to 60 days, was the fastest in history.
“The president has made clear to me and all of us across the administration that we have to move as quickly as we possibly can to get these funds to families and communities that are still struggling,” he said. “But we also have to do it with great transparency and accountability.”
The House had initially declined to act on the bill amid objections from fiscal conservatives over its size and its impact on the federal deficit. But Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, among others, criticized his fellow Republicans for impeding an emergency response that, in past disasters like Hurricane Katrina, had much faster federal action.
In the end, Congress did pass the $51 billion package, largely along party lines, supplementing a $10 billion measure that had been approved earlier and that primarily addressed flood insurance.
The money being announced on Wednesday will come in the form of Community Development Block Grants, which are the biggest component of the aid package and are intended to give localities more flexibility in allocating resources. Next to individual assistance grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which are much smaller in size, these block grants are the most direct form of aid for people and businesses hurt by a natural disaster.
The state and city are now drafting formal plans to be submitted in the next couple of weeks to the federal government detailing how they intend to spend the money. But the plans are likely to include awards to homeowners to repair and renovate homes and reimburse business owners who sustained heavy losses.
Source: NY Times