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Congress Approves Sandy Disaster Relief Bill

Although $150 million for fisheries remains cut, the overall package is valued at $50.5 billion.

Release courtesy the office of Senator Jack Reed.

The U.S. Senate today voted 62 to 36 for a $50.5 billion disaster relief bill to help Rhode Island and other states clean up and recover from damage left in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, which hit Rhode Island on Oct. 29, 2012. 

U.S. Senator Jack Reed voted in favor of the bill, which he says will help Rhode Island and other states that were impacted by the storm clean up and recover from Sandy. 

“It is unfortunate emergency aid was delayed, but now these federal resources will help Rhode Island residents, businesses, and communities recover and rebuild,” said Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee.  

“While we were able to secure federal funding to help repair Rhode Island’s roadways and infrastructure, this package is not as strong as the original Senate bill that passed last year.  Still, there are critical funds that can now be put to work helping individuals, families, and businesses that were hit hardest by the storm.”

On Dec. 28, the U.S. Senate voted to pass a $60.4 billion Sandy relief bill, but that vote was nullified when the U.S. House of Representatives failed to act before the 113th Congress took office on Jan. 3.  The House then voted on a different version, but cut several provisions from the Senate bill, including $150 million for fisheries disasters that could have helped Rhode Island fishermen.

The $50.5 billion bill passed today includes $16 billion in Community Development Block Grant money critical for rebuilding; $11.5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund; $10.9 billion for public transit projects in New York and New Jersey; $5.35 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers for operations and maintenance expenses related to Sandy clean-up efforts and to help protect against future storms; $2 billion for the Federal Highway Administration’s emergency relief program to repair storm-damaged federal highways; $476 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to help improve weather forecasting; and $274 million to repair Sandy damages to Coast Guard facilities.

To date, Rhode Island has received about $10 million in federal support to cope with Sandy damage. According to FEMA, about 600 Rhode Island households have already registered for some form of disaster assistance, including financial grants, loans and other disaster-related services.  FEMA has extended the deadline for Rhode Islanders with losses from Sandy to register for assistance until Feb. 13.

The National Flood Insurance Program estimates that approximately 1,000 claims have been filed related to Superstorm Sandy in Rhode  Island and around $6.5 million has been paid out to victims of the storm.

Earlier this month, Congress approved $9.7 billion in NFIP borrowing authority to help pay for flood insurance claims related to the storm.  Together with the $50.5 billion package passed today, the total federal funds for Sandy aid reaches $60.2 billion. 

Now that the bill has been approved by Congress, it goes to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law.

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U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse released the statement below following the Senate’s vote today to authorize emergency funding for states affected by Hurricane Sandy:

“After visiting our communities damaged by Hurricane Sandy, I’ll never forget what I saw: family homes that had stood for generations pulled into the sea, businesses destroyed, and so many memories swept away.  This much-needed federal funding will help Rhode Island communities hurt by Hurricane Sandy to rebuild.  That good news is offset by the shameful decision by House Republicans to strip the disaster funding for our fishermen out of the disaster funding bill, but I will continue working with Senator Reed and my colleagues in Congress to make sure we secure that funding as well.”

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