WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama on Friday asked Congress for $60.4 billion in emergency funds to repair devastation from Superstorm Sandy, which paralysed the US east coast when it hit in October.
“In total, the administration requests $60.4 billion in federal resources for response, recovery and mitigation related to Hurricane Sandy damage in all affected states,” said Jeffrey Zients, White House deputy director for management.
“While much of this damage is covered by insurance, current estimates suggest that a significant amount of damage is not covered,” Zients said in a letter to Republican House speaker John Boehner.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the package would enable their states to “recover, repair, and rebuild better and stronger than before.”
Sandy, whipping up hurricane force winds and a storm surge, roared ashore on October 29, killing more than 110 people, flooding the New York subway system and knocking out electricity for hundreds of thousands of people.
The floods and wind also destroyed or damaged hundreds of thousands of homes, schools and hospitals, and created chaos in fuel supplies after refineries and gas stations were damaged.
Obama's request, which will likely trigger fierce infighting in Congress, is lower than the more than $80 billion cost of the damage assessed in the three worst-hit states, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Christie, a Republican, and Cuomo, a Democrat, were both at the White House in recent days as negotiations climaxed on the request for funding outside already lodged budget requests that Obama will make to lawmakers.
They said that in addition to repairing the damage, the package would fund “essential mitigation and prevention efforts that will better protect our region against the devastating impacts of future superstorms.”
“We thank President Obama for his steadfast commitment of support and look forward to continuing our partnership in the recovery effort,” they said in a joint statement.
The White House said that Sandy was on track to be the third most costly storm in US history, after Hurricanes Katrina in 2005 and Andrew in 1992.
Republican House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers foreshadowed wrangling likely to come over how to pay for the package as Republicans and Democrats feud over the federal budget.
“It is critically important Congress fulfills its responsibility to those individuals, families, businesses and communities recovering from Hurricane Sandy,” Rogers said in a statement.
“It is also our responsibility during these tight-budget times to make sure that the victims of this storm are getting the most of every single recovery dollar, and to ensure that disaster funds are timed and targeted in the most efficient and appropriate manner.”
“It is our intent to responsibly provide federal assistance as necessary to ensure that victims and communities can recover, rebuild, and regain normalcy in their daily lives.”
Some 233,000 New Jersey residents have already asked for federal assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), he added.
In New York state, more than 305,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by Sandy, along with 265,000 businesses.