Disaster recoveryFiscal cliff discussions get in way of post-Sandy relief measure

Published 27 December 2012

The post-Sandy rebuilding effort in the northeast has been stalled by the debate going on in Congress about a solution to the national debt

The post-Sandy rebuilding effort in the northeast has been stalled by the debate going on in Congress about a solution to the national debt..

Hispanic Business reports that Lawmakers from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and several other states are still waiting for support for a measure which would allow   speeding up of clean-up efforts  construction,  but with the  focus on the fiscal cliff, the $60 billion White House Sandy relief request  has taken a back seat.

 

Last Thursday legislators from the affected states pleaded with their colleagues to separate the  disaster relief package —  which, when the states’ requests are added,  could total $100 billion —  from the fiscal cliff conversations

I hope it doesn’t get caught up” in that debate,  Representative Bill Pascrell, a North Jersey Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, told HispanicBusiness. “That would be very dangerous.”

According to officials, a quick decision must be made as residents must decide whether to rebuild homes and businesses or close them and sell the space. House rules mandate that new spending must be offset by reductions in other programs. It was the same after  Hurricanes Katrina and Irene, but both times the House provided support without cutbacks.

Representative Chris Smith (R.-New Jersey) said he had received word from Majority Leader Eric Cantor that budget cuts would not be required for aid to New Jersey, New York, and other states seeking support.

We’ve been assured … this is going to be a separate matter,” Smith said. “I don’t believe there will be offsets on this at all.”

According to Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), the end of the year is putting a lot of strain on decision makers.

It hit us in the wintertime, which creates complicated things for families back at home. It hits us at the end of the congressional session, which gives us a more truncated time. And it hits us in the midst of fiscal-cliff questions. So, could it be a more super-Herculean job? No, I don’t think there’s much more that could have been thrown on our shoulders,” Menendez told HB.com.

Legislators in New Jersey were optimistic last week as they testified at a hearing on the effects of Sandy. They told the panel that disaster relief in the past has been handed out without offsetting cuts. Menendez said he expected other elected officials to support funding for the east coast.

It is emergency, it is unforeseen, it is an act of nature, it is why we come together as a country and respond,” Menendez said in an interview.

These states may have to wait a while to get the funding they need. According to Representative Frank Pallone (R-New York), the cost for aid could be more than $100 billion as New York and New Jersey have requested a combined total of $79 million.

New Jersey legislative aides hope to see a White House estimate on aid at some point next week so lawmakers can start on a bill. Right now there is around $12 billion left in disaster recovery pools.

In addition for disaster relief, the officials are requesting money for new construction to protect the areas from future storms, but it is unclear if that money will be considered.

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